Monkey on My Back: Drinking and Jonesing for Fast Food

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:56

    It was a heavy and wet Saturday. I'd been at the computer for a while, then stopped that to watch all three Walking Tall movies in succession. Because you simply cannot watch the Walking Tall movies without drinking?it's unethical, it's unheard of, it's simply un-American?maybe that had something to do with it, too.

    I was into my third or fourth hour of drinking and watching the great Joe Don Baker (and later, the not-as-great Bo Svenson) beating the shit out of people with a big stick. That's when it began to creep up on me. The need for grease and salt and hot pickle slices. I tried to ignore it, tried to talk myself out of it, tried to distract myself. Even tried drinking more, thinking that would slow me down enough that the prospect of putting on my shoes and coat and going outside would seem like too much effort for minimal reward.

    Like some kind of floundering and failing member of AA, I called Morgan and told her what I was considering.

    "Don't do it, baby!" she insisted over the phone. "Remember what it does to you." Soon after, though, she admitted, "In the end, this is a decision every man and woman has to make alone." She was right.

    Thing is, I did remember what this would do to me. I remembered perfectly well. But at the time, I figured that since this only happens to me once a year, I could handle it. Take care of it, flush the craving out of myself (quite literally) by fulfilling it. If I didn't do that, it would just creep back on me the next day, or the next. I am a weak man.

    When I got off the phone, I had another futile beer. It was 5:30. If I didn't hurry, it would be dark, and I'd be stuck in the apartment, lying awake all night, kicking myself for not doing it, sweating, eyes open, staring, roving about in the darkness, hands shaking.

    I dumped the bottle, put on my shoes and coat and headed outside. I was weaving bad?I hadn't had much of anything to eat that day, and all the beers piled up on one another and hit me like a jackhammer. I turned my radar on, and tried to keep my feet straight and balanced beneath me. I was a man driven?a man stupidly, pointlessly driven.

    I didn't have too far to go. Just five blocks. Five and a half. There was only one official nationally recognized fast-food establishment in the neighborhood (even if it was a bit out of the way), so at least my choices were limited.

    I wove my way through the late Saturday shoppers along 5th Ave., passed by the Fifth Amendment bar, stumbled a few more blocks and turned the corner.

    Half a block later, as I reached for the door, someone shoved it open from the inside. Being the polite sort, I grabbed the door handle and pulled it all the way open, holding it for whoever was on their way out?which turned out to be four of what you'd call your "gangbangers," in full regalia.

    I wasn't expecting much of anything from them, didn't even recognize them for what they were?or were pretending to be?until the first one said, "Thanks, man?but I was going to hold the door for you."

    Well that was very polite, I thought, especially for a gang member. They continued on up the sidewalk, and I went inside.

    I waited in line for some time, desperately squinting to try to read anything that was on the menu board?these places change so much from year to year, and most everything has a very specific, ridiculous name to begin with?that I always panic a little bit, fearing that I'm going to break some unspoken law, order something that's not available anymore, or worse?order something that's actually being offered by a competing chain. It's all terribly nervewracking.

    So much so, in fact, that by the time the kid behind the counter asked me what I wanted, I was suffering from a bad case of the nervous giggles.

    He smiled, just as nervously, in return. Man comes to your register, stinking of alcohol and laughing, you know you got trouble.

    "I'd, uhhh... I guess I'd like one of these," I told him, pointing to a very nice-looking photograph of a complex sandwich on the wall.

    "Would you like that as a meal?" he asked.

    This struck me a very peculiar question. Of course I wanted it as a meal! That's why I was asking for it. Was he trying to mess with me? I didn't know, didn't really care to know, so I continued as if he'd said nothing at all.

    "And some"

    "That's part of the meal!" he announced proudly, still grinning broadly at me.

    Yes, well, obviously. This was insane.

    "Well all right then, I guess I'll take them." My giggles were coming in broken, confused waves now, pausing just long enough for me to get the rest of my order out.

    I stood there patiently after he flitted away to retrieve my "meal," then paid far too much for what turned out to be far too little. I forget that part over the course of the year, too.

    I dodged my way back down the aisle, bag in hand, through the front doors and up the street. The trick now was to get it back to the apartment and get Walking Tall rolling again before everything went all chilly and coagulated on me.

    Two hours later, I called Morgan again, clutching my belly, doubled over, feeling greasy, bloated and generally unwell.

    "Never...again..." I rasped into the phone. But I knew I was wrong about that. And I was. Except this time, instead of waiting a year, I waited less than 24 hours before going back there. This time, however, instead of giggling, I had a bad case of the hiccups.