Helium Balloons: #2 The Mask

The average age of of the Step Up residents, or step-brothers, as they are cleverly called, is about 40. Leonard and I are the youngest here. Leonard looks like Eminem’s cousin, trailer park Eminem, not mansion Eminem. I rarely have seen him out of a Nike hat and a Harley Davidson shirt. Which is ironic because if he had a Harley, he couldn’t ride it because he had his license taken away. He was a heavy drinker and also got addicted to Oxycontin. After stealing from most of his family, he was dropped off here. Being 28 is probably the only thing we have in common, well, besides drinking. I joked about being a procrastinator and not being able to join the 27 Club in time. The 27 club is a list of artists who died of alcohol and drug related problems at the age of 27. Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix, Winehouse, and Cobain. I know what you are thinking, Mark Hailey, the writer of 22 Ways to Trim Belly Fat just compared himself to Kurt Cobain. Still trying to get the ego under wraps.

Before I got to Step Up, I was a writer at the The National Deadline. An online magazine nipping at the heels of Buzzfeed. We specialized in reviews, politics, and satire. Satire was the most fulfilling to write. Getting my articles featured made me feel like a comedic genius. I remember being invited to a party in The Heights. I walked into the kitchen to make myself a drink, there on the counter was a laptop with my article on full display. The words were like an old friend sitting across the room winking at me. I took a lot of pride in going the whole night without telling people that I was the author. The strangers on the train ride home weren’t so lucky, I told them five or six times that I wrote, “Trump Turns Cyber-Goth to Prevent Online Terrorism.” Little did I know that in a month there would be no more articles, no more parties, and no more Monica.

Now my life is in the treatment center. I sleep on a twin bed with 46 roommates and have to pee into a cup for a 68 year old retired teacher named Darius. Isn’t life funny? Makes me wonder what next month holds. Maybe next month I will be making ice sculptures in Alaska, donating ejaculate into a cup for a couple who wants their kid to have the DNA of an alcoholic comedy writer, doubt it.

Today we are having a resident’s meeting to revisit the house rules and to also vote on what to watch on Movie Monday. The movie suggestions have to pertain to addiction. So far the movie list includes Leaving Las Vegas, Requiem for a Dream, and Flight. I raise my hand and say, “Can we watch The Mask?” Darius, the one who makes sure I don’t cheat on my pee test says, “The Mask? with Jim Carey?” A couple guys in the back laugh, but everyone else looks at me like I am just wasting their time. “Yes. Exactly.” I say with the conviction of a lawyer in his closing arguments. “The Mask is really about addiction. Jim Carey is this sweet, stable bank teller who’s life is ruined by a magical mask. He finds that with the mask he is confident, funny, and capable of standing up to people. Before he knows it he becomes dependent and can’t live without it. It’s not until he is about to lose everything that he decides to quit.” I didn’t believe any of that, I just wanted to watch The Mask. We settled on Flight. Lights out is only an hour away, I hate this place and can’t wait to get out.

Sleep is nearly impossible here. It usually takes me about two hours to fall asleep. I think about all the stupid things I did in my blackouts. Random hookups, coke, $75 cab rides, closing a bar and having to sign a credit card receipt in the $200 range, getting fired, being on the phone with a suicide hotline volunteer. Mostly, I think about Monica. How amazing she was to take me back again and again. How terrible I was to keep drinking and perpetually be ten feet under water. I miss her. We used to to come up with movie plots while we were running errands or just laying in bed. I remember one night I was so close to falling asleep and Monica said, “Pan Hands. Peter Pan Hands.” “What?” I was so confused. She replied, “A movie like Edward Scissor Hands, but on the ends of his fingers he has little pans and he can cook the most delicious mini omelettes.” That was the only time I have ever giggled myself to sleep. The last time I saw Monica, there were no giggles involved. Just fear and fury, disappointment, and chaos. I hadn’t been back to the apartment in four days. After drinking back to back for 15 days my kidneys were in more pain than I have ever felt before. I laid down on the sofa and when I woke up an hour later, I was surrounded by some of my “friends” that told me I couldn’t stay in the apartment. If I did, they were going to call the cops. Monica obviously alerted them and left the apartment. They let me pack a bag of my stuff before I was shipped off to the airport. Luckily I still had some whiskey hidden in the bathroom. I took three big swigs and felt numb again. Okay, I am ready for an impromptu trip. My dreams were becoming feverishly realistic, so part of me expected to wake up at any moment. I got my stuff and next thing I know I am on my way to the airport. Before I arrived, I had the cab driver stop at the liquor store, of course. These details are details Monica will never know. I spend most of my time thinking about her. I’m afraid to contact her. Maybe she will take me back if I straighten up, get rid of my mask. Jim Carey got back Cameron Diaz after he threw away his mask. Maybe I can do the same.