Year of the Snake

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I'll fall in love again.

I'll save money. I'll eat better. I'll learn how to cook. I'll spend all my money on food. I'll stand between rivers and islands of cunning labels at Fred Meyer because I still can't afford food from the co-op, even with my employee discount. I'll stare at the good food, which looks bad, and I'll stare at the bad food, which looks good, and I'll cry, "I need a cigarette."

I'll quit smoking today. I'll leave all my smoking friends behind. Inspired by my resolve, they will quit, too. All but one of them. When she gets lung cancer, nobody will be around to say, "I told you so."

I'll smoke more weed. I'll bic everyone's lighters and label them with their owners' names and buy pickles from Costco, give the pickles to the homeless, and fill the jar with lighters. I'll post a picture on Reddit and get absolutely no attention because it's really not that clever.

I won't do that again.

I'll stop smoking weed when someone says something.

I'll worry I'm not doing enough.

I'll stop living with others.

I'll go to history class and when none of the class finishes the reading I will get mad. I will say they're wasting their parents' money and if they say they don't care I'll say I don't either and I'll wonder why not. That night I'll skip reading. The next day I'll come to class and everyone will have read and it will be the best discussion they've ever had and I will have no idea what's going on.

I'll go to more shows. I'll dance with girls twirling in their red summer dresses. I'll know beer. I'll know bouncers. I'll know bartenders. I'll be broke. I'll be an alcoholic. I'll watch my best friend faint outside a bar called The Wild Buffalo after two beers. Eye socket to curb, right full frontal facial blowout. He'll ask me to drive him to the hospital and I'll say no because I can't drive stick. But I'll know people and people will know me. I'll let them take pictures of him with their cell phones in the moonbow street.

I'll say Yes every time one of my friends asks me if I want to try acid or DMT or 4MET or whatever because even if I don't do those drugs, saying Yes might help those guys finally get some acid.

I'll give in: I'll buy a Galaxy.

The screen will crack and glitch out. For a while I'll use Mumford & Sons as my ringtone because I don't know any better. When I'm tired of a conversation, I'll pull out my phone and Snap a Chat that I'm bored. I'll take a picture of the person I'm talking to and they'll feel funny about it but laugh anyway.

When they walk away in disgust, I'll go outside. I'll look at the trees and the sky. When I'm inside, I'll look out the window. When I'm not near a window, I will look at the cracked glowing screen of my iPhone. When the screen gives me a headache, I'll take a Tylenol and look in the bathroom mirror and think about whitening my teeth. When the mirror breaks, I will stand in the rain. I will look at my feet in my Converse. I will look into puddles.

There, I will see the sky dancing with the trees.

I'll buy an Xbox One and buy Call of Duty: WWII and shoot abstractions of enemies because I don't know what they stand for and that's the only way to find out.

I'll get Tinder. I'll get way more responses than I thought. I'll meet a perfect girl just in time, a Canadian, one who wants me to eat well and try new things and expects me to not act like a dumb-ass sometimes. She'll fly to Peru for a month for fun. The night before she leaves I'll yell at her for calling me sensitive and hang up the phone and log in to Facebook and argue with her some more and I'll call her again wailing how sorry I am. I'll write her every day or as often as I can and I'll think about her all the time she's gone and when she returns I'll have completely changed and improved myself and eat quinoa and think before I speak. We'll fall truly, madly in love and for a while everything will be absolutely awesome, but I won't be able to keep it up because I'm too old to stop having fun anymore. We'll break up and I'll redownload Tinder and pretend my name is Ryan or Chris or Cobi and fuck strangers and become a master of oral sex.

Not long after that, I'll come to class one day with a bad attitude, stand while the teacher is speaking, collect my things, bow and never return.

I'll drop out of college. I'll live in my apartment till somebody comes by to physically remove me. When they do, I'll fight them. Airborne in their arms, I'll bite. Then I'll run away. I'll leave my stuff. I'll pawn my broken Galaxy because all of my friends were smokers and students anyway, and I'll have a headache because I left my Tylenol.

I'll live on tacos from taco trucks because I still don't know how to cook.

With money I make from dealing DMT and 4MET or whatever, I'll travel to Ecuador even though I don't speak any Spanish. I'll draw broad generalizations about the culture and the world at large: I'll realize how serious the world is, how lucky I am, how lonely it is to be human, how shit-covered Ecuador gets in the springtime, how much rum I can drink before I will for sure blackout—

I'll come back home. Something will be lost. The feeling won't fade for a long time.

I'll wonder if I'm on the spectrum.

I'll live with my parents for three years. My mom's heart condition will compound with the stress caused by my near-constant presence and she'll go into cardiac arrest while watching the oils boil from a piece of cheddar cheese in the microwave. My dad will come out. He'll retire and live out the rest of his days on the road in an Accord with the money my mom saved him from hating doctors all those years.

I'll move to Canada and realize I don't actually care for it. I'll look for the Tinder girl and discover she died in a car accident.

I won't be the same after that. I'll move to Portland and get a desk job at a graphic design agency if I have to. I won't be the least bit bitter about it because by then I'll know what it's like to not have a home. I'll enter an open relationship with a graduate of Reed College and when she fucks someone else for the first time, I'll make her show me how he fucked her, explain in detail, then fuck him from her body. It will save our relationship. She'll write a self-help sex book called The Beautiful Truth, which will make her enough money to start practicing alternative medicine. We'll get married. We'll invest in a made-up statistic that says couples in open relationships have happier kids. We will wonder whether we're still in love. We will wonder what love is.

I'll finally write that book I've been working on all these years. Fifty publishers will pass before it gets picked up. The launch party will be deserted except for me and some middle-aged women and my pregnant wife and a loveless literary agent.

But we'll be okay because I was just trying to keep busy anyway.

I'll have two kids. I'll homeschool both. They'll be a little awkward but no one will tell them that unless they admit it first. They'll be cute. Maybe one of them will look just like me and I'll change my mind about it all, life, love, loneliness, lawyers and death. But I have blonde hair and blue eyes and I like brunettes so they'll probably both have brown hair and I'll wonder deep down whether these are actually my kids...

I'll try movies. I'll try music. I'll try dance. I'll try cheating. I'll learn to snowboard when I'm 40. For a while, I'll try patriotism and have barbeques in my back yard and smoke cigars named after famous fictional characters. I'll buy a trampoline. I'll get wasted watching football in dives with other middle-aged men. One guy will laugh so hard he has to run outside to puke in the gutter.

My wife and I will grow apart and one day she'll tell my daughter our marriage wouldn't have lasted if I didn't go to the bar so often.

I'll become a fisherman because someone I know is a fishing boat captain and I need some time alone. I'll get washed overboard in a storm of stupidity and drown. The last thing I'll remember is a blue recycling bin and maybe I'll see a mermaid and maybe she'll look like the Tinder girl. I won't have a Facebook so no one from high school will know. My wife, a little relieved actually, will nevertheless self-destruct and spiral into a drug-addled rage. She'll remarry within the year to a man who likes to wear black in the summertime and rides a Harley while wearing Harley t-shirts.

They will garden together.

Or I'll sit here in the dark, smile embalmed by a glowing screen, listening to my roommates watch reruns of Futurama on Netflix so many times they don't laugh anymore. I'll buy energy drinks at a dollar a piece and get scared when my chest gets tight and think there's something seriously wrong with me. I'll do my damned best to call my mom back.

At night I'll dream of silence.

I will fall to love.

Year of the Snake: A Short StoryWhere stories live. Discover now