Marilyn and I are alone in this private bathroom.
She’s having a blast in her sexy white dress.
Her luscious lips are parted; showcasing that killer grin and revealing teeth even whiter than her skimpy, ivory outfit.
She is clearly happy.
I, however, am not.
I do not want to be here.
How did I get here?
I think of my wife, Alisa.
She’s upset with me, and deservingly so; I’ve been an absent, angry asshole for as long as I can seem to remember.
And I see now that Marilyn is just teasing me.
She’s also trying to tell me something.
It’s unclear; my mind is in a haze.
I splash water on my face and slap my cheeks.
I look up at the mirror, not certain my reflection will be there.
I feel empty; hollow.
I leave the bathroom without bidding farewell to the pinup hanging on the men’s room wall.
She’s not going anywhere. Stuck here.
Just like me.
Out of the bathroom and into the historic, quiet bar, I am greeted by several old friends; all of them dead for years now, yet somehow speaking to me…
The bloated boar whispers, “Death is guaranteed. Life is not.”
One of the antisocial antelopes follows, “You will really die, but will you really live?”
Finally, the mundane mountain lion, the sentry of the saloon, taunts from high above, “We have space on this wall for one more head. You in?”
I try to set up the bar, but feel each pair of glass eyes following my every move.
Did they really just say that?
Am I going crazy?
Will I end up as just another head on this wall?
I am snapped back into the present moment by the ticking of the clock; no time to talk to taxidermy.
I try to resume my duties but feel my skin crawling and my stomach drop.
Wipe the bartop. Check.
Fill the ice wells. Check.
Take a shot and appease the apparitions. Check.
The Irish Whiskey works its way into my bloodstream, and I am reassured for a moment that no true danger is imminent here.
But I still can’t stop it, and neither can my old friend Jameson it seems, as an already-racing mind uncontrollably revs into higher gear.
Sweat beads on my forehead.
My heart pounds in my tightening chest.
What the hell was the blonde bombshell in the bathroom trying to tell me?
I hear her whispering again; an omen from the men’s room.
But it’s still unclear despite the staggering silence engulfing the scene.
It’s quiet in here.
And hey, although something about being here is causing a hole in my soul, at least I get to pick the music.
I turn the music on but can’t seem to turn that other noise off.
I can’t stop these thoughts of worry and dread; the nonstop chatter in my mind.
I also can’t stop that ticking clock…
Ticking closer and closer to something called, none other than:
A disdainful and audible chuckle slips out, accompanied by an unbridled shaking of my head; back and forth, back and forth.
What exactly is “happy” about all this?
I do not want to be here.
How did I get here?
But there’s no time now.
No time to find the end of those thoughts, despite my effort and will.
There’s no time right now to be confused, angry, or sad.
And that’s probably a good thing, as each thought only brings me further down that deepening, darkening spiral.
The clock ticks on; just enough time to set up this bar before the 4pm stampede.
The tightness in my chest spreads like a wildfire…burns like one too.
Happy Hour in the idyllic ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado is observed with religious fervor. Crusaders and zealots would be no match for these ‘Two-For-One Fanatics’ who would trample a toddler if they were blocking their bar stool.
And Happy Hour here, at this institution where I have worked for the past three years, is the Happy Hour spot. Locals and ‘in-the-know’ tourists line up at the front and back doors for a coveted table or to belly up to the bar.
A stampede indeed.
Twenty minutes until showtime now and somehow, despite my ‘condition’, lemons and limes get sliced, massive ice cubes get popped out of their silicone holders, blue cheese olives get stuffed, garnishes are prepared, and the bar is set up.
I begin to feel the clouds forming again, but my distractions are disrupted.
My best friend, and boss, comes around the corner with a classic Dave smile and gait; as if he’s sauntering to his own soundtrack. And, I have to admit, the scene brings a smile to my face.
The smile lasts through his pre-shift meeting, but then I quickly remember how I was feeling. And while I can always be honest with Dave, some things have to remain bottled up these days given our current work relationship.
I know that our bar guests deserve a smiling bartender.
I know that Dave deserves a smiling employee…and a smiling best friend.
I know that my wife deserves a present and pleasant husband.
It just feels hard lately.
Even joyful things are no longer bringing me joy.
I just can’t seem to show up for others or myself the way I want to.
My chest ratchets up even tighter.
But alas, and thankfully, there’s still time for the most critical and final touches; I wolf down some food, rush out back for a few deep puffs of my magical weed pen, then hurry back inside for another jolt of Jameson.
And then, just in the nick of time, the demons that were darkening my mind have subsided once again and I have miraculously manufactured a smile to wear for the next few hours.
…or at least until the next shot of whiskey.
Now, it’s the heart of Happy Hour, and I’m in the fray.
I see familiar faces and smiles all around, yet mine is beginning to wane.
I reactively wield the whiskey bottle but hear a voice, and my thoughts rearrange.
It’s Marilyn, and her message has become crystal clear…
Something, my dear, has to change.
By Mike Messeroff
September 30, 2022
Thanks for reading! If this resonates with you, and perhaps you’re also familiar with that “what the fuck is this feeling” feeling, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I know how the darkness feels and what has worked to get me on the other side. It works for many others too…but only when they are ready (and in about ten weeks instead of three years it took me on my own): MikeMesseroff.com/unplug.