I was working a straight job during the day and drinking at night. Every morning began with an Alka-Seltzer, Compazine, Zantac, vitamin, and a Coke. My body's gears were trying to seize up, but I refused to let them. Mornings at work, I was too foggy to think, so I closed my office door and devised little games to get me thru the hangovers. My favorite was the pen game. I'd found this pen that was perfectly balanced, so it spun like a compass needle. I created a little dial out of paper and began making bets on where the pen point would land at the end of each spin. I charted the results on a little notepad I kept in my desk. This worked well enough, but after a few weeks I found myself dreaming at night about the pen-and-wheel game. Numbers and odds floated past the window of my mind. I was starting to lose my senses.
Around this time, my coworkers were also going mad. One became a hypochondriac and another embarked on a program of extreme diet and exercise as an emotional response to his divorce. With the hypochondriac calling out sick once a week, my workload grew. I tried working thru my hangovers but I made errors. I was slipping.
Then the bosses hired a new supervising editor. He had yellow-green skin and hairless arms protruding from his white short-sleeved shirt. I named him Gumby. Gumby liked to chat. He would walk from office to office in the mornings, making small talk. He wanted desperately to fit in, but his attempts at camaraderie were awkward and strange. One day he came into my office. I was putting some files on a high shelf. "Putting on a little weight I see," he said, and poked me in the belly. I was too addled from the previous night's drinking to respond. I mean, he was correct, I was bloated and sick. I had probably gained thirty pounds since I hired on. But he had touched my belly as though I were his 6-year-old nephew. It was strange and wrong. I felt vaguely molested and vowed to stay away from him.
In the ensuing weeks, things got worse. The work piled up, I drank more, and Gumby continued to make his rounds. It had been a long, hot summer and my thirtieth birthday was approaching. The idea of sitting at that desk another year filled me with dread. One morning, I took a moment from the pen game and typed up a resignation letter. I carried it in my pocket for a week. It felt good, the way suicides feel good when they've resolved to do it. I could pull the trigger any time. And one day I did. I can't remember the impetus, but I walked into the Managing Editor's office and said, "Well, that's it." I had no job lined up, no prospects. But I knew I'd never have to see Gumby again.
On my last day I went in, placed my few personal belongings in a cardboard box, and walked home. I slept for three days and three nights. The next day I woke up. It was my birthday. The shades were down, the fridge was empty, the phone was silent, and I was smiling.