[EPR1] Nick 1.1

As long as you knew it wasn’t real, you were fine. At least, that’s what you told yourself. Master yourself. It’s just an edible. And you’re at work.

The years after college hadn’t been kind, but to be fair, you weren’t terribly kind to them either. School was an excuse. It’s as if you were saying “Look, I’m being productive. Respect me as a contributing member of society.” I never believed it myself, but I always hoped others would bring in some of their own personal experience and biases and help me out. That’s how human interaction works, right? 

Now you’re sitting here behind the register of a convenience store for the night shift, selling cigarettes and energy drinks. You watch people come in and out in the midst of their lives. Hundreds of stories crossing your desk. This one is fighting with her boyfriend. Down in her heart, she knows that he puts her down because she’s beautiful and he’s a schlub. This one’s on his way to a first date with a girl who has her shit together. He is freshly shaven and wearing his best button up. This one probably shouldn’t be driving, but he’s with his friends that he hasn’t seen in five years and, to be honest, can’t remember why they stopped hanging out.

You become overly aware of this because the brownie in your bloodstream was from the bent edge of the pan so all the THC gathered there. You’re holding on for dear life. One thing is keeping you sane: this isn’t real. To take that too far to say that ‘none of this is real’, would put you on an existential death spiral. To go the other way would mean that everyone actually is out to kill you and you actually do look dumb and bloated in that hat. You are walking a delicate tight rope before the crowd of the thousands of busy people buying cigarettes and energy drinks. 

In your post-college years, you live for this shit.

There isn’t much else left really. Lyss broke up with you, but you deserved it (even if you haven’t admitted it to yourself yet). Everyone tells you that it was circumstances out of your control, but you know it was always going yo end this way. She wanted to make something of herself. She was moving out to Berkeley to finish her doctorate. Is it lame to study a new strain of bacteria that could cure diabetes? Absolutely not. But you said it was so you could get her to stay here with you in Jersey. Luckily, she didn’t give in to your self pity and she took the research position.

She was the dream. But dreams end. You never quite realize how long forever is.

The truth is that you were scared.You will only realize this in fragments as the years pass you by at lightning speed. A house? Marriage? Kids? Hopefully in that order, but probably not. Lyss had it together. She knew what she wanted. She wanted you, but you didn’t fufill your end of the bargain. You wanted to do drugs with Jimmie. You wanted to live a life of romance. But Dungeons and Dragons never taught you how to do your taxes. Despite all your 28 years, you were still a child. And here you ended up: an archeology major selling cigarettes and energy drinks from 10pm to 6am.

The break up didn’t slow the drugs and a good portion of your check went to alcohol. You were locked in a cycle. Going to bed without a joint or a couple beers would be catastrophic. Especially after going to bed at noon. 

The sick part is that you were used to it. You had become accustomed to the flesh colored walls, the constant, barely audible humming of the lights and the coolers, the sanitary, clean lines of the shelving and product packaging. The disappointment.

You looked out the window. The store was across the street from a closed doctor’s office and an old bike shop. Upward, the lights on these posts could only illuminate so much on the empty street. Beyond that, the void of space, dashed with stars among the great black nothing. Even beyond the black fields of night and the end of human perception, existence does not cease, we just can’t see it anymore. “What hope do we have?”, you said aloud.

“Jesus, dude,” said the kid in the leather jacket, eye makeup, and a mohawk. 

“Sorry,” you said, quickly ringing up his groceries.

“It’s okay” he said picking at his nose ring. “I get it.”

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