A Recipe for Disaster
A RECIPE FOR DISASTER
Makes one absolute catastrophe
Alcohol—6-7 hours’ worth of tequila shots, in a dark strip-club, to be exact
One Birthday Party – the use of the word “party” is a stretch
An Ex-Boyfriend – the one you invited in an attempt to be the “bigger person”
One Bicycle – the blue-and-white Fuji that everyone calls a fixed-gear, but is really just a single-speed. She has a free-wheel & both of her brakes
Rain – the Pacific-Northwest-in-March kind of rain
Before leaving for Peru, mom calls to say, “I already told this to your brother, but neither of you are allowed to injure yourselves while I’m out of the country.” Set this tidbit aside for later.
Despite what we’ve been taught by fables and proverbs, being “the bigger person” isn’t always beneficial, karma’s not always a bitch, the golden rule doesn’t apply to everyone, and sometimes selfishness serves you better than the alternative.
Two brakes won’t save you in this situation, but a helmet would sure help.
The kind of rain that soaks the edge of the street in gravel and miscellaneous debris and makes it treacherous to ride a bike, hike, drive, or exist outside in any capacity.
Run into the ex-boyfriend at the local dive bar; the bar you still frequent when you want to risk seeing him. Be sure you’ve had enough to drink, so that his advances are well-received, rather than met with your usual, bitter sarcasm. Once you’ve drunkenly spent the night and he’s insincerely said he loves you, invite him to the friend’s birthday. The friend the two of you once joked was your son, because despite being a grown man, usually behaved like a stoned teenager. The friend who tried to remain neutral after the breakup, but skewed towards you, and may have recently developed something resembling an Oedipus complex.
Because cooking with fuel is so efficient, it's time to add alcohol and a strip club to this already zesty mix. Alcohol is a great emulsifier when you need to combine two things that no longer blend well. Round of shots. You’ve orchestrated this event, and you’ll be in control—until you’re not anymore. Round of shots. Once the boys are at the rack, you’ll get to watch the ex toss dollar bills at naked women. Women with long, lean muscles, capable of acrobatics, and who possess a level of confidence that you can’t even buy with liquor. Round of shots. Anger. Jealousy. Once you’ve brought all of your ingredients to a rolling boil, turn the heat down and let things simmer. Go outside and smoke a cigarette. Throw yourself at a stranger. Anything to play it cool.
Vignettes. Between the alcohol and the head injury, all you will have from the next few hours are fuzzy vignettes, gently folded into everyone else’s account of what happened. As far as you will remember, it's still light out when you unlock the sleek little bike that is your daily commuter. But that can’t be right, because it will be cold, and dark, and wet, when half an hour later you slide face-down along the unforgiving pavement. How will this happen, you may ask? You will break away from the ex and the birthday boy, as if you’re in a bicycle race, a fiery rage sizzling within you. You’ll take that soggy corner a lot too fast, and in your inebriated state, you’ll be unable to recover.
Do you remember anything? Or will you hear the story so many times that your brain has to fabricate something to make sense of it all? You will have no real recollection of the impact, but you’ll have the scar to prove it happened. The ex’s backyard—the house you once shared. Flashing blue and red lights and the obtrusive wail of a siren. Despite marinating in tequila all day, you’ll still have the wherewithal to tell the paramedics you can’t afford an ambulance ride because capitalism has ruined healthcare, and you’d rather take a cab. They’ll convince you to go with them only by threatening a DUI, which will seem like a stretch, but you’ll be in no condition to argue. Or maybe you are, being so full of liquid courage.
You can get a DUI on a bike in Oregon. The paramedics would have had to call the police to issue that DUI, and sober-you thinks they may have been bluffing.
The paramedics will insist on strapping you to a backboard despite your obvious mobility; it’s protocol for a potential head/neck injury. Because you’re strapped down, the hospital will cut off your clothes, your pathetic protests falling on deaf-ears. This will include your favorite black skinny-jeans and a new, expensive bra–quickly reducing any residual dignity to despair, dredged in shame.
A faceless doctor will pick finely-chopped-asphalt out of the ground flesh that was once your forehead, and close the gaping wound with a combination of sutures and glue, because neither would have been sufficient on its own. When the nurse wheeling you from the ER to a recovery room asks what you were doing when this happened, you’ll dryly reply, “Probably going to my ex’s house, to make poor decisions.” At least your sense of humor is intact. Although she’ll try to suppress her laughter, a chuckle will echo through the deafening silence of the otherwise empty elevator. You'll flirt shamelessly with the other nurse, in a desperate attempt at validation, but he’ll awkwardly mention his wife enough times for you to get the not-so-subtle hint.
Everything will hurt. The styrofoam donut, used to keep your neck immobile while reviewing the spinal x-rays, will feel like a torture device, and you will have never been so stiff in your entire life. Your left shoulder will scream at you with a searing pain emanating from the depths of the muscles, and the attached arm will be cradled in a soft, black sling, against your battered body. The ex will spend the night curled like spaghetti into a chair that is impossibly small for his six-foot frame. His presence will bring you little in the way of comfort though, at least until you realize your phone is dead and you’re reliant on him.
As morning rolls around, a new nurse will bring a stiff pair of thin scrubs as compensation for the clothing the others destroyed. She’ll also hand you some individually packaged saltines, so the pain pills have something to tear through other than your stomach lining. When you try to choke down the soft, dry cracker, you’ll also bite down on something hard. It will take a moment for you to comprehend what’s happening, but once you realize it’s a piece of broken molar, you’ll be inconsolable. The uncontrollable sobbing will probably occur because both your serotonin and dopamine have bottomed out with the metabolization of the booze, but the tooth won’t help matters.
The ex will call a car, on account of your phone being dead. You’ll wait thirty minutes shivering in the wafer-thin scrubs before he’ll lose patience and try again. You’ll be humiliated, exhausted, freezing, and all around miserable. But wait. There’s more! After forty-five minutes you’ll finally climb into a warm, idling cab, only to discover you know the driver. He’s a regular at your bar and friends with your boss. Wonderful. You’ll look like a monster, with yesterday’s makeup smudged across a face that is swollen almost beyond recognition. Almost, but not quite, because he’ll know it's you! The small talk over the next fifteen minutes will be more painful than any muscle, tendon, or bone in your body.
Years from now you’ll find yourself in the apartment of that same bar-regular-cab-driver for a one-night stand that he wants to be more, and when he reminds you of the day he picked you up from the hospital, all of the shame and embarrassment will come flooding back.
The ex will see you to your door before walking the fifteen blocks back to the house you once shared. You’ll ask him to bring you food from the barbeque restaurant where he works, but he’ll tell you that he has tickets to a concert, and needs to clean up before meeting his friend. Your friend, actually. The friend that you’ve known for more than a decade, who you introduced to the ex, and who tried to remain neutral after the breakup, but skewed towards the ex, because time doesn’t necessarily equal loyalty.
You’ll be more ashamed of your appearance than you are hungry, and so instead of trying to find an alternative food source, you’ll head straight to bed. Somehow you’ll manage to make it through the common area and into your room without alerting the roommates. This will be a relief, given that you won’t yet be prepared to explain why it looks like someone took a meat tenderizer to your face. You’ll collapse into the surprisingly comfortable, oversized air mattress. It will have been five months since the breakup, but you’ve taken zero steps towards a more permanent sleeping arrangement. You will be out cold for god knows how long, but wake up in the same nightmare you fell asleep in. To make matters worse, you’ll have a text from your sister-in-law, informing you that your brother is in the ICU. Not because he’s a reckless idiot like you though; because he lost the genetic lottery, at least as far as his guts are concerned. He will be suffering from a dangerous flare up of his rare stomach condition.
Your older brother suffers from something called Meckel's diverticulum, a congenital intestinal abnormality that was originally misdiagnosed as appendicitis, before an emergency appendectomy turned into an exploratory surgery, and led to the discovery. It has been the cause of multiple bowel obstructions that have required numerous hospitalizations, spanning decades.
The new girlfriend, who everyone seems to have really liked, is short-lived. He quickly trades her in for his 21-year-old-coworker, someone eight years his junior. As far as you know, they’re currently engaged.
According to Instagram, the ex will have a new girlfriend in a matter of days. The dental receptionist, the motherly, middle-aged one named Midge, will burst into tears at the mere sight of you. You’ll be reminded of a Chuck Palahniuk quote from Invisible Monsters, one of your personal favorites: “...if I can’t be beautiful, I want to be invisible...” Although the swelling will recede relatively quickly, your face will remain hideous, as the rich dark blues and purples of bruising fade to a sickly chartreuse. You’ll still want desperately to be invisible.
Finally, you’ll be left with a scar that looks like an angrier version of Harry Potter’s lightning bolt. At some point, one of the men who own the bar you work at will assure you that incredible things can be done with plastic surgery nowadays, and that there are plenty of treatments to diminish horrific scarring. Not only is plastic surgery a financially unviable option for you, but this advice will come completely unsolicited, from someone who you barely know, and with whom you have an entirely transactional relationship. Fantastic!
You will quickly come to appreciate the scar as an intimidating facade you can hide behind, but the shoulder will be the real issue. You won’t be able to manage the time off, so you’ll be back to work before you can lift the mangled arm that remains cradled in the sling. Luckily it’ll be slow season, and the lack of business means you can afford the speed you lose by bartending with only one arm. The sympathy tips won’t hurt either.
After another surgery and a brief stay in the hospital, your brother will be fine, but you will both have the gnarled white scars, as a reminder of the time the two of you did exactly what mom asked you not to.
Amy Smith is a thirty six year old woman, originally from Utah, but has lived in Portland for about fifteen years. Amy has been a hair stylist, a bartender, and is currently deciding what she wants to do next. Her time at PCC has really helped her rediscover how much she enjoys writing, as well as build confidence in her own work. Most of what Amy has written is personal narrative, but she really likes being able to combine research and experience, and playing with creative structures. A Recipe for Disaster was a way for her to write about something that was both traumatic and embarrassing, in a way that was fun and a little more light-hearted.
Instagram handle: @boozy_baby