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Hedonism's Hangover


[heed-n-iz-uhm] noun

1.the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good.
2.devotion to pleasure as a way of life: The later Roman emperors were notorious for their hedonism.
The DJ spins some rousing instrumental with heavy drums while announcing the party's over.  Oh, and be sure to come back for all the exciting thrills later in the month.

Suddenly, the music stops and the house lights come up.  The glare is jolting and what looked so hip in the semi-dark is revealed to be just bare walls with black foam sprayed on them.  The air is blue with smoke and reeks of stale beer.

The cute Euro-trash waitress that was all smiles and bubbles just a short time ago, is now hovering near your table, looking haggard and unhappy.  The smiles and bubbles are gone and she is projecting the distinct impression that you are an interloper now.

A couple of tables back, a large, mean-looking Asian guy named China is flexing his muscles and not looking at all pleased to see you.

You down the dregs of your last beer and stumble out into the breaking dawn.  Somehow, all the magic of the preceding night has vanished, and now it all looks so real and harsh.  Your clothes have the stench of stale cigarettes and spilt beer, and your dance sweat is quickly turning into day-old gym locker.

Later that day, you pry your eyes open.  Everything is out of focus and at first you're not sure where you are.  The base of your skull feels like a massive iron clamp has locked on and won't release your mind.  Slowly and painfully you replay the events of the night before. 

You met up with your buds after work for happy hour.  You met this cute chick there and you decided to take her to the latest and greatest thump-o-rama, where the beer started going down easier and faster with each passing glass.

The cute chick you brought wouldn't put the damn BB down all night, so at some point you ditched her for another model that looked ready to play.  But, after soaking you for several rounds of drinks, she introduced her boyfriend and they left unceremoniously.  A worthless night, and now...

You turn your head to look at the clock only to feel the dagger of reality stabbing you just below the occipital plate and slightly above C1.  As your eyes slowly relearn how to focus, you see that it's already 3pm, but you're still not sure what day.

The pounding in your head leads to one of the dog.  You haul your still-dressed and disheveled carcass out of the bed and plod uncertainly to the kitchen.  You pull open the refrigerator door.

On the top shelf is a month-old science experiment unfit for even a junk-yard dog.  There's a half-drunk bottle of mineral water and a brown goo on the bottom shelf that looks as if it may spawn a new life-form at any moment.

Nothing helpful.

You check your pockets, but only find a couple of coins, some lint and (thankfully) your car keys, if you can only remember where you parked it.  Opening your wallet, you spy the last credit card receipt that has the word "DENIED" in large block letters.  You're maxed out.  So THAT'S where your cash went.  And the ATM laughed at you last night.

Massaging your neck hoping for even the slightest relief, you shuffle into the living room and start tearing the couch apart, looking for any spare change.  With the coins in your pocket, you add up $1.83...enough for a beer.

Like Dracula, you emerge into the blazing sunlight of Reality and as your eyes adjust, you notice your car is not in its usual spot.  Great.  You stumble to the Stop n Squat and spend your last dime on a jug of Schiltz Bull, and barely survive the stumble home.  At the front door, you see an envelope wedged between the knob and the jamb, which you take mindlessly as you fall over the threshold.

About halfway through the bottle of Bull, you remember the envelope.  Opening it, you find a NOTICE OF REPOSSESSION.  Crap!  So that's where the car went.  Feeling a bit of anger and indignation rising in your gut (or is that the Bull coming back for a rerun?), you take your BB in hand and tap in the number on the NOTICE.  Nothing...

You forgot to pay the service.

Soon after, the meter reader comes around the side of the house in his nifty orange shirt with his ID happily flapping in the breeze.  But, instead of checking the meter, he takes it, leaving you in the sweltering darkness of your once-proud cave.  You muster a few obscenities to hurl at him, but the pounding in your head won't allow you to do much else.

Defeated, you slunk back onto the couch and reach for the remote mindlessly hoping the game will distract you, but the giant plasma TeeVee only stares back accusingly.  It suddenly occurs to you that the reason you joined your buds at happy hour was to commiserate about your company shutting down.  You make a mental note to get online Monday and sign up for unemploy...oh, yeah.  No internet.

You swill the last of your Bull as the searing pain in the back of your skull slowly starts to ease off a bit.  The fog is lifting just slightly, and the full weight of the situation is settling in behind it.  There used to always be a backup.  There was always a fall-back position.  But, as you scan the proverbial horizon, you see only columns of smoke where the bridges used to be.

You were the best and the brightest!  Even while you had a job, there were always new offers rolling in.  It occurs to you that you haven't seen one in a while.  Some guy named Raneesh is now doing your job and your were paid a nice bonus to train him via long-distance.  You figured, "What the hell?  There's always more where the last one came from."

By golly!  On Monday you're going down to the free terminals at the library...oh yeah, they shut the library last year as a cost-cutting move.  You didn't complain because you had everything you needed at home, what with Netflix and Wikipedia and TripPlanner.

You stare at the plasma TeeVee, the XBox, the BluRay.  All useless.  The rising anger causes your head to pound again and you slam your fist down on the couch.  One leg collapses, leaving you precariously perched lurching forward.  Very uncomfortable.

You could have a garage sale, but all your neighbors have been out of work longer than you, and they all have useless gee-gaws, too.

You feel this blackness crawling up your spine.  You know it, though you haven't felt it in years.  You once called it 'despair'.  You fight it back, but the weapons of 'hope' and 'change' have long since given up and looked for greener pastures overseas.

You think about all those 'alternative' websites you used to laugh about with your buds down at the watering hole.  The ones who were always going on about home gardening and buying gold and being prepared.  Those crazy fringers who were always hollering about your profligate lifestyle and your wasteful ways.  You remember that old adage your mother (who grew up in the First Depression) always said, "Waste not, want not."

As your stomach begins to stir and demand attention, you are suddenly accosted with visions of all the half-eaten Happy Meals you shoved in the trash can.  Your mouth waters uncontrollably as you remember all those steak dinners you meant to finish, but were tossed after they became poster images for fungus-lovers.  Oh, if you just had one of those huge meals you didn't finish.

You look around at your McMansion.  You've already got two mortgages on it.  If you're lucky, you've got maybe a month or two left to enjoy it, though it looks more and more like a prison than a home.  All the pills, the blow and the parties that have passed under your roof.  If you just had an eight-ball's worth of that cash in your pocket, you might be able to do something eat.

"This is all YOUR fault," you bellow into the blackness, and it echoes accusingly back at you from somewhere upstairs.  You fling a cushion at the emptiness, but it only recalls the emptiness in your belly and the screaming demons in your brain from last night's Last Big Hurrah.

Like a warped mantra from a Buddhist nightmare, your mind keeps saying, "If I had just..."  Pulling your hair doesn't stop it.

From somewhere deep in the roots of your brain comes a Vision.  You'll go back to your roots!  You'll run off to the wilds of Wyoming and live off the land!  You'll build yourself a shack and hunt for meat, like the Man you are!  You'll dip your water out of mountain streams and let your beard grow and eat wild berries and...

Then Reason slaps you upside the head.  You don't have the first clue how to live like a real Man.  The closest you've ever come was camping in national parks with coolers full of steaks and beer and 27 of your closest friends, under the watchful eyes of the Park Rangers.  You don't even own a gun, because guns were evil and the cause of all pain.  Besides, you've never even been hunting, and you sure as hell couldn't tell an edible berry from a poisonous one.  Though the poisonous ones are sounding rather attractive at the moment.

Your dad tried to teach you all that stuff, but you could hardly pull yourself away from the Commodor 64 and Pong.

Now, you sit there.  The hangover has a death-grip on your brain stem.  You couch is trying to dump you on the floor.  The refrigerator   The pantry is empty and the refrigerator is frightening.  Your wheels are gone.  The electricity is cut off.  And you live in suburban hell where the nearest anything is an hour's walk or more.  And public transportation?  Oh, they cancelled that project last year for lack of funds.

Outside is deathly silence.  It's Saturday afternoon, but there's no lawnmowers or kids playing or dogs barking.  Just the wind in the drought-stricken trees.

All that's left is a bar of Xanax from your psycho-therapy after the old lady left with your bank account.  That should carry you into tomorrow, at least.  You can deal with reality then...

You down the bar and slam the medicine cabinet shut.  Then, looking in the mirror, you say angrily and out loud, "Bastards!  Someone's going to pay for this!"

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