So the other day, I'm sitting alone in my parked car in front of Harris Teeter, debating with myself whether I should go in and buy wine. Sitting there in my parked car, at the witching hour of five p.m., I am steadily crumbling into a quiet panic.
And suddenly my friend Roger is beside me, in the shotgun seat. He's getting sober, too. We decided to do it together, because, you know, misery loves company or whatever.
"Shit," he says under his breath, fumbling to peel open the plastic wrapper on a pack of Marlboro reds. He smokes even more than before, now that he's not drinking.
For whatever reason, Roger's life has always seemed to reflect mine. It's not just that we're both sad, crazy, tattooed white kids from small-town working-class families—addicts, angry, depressive loser types. I won't go into it all now, but our stories have always had similar plotlines. Currently, we're both financially enslaved to the stupid mistakes of our past: I'm struggling to pay my student loan debt (two expensive colleges), he's struggling to pay child support (two baby mommas). And now, we've both decided to get sober. Sometimes it weirds me out, how much like him I am. It makes me wonder if I'm actually just a figment of his fractured psyche, or his imaginary friend.
"This fucking sucks," he says.
He finally gets the pack open, pulls one out and lights it.
"Roger, roll the window down. I don't want my car to start reeking of smoke."
"Alright, well turn on the damn car so I can roll the window down."
"Okay, chill out."
"You chill the fuck out."
"You're an asshole."
But he understands, and so do I. I turn my key and switch the car on so that Roger can roll the window down. The stereo comes to life: 2 Chainz is in the middle of rapping about shawty's ass or some such nonsense.
That's when Pete shows up. He's suddenly in the back of my car, leaning forward and poking his face up in between the front seats, jerking his head up and down to the rhythm.
"Yeah! Crank it," he exclaims, and starts rapping along.
Roger scowls as the window rolls down beside him, admitting a wave of bleak February cold.
"Please don't crank it," says Pete's fiancée, Lou, who has also just appeared in the back seat.
Lou wins this one. I'm not in the mood for 2 Chainz right now. I hit the button and abruptly the music clicks off.
"Aw, you guys suck. Oh hey, dude, Roger, look at that kid with the shopping cart. See him? Over there, near that SUV?"
"See him? Look at him go, he's, like—"
"Yeah, I see him, Pete."
Lou asks, "Where is that child's mother?"
Pete sits back down beside her, laughing darkly.
"Hey, Roger. Remember that time at the grocery store? With the shopping cart?"
"Shit, yeah. It was only a couple weeks ago."
"Yeah, well, you usually don't remember shit from two days ago."
"I remember that. How could I not remember?"
"Remember what?" I pipe up, curious. "What happened?"
"Oh, Lord. You haven't heard this story?" Lou asks me.
"I don't believe it, I think they're making it up…"
"We are not!"
Roger's sucking back that cigarette fast, like it's an emergency.
"Okay, okay," says Pete, finally, getting himself together. "Mith, I'll tell you what happened. So remember how Roger stole that shopping cart for me for Christmas?"
(Roger stole a grocery shopping cart to give to Pete as a Christmas gift. For the same occasion, Pete gave Roger a selfie stick.)
"So we had this shopping cart from Albertson's—"
"No, it was from Rosauer's."
"No, retard, it was from Albertson's."
"You guys told me it was a Safeway cart. You said you were going to Safeway."
"Listen! Everyone shut up. It was Albertson's," Pete insists. (Roger grumbles something about Rosauer's.) "Anyway, so we had this shopping cart, right…"
Well, I never could get the three of them to agree on which grocery store it was. I suppose it doesn't matter. What follows here is my transcription of the story that Pete and Roger relayed to me, as accurately as I could describe it without having been there myself. I've used my imagination to fill in the details and the exact phrasing of certain dialogue, of course—but, according to Roger and Pete, the actual content of the story, all of the events herein, really did happen.
But, I don't know. What does "really happened" have to do with anything, anyway?