it was a game show.
as i was swimming up from the darkness i could see in front of me, three television hosts dressed up as EMS workers. behind them was the audience. they were friends of mine and people who worked with and for scrap bar, atlanta.
it had opened about three months earlier, but it, like myself, was in trouble.
me, a lot more so.
carrie, the manager who had worked for me in NY for seven years and had become manager and partner down here, was visibly crying. my friends had deep concern lined in their faces in front of me. i saw this like a photo image.
there was carrie, tom, tim and a couple of other faces without names (at this point in time). one of the EMS guys who i recognized from the fire/EMS station located around from scrap bar finished the statement with these words “….we won’t have to hospitalize you. do you understand what i’m saying to you?”
focus……focus. it was like i just sat up poolside with my feet still dangling in,
“yes.” i said. i don’t know if this was when i realized i had peed my pants at one point or another. this could’ve happened hours ago, for all i knew.
i looked at the three hosts, then beyond them to the audience. i was sitting in the backyard of the house that i last remembered drinking those big bottles from. i was only able to assume this. it didn’t really matter. i could have been on the planet jupiter for all i knew, but if there was a hospital these guys were going to be able to “hospitalize” me in, i wanted no part of it. this was a test. it was right in front of me. shackles or restraints. psych wards. there was adrenaline-driven clarity happening inside me. my brains were showered, dried and dressed in its sunday best. this was kung-fu slow-motion kind of stuff.
“what is your name?” he asked.
without hesitation i answered, “stephen trimboli,” my heart racing, a notch marked in my brain with a sign flashing “…one down, two to go”
“where do you live?” he asked. i took a deep breath.
“945 peidmont ave.,” i said.
two down, one to go. i was feeling good. i can do this. i glanced at my audience, they were rooting for me….right?
“what are you doing here?” he followed.
“well” almost conversationally, “i’m here in atlanta to build scrap bar on peachtree street and 12th street, but if you’re asking about here and now it’s because..”
dingdingdingdingding!!!!! I CINCHED IT.
i was the smartest man in the entire universe and felt like it.
“no. it’s alright,” he said. “…but i want to ask you, would you like to go to the hospital…just to be checked out to make sure you’re alright?”
“are you sure”
“how do you feel?”
“i feel like i want to die but a a hospital can’t fix that,” i said and began to cry.
“we can’t force you” he said, “but i think it would be a good idea to come to the hospital…”
“no. no.” i said and just went on crying.
i wasn’t sure whether i was crying about this utter defeat in my life or relief on passing that massive exam. i was a crazy man sitting on another planet who was able to relay a message to the planet earth and it was no easy task.
the next 24 hours were electric-powered. nuclear-powered.
when i was at the airline terminal with carrie she was worn and angry and firm and a lot of other words only she knows. she cried. she gave me that twenty-dollar bill.
and you know, after about three hours on that long flight i said,
“excuse me, could i get a tanqueray and tonic?”
or was it vodka????????????????????????????????????????????????