I’m driving uphill this morning when I run out of gas.
It happens quickly. My car rolls back. It doesn’t surprise me at all.
I have no idea how long the light’s been on.
It’s been weeks. I put money in. Sometimes enough to shut it off all day. I’ll be back soon, though. Could save myself a trip tomorrow if I just fill up all the way right now. Just can’t admit that I’m putting that much into the tank. Sometimes I let it get so empty the light stays on even after I’ve fed it. This only makes me think that empty means kind of full. My car is crying wolf. I can make it go for days when it says it can’t.
There are days when that light is not fucking around. Today is one. It isn’t my first. It certainly isn’t my best. I’ve run out of gas in a snowstorm, on the 405, and when I first got my license (which is only notable because it led to a chain of events that culminated in me riding a bike to the E.R. to have gasoline pumped out of my stomach, but that’s a horse of a different color.)
The point is, it’s happened enough that when my car starts rolling backwards, down a steep hill, because of my negligence, on this, the second day of the new year, I’m not phased.
I call Triple A.
A guy comes.
I give him my last nine dollars.
It doesn’t make the light turn off.
I would be mad if I knew what to be mad at. The problem is the no gas, which is the problem with no money, which is the problem with being in love with instability, which is the solution to being in love with lots of things, and who can be mad at that?
So I pay the guy, and I’m running on fumes, which makes me anxious in its familiar, constant muted way.
You have to get your shit together.
That’s what people do.
You have to start being able to fill up all the time.
You have friends who fill their gas tanks and raise kids.
You should never have kids.
You should already own a home.
I realize that I need tampons, and I stop at CVS on the way home. They’re only four dollars, and that’s less than the low balance email from BofA said. It should be fine.
Your card’s not working.
The clerk takes my visa. She puts it in a plastic baggy, and runs it through the machine again. And again. Even she doesn’t want to believe that I can’t afford one goddamn box of tampons.
Try running it as debit.
Let me see it again.
Like the card’s the issue.
I really do need those tampons.
I have another check coming soon. Why isn’t it here yet?
Why do I cut everything so close?
I can’t just not have tampons when I need them.
I will though, because I murmur something about calling my bank, and slink out. At least I’m on the kind of empty that will get my car home.
I search old purses. Luggage. The rest of my life, I have tampons stashed everywhere, like eggs on Easter morning. Right now, there are none to be found.
What am I going to do?
How did this happen?
I have a college degree.
Everyone else is hiking and starving their vices.
I’m quitting pot.
This is all happening because pot makes me stay in bed too late.
I’m done now. I’m quitting, and everything will be better tomorrow.
I remember a Target giftcard from my Christmas stocking and drive with the gas light on to La Brea.
(I’m inventive. That’s how I can go so long on vapors.)
And now the tampon light is out, and that will be fine for now, and that check is coming, and I’m quitting pot. And drinking. And sex. And T.V. And everything will be better tomorrow.
I go to an open mic with friends because thank god there’s that. I brag about quitting pot and drinking. I brag about a lot of stuff before I deserve to. I’m quitting that too.
I’m glad I came.
Until a ketchup explodes all over me. From behind.
It’s not the guy’s fault. He’s just having a burger, and there’s too much ketchup or air or excitement squeezed into that bottle, and so it explodes all over me and the new jacket I got for Christmas and I know it’s not his fault, but he could at least say he’s sorry. Someone should be.
Why can’t I have one nice thing?!
So my friends drop me back off at home, where the dishes aren’t done, and the laundry isn’t put away.
Alone now, I breathe, and the air works its way through the little knots in my chest. Like a car going the wrong way over tiger teeth.
Then I pack a bowl and pour a whiskey, and yes, I feel bad about it.
I shouldn’t have told people I was quitting, and I bet I’d feel great if I actually stuck to it, so I eat five cookies while I smoke my bowl and I drink my whiskey.
Everyone is quitting things and ‘changing’ their lives, but that’s not really my problem. Everyone is not having a run- out- of- gas- use- Target- giftcard- for -tampons -have -ketchup –explode- on- your- new –jacket- day.
Leave me alone.
My vices are my old friends, my bubble bath, and I’m delighted to have them on nights like this.
I don’t look back on the years of my life in terms of the actual day they started.
I don’t look back on the years of my life at all.
Everything either happened a few months ago, a couple years ago, or when I was eight.
Bad habits and good times drop in and out like fickle lovers.
They don’t follow the calendar year, and they’re too loyal to leave me just when I need them. They know I won’t want to say goodbye, so they slip away quietly, and one day, I’ll turn around and notice one of my old favorite mistakes is missing.
Maybe my strongest weaknesses will eventually fade away. Maybe I’ll naturally outgrow them, and someday I’ll look back on this as a phase I was going through a couple years ago. I’ll never look back on this as 2012, the year I got my life together, though, because my memory is a messy shoebox of pictures, and not a linear day planner, and I highly doubt that anyone in human history has ever truly gotten their life together on January 1st or any day, for that matter.
So, I’m fine bathing in my indulgences tonight.
I mean, Jesus. There are only so many times you can run out of gas in one day.