Shoddy at Times

I could hear them calling my name, then they picked me up off the floor of the Indian restaurant. The place was packed. Everyone was a blur, except for the woman right in front of me, her plate in her hand, her mouth wide open. I think I was standing on my own for a few seconds. I think I managed to mutter, “Excuse me,” as I made it to the front door, pushed it open and once more the black dots in my eyes came together and pulled me to the ground. Blackness all around, and they were calling my name again, trying to shake me back to life, my friends. My eyes opened, but it took me several seconds to comprehend what was happening. My first thought was, “You’re lying on the sidewalk,” and as much as I wanted to close my eyes again in an attempt to wake up somewhere else, out of this nightmare and into a lonesome corner, away from all eyes, I knew it was all too real. My second thought was, “Fuck,” and it echoed repeatedly until I finally felt I had the strength to raise myself off the ground. Of course, my friends wouldn’t let me be on my way. Gary and Mike grabbed me from either side, step by step, practically carrying me to the car.

I turned to Mike, “Guys, I’m okay. You should eat. I’ll be fine.”

One of them told me to shut up. I think it was Gary. He also turned back to Sam and Rick, who were still at the front door of the restaurant, and said, “We’ll stay with him. You guys settle up.” At least I think that’s what he said.

They opened the car door and I dropped myself on the back seat, Mike leaning over the open door, concern pouring out of his eyes, while Gary sat in the driver’s seat and lit a cigarette. “How do you feel?”

I shook my head and sighed.

“Has that ever happened to you before?”

“Couple of times, years ago,” I said.

 As dizzy as I was still, the scent of his cigarette made me lick my lips; my eyes, still hazy and blurred, opened wider and I stretched out my arms and sat up straight…I must’ve done all of this rather frantically, because Mike leaned even closer, pulsating with concern. “What’s wrong?”

“My coat. I left my coat inside.”

“I’ll go get it,” he said.

I sank back into the seat and closed my eyes. When I opened them, Gary was holding out his pack of smokes, politely propped open. I took one and he handed me his lighter.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“Ah, shut up with that shit!”

“Out of nowhere,” I grunted, slowly coming back to life, the blur exiting my body.

“What happened exactly?” he said.

“I wish I could tell you.” I closed my eyes again.

“Do you have any food allergies?”

“No.”

“Do you feel better now?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m gonna go see what’s taking them so long. Are you gonna be ok?”

“I’ll be fine,” I said and added in a whisper, “Thanks, Gary,” but he was already out of the car and walking back to the restaurant.

 I closed my eyes again, letting the cigarette burn on it’s own. I didn’t really want to smoke it, but I wasn’t going to dash it either; just let it burn. I tried to explain what had happened to myself. Surely, my friends would want some answers. I tried to imagine what I must’ve looked like on the ground, while they called my name, trying to shake me back to life. That woman’s face kept flashing back, her plate in her hand, her mouth wide open. I wanted to tell her that I was sorry. Even in my hazy state, when I first opened my eyes and saw her in front of me, I could vividly see the horror in her eyes. Sitting in the car, letting the cigarette burn on it’s own, I knew that her eyes would haunt me for some time to come, and she would never hear my apology.

Slowly but surely, I was back. I turned my head and looked down the parking lot. Rick was approaching the car, two girls following behind him. I sat up straight and thought, “Fuck,” grinding my teeth and dashing the smoke. Rick came over to the door, smiling from ear to ear, and handed me my coat.

“She’s a doctor,” he said, and it looked as if he was trying to keep himself from bursting with laughter.

“Hi,” she said, moving closer, her fat friend behind her, holding a drink. “Are you alright? Has that ever happened to you before?”

“I’m fine,” I said, trying to smile, “Really, no big deal.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, definitely.”

“So it’s happened to you before?”

“Yes it has. It’s been a long day. We had some drinks…”

“Alright, but you’re fine now?”

I should’ve gotten out of the car, just to show them that I could stand and talk, but I didn’t. I just sat there and nodded and tried to smile. I looked over at Rick, he thanked them and they all walked back to the restaurant. “Christ,” I thought, closing my eyes and leaning my head back, wanting to cry.

A few moments passed. Sam and Mike came to the car. “Feeling better?” said Sam, patting me on the knee. I sighed and let out a laugh.

“Glad to see you’re back,” said Mike, “That was fucking scary.”

“Oh man,” Sam exclaimed, “Everyone inside was asking about you.”

“I don’t know what happened,” I said, “Out of nowhere… All I remember is getting a plate from the buffet, sitting down, enjoying the fucking food. Everything was great!”

“What happened? Can you explain the feeling?” said Sam, and Mike turned around in the passenger seat, both of them waiting, concerned and curious.

“It’s hard to explain. It’s a weird buzz. It comes really quickly and I’m forced to close my eyes. That’s all I was trying to do.”

“Yeah,” said Mike, “You were leaning over, your head almost went into your plate.”

“I was trying to breathe until the buzz went away. It’s really strange, but it takes over my whole body. I tried to take a drink of water, but I could barely even lift the glass. I felt bad sitting there like that with my eyes closed, but I should’ve just stayed there. I remember Gary asking a couple of times if I wanted to go outside. I thought maybe it would help. As soon as I got up from the table and walked a few steps, everything went black.”

Soon enough Gary and Rick came back to the car. The five of us sat there for a while and they all went on to tell me of the commotion inside the restaurant, the waiters asking them if I was alright, the family at the table behind us, shaking their heads at each other. Rick said, “When you first fell to the floor, I saw the reaction of the woman sitting beside us, having dinner with her kids, and I kind of had an urge to turn to the guys and say, ’Ah, the heroin’s kicking in!’”

We all laughed. I shook my head and closed my eyes. “I’m so sorry, guys.”

“Enough with the apologies,” said Gary.

“What a great restaurant though,” I sighed and added, “I really thought the food was amazing.”

“Maybe that’s why you passed out. Too much pleasure too quickly!”

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” I said. “Goddamn embarrassment. What was with those two girls you brought to the car?”

“Oh,” Rick laughed, “She comes up to me saying that she’s a psychotherapist. She was very curious about your condition.”

“She looked eighteen years old!” I exclaimed.

“I found it hilarious, that’s why I brought them to see you. Ha, psychotherapist!”

“I’m sure she’ll write a paper about it.”

We fell silent for a few moments. I wanted to apologize repeatedly. I knew that the embarrassment of that night wouldn’t leave me for some time. I looked over at Sam. He smiled at me and patted my knee again. I felt tired and closed my eyes.

“So,” said Rick, turning the car on, “What’s the deal?”

“Liquor store,” said Sam.

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