The New Normal
In the infinite expanse of the dark, momentary void between sleeping and waking, I'm being watched. Not by a man, my ever-present stalker in the shadows is no man. Its eyes are black marbles that never seem to blink. Its smile is wide and toothy, a reminder that it relishes every moment of my suffering. It did this to me, trapped me in this state, this life – If you could call it that, the constant nightmare that plays whether I'm conscious or not. But it isn't the only one to blame.
This cycle, the loop of purgatory I find myself in, is as much my fault. A sacrifice had to be made, for the greater good. And as a result, it's only in these times, the blissful second or two that feels like a lifetime before being jerked awake, that I can breathe easy, knowing that I am suffering for the right reasons.
Of course, as soon as my slumber ceases, all this optimism will shed. The blue sky thinking will cloud over with a heavy, thick grey blanket that's ready to pelt down hard, cold rain on this positivity parade.
But at least for this short, aspartame-sweet moment, I can appreciate the little things in life. If I remember this when I wake – which I never do – but if I did, I would hate myself right now. The guy who wakes up every morning has no joy in him, not any longer.
The other guy though, he's all about claiming moments of serenity whenever he can. Even if his serenity tends to reside in dark, moist crevices.
Sitting in between them both, knowing my time is short, fleeting, all I can do it hope that somehow they both find what they're looking for. Whatever that might be.
Optimism siphoned, as the agony washes over me. Night on its way out, day drawing forth. And still, I'm being watched. This is its favourite part, the pointless suffering inflicted across my entire body as the sun raises its weary head.
It lives for the pain, its smile widening yet further, if that were even possible.
My thoughts slow.
I'll be merely a spectator.
The dawn chorus sings its sweet mellifluous melody, an incongruous orchestral score to the seizure violently bucking me into waking. When the involuntary convulsions finally stop, and my thoughts are no longer splintered shards, I find myself coming to. I'm lying face-down on the floor. Again.
Move my aching head and feel the carpet fibres scratching against my cheek. They're thin, worn away by time and boot heels. Someone was once probably proud of this carpet, bet they made everyone take their shoes off before walking into the damn apartment. Those days are long gone, and I certainly don't give anything close to a shit. Although, seeing how often I find myself waking all the way down here, maybe I should think about replacing it. Something plush, soft, a welcoming embrace for the mornings that start on the floor.
Who am I kidding . . . Haven't changed anything since I moved in. Sold as seen. The first flat I looked at when I needed to move, and given that it came repossessed along with all the last guy's furniture, it was perfect. Didn't have to think about it, let lone put any effort in. A flea market doll's house with all the 90's mod cons, just waiting for a new owner. Waiting for some poor sap who didn't give a damn about the mould or the rot, just wanted – needed – enough of a change to sign the lease and fork over the asking price.
Sitting up, I look over to the bed. The covers are dishevelled, but not from sleep. Not from recent sleep, anyway. Reckon that's how I left them when I got up three, maybe four days back. This has been a bad week. A week where I keep missing the bed.
That's a recent development. These past few weeks there have been more nights like that than not. When it was just one or two mornings waking up on the floor, or in some forgotten booth in the back of a dive bar, that seemed fine, an amusing anecdote to tell myself. Over half the week though, that's probably something I should be concerned about. . .
But I'm not. I'm not even sure I can be concerned. Not any more. I've had a big case of the whogivesashits since I moved in. This whole new incarnation of my life hasn't exactly been forth-giving with reasons to want to put effort in.
There's a taste on my lips. Lift my fingers to them and something flakes away. Crumbs maybe. A snack before 'bed'? If only I could be that lucky.
Pull myself upright, using the bed for support. Head pounding, as if it's trying to keep me down on the ground with repeating rhythmic shunts. Each one kicking stars across my vision. And my gut feels full, but not from food, its like there's a tension or gaseous build-up. Must have been one hell of a night, whatever he ended up doing. Stagger to the bathroom, hit the light and regret it instantly. The halogen white flicks at the headache, turning the asynchronous beat up into overdrive.
I'm looking back at myself, through eyes shot red with lightning forks of blood. The left one is surrounded by a moat of black and blue bruising. One hell of a night alright.
Hit the cold tap, leave it running, get rid of the first run-off of sewer stank that always belches out before the water eventually runs clear. Building manager always says he's getting right on fixing that, or assures me it's next on his list. I wonder what else is on the list, other than charging too much for 'maintaining' the lint and trash-collecting staircase that never seem to get cleaned or hoovered, or replacing the bulbs in the hallways that have been out since I moved myself in.
As soon as the tap is done excreting the black and green mush that's circling the drain, I grab a corner of a towel and soak it, hold it against my eye. If there were any peas in the freezer, I'd have used them, but I know full well I haven't got any food in. Not even sure if the refrigerator works, let alone if it's running.
No appetite. They say that's a sign of depression. That and not sleeping. And not talking to people. Withdrawing into a bubble, letting the darkness circulate. That's probably true for most folks, but that ain't what this is. I know my problem, know it all too well. He's staring right back at me, one eye covered, the other glistening in the mirror. That self-destructive Cyclops. He's my damn problem.
The water drips from the towel, sending droplets coursing down my face, lingering on my lips before taking on a red hue and plummeting into the sink below. The flakes rehydrated, taking on new life.
I taste it. I don't need to, already know it's blood.
Not mine. Mine is sweeter.
Not his. His is bitter, with an acrid after-taste that stays with you, no matter how many coffees you try and drown it with.
This is someone else's blood. And it's not just dried on my lips, its under my fingernails, crusting away. Run my hands under the tap, rehydrate it, taste it just to be sure. Same tang that's on my lips. That's good. Not good as in good, good as in it's the same. Only hurt one person last night. That's good. Could have been a lot worse.
It's been a lot worse.
One casualty isn't so bad. What I gather, from the poorly written, often misspelled notes I occasionally find left around the apartment, the people whose blood I wash off the next day deserve everything they had coming to them. No reason to doubt it. Or maybe that's just ignoring the problem, trying to wish it away, and trust the words scrawled by a drunken hand.
But every now and then, every so often, I let a flicker of doubt in. Let it gnaw. Maybe the message will get through, maybe it'll cross the barrier between day and night. Let it be known that I'm not happy waking up covered in other people's blood. That I'm not convinced by some post-it's testimony proclaiming that whoever smashed my face up the night before deserved to paint my fists with their vital fluids.
Stagger back to the bedroom. Lie on the bed, holding the towel to my eye, wondering if the message ever gets through.
And if it does, assuming by some freak chance I've found a way to transcend that barrier, it leaves the question . . .
Does the other guy even care?
Wake up again. Don't remember falling asleep, but at some point after I laid back down, must have just rested my eyes for a moment, and now It's gone noon. Slept through the alarm, like I do after almost every night he goes out to party. Some part of me thinks that it's a ploy on his part, trying to make me miss the best part of the day so it's closer to his time to play.
Stomach feels heavy as I get up and check my eye. Belly still swollen, which is a nuisance, but at least the eye isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Barely swelling now, darker than it should be, but not the heavy gradient tint of black and blue it once was. I consider a shower, but it feels like hard work. Cleanliness is relative. Don't plan on getting too close to anyone, so it's only a personal issue, and I sure as hell don't have an issue with skipping another shower. Consider breakfast, but I know the cupboards are bare. Mental note to get more . . . well, more of everything. A mental note that will be buried under the rest of the equally unimportant junk the day will bring.
Get dressed and eye up the bottle of whisky sitting on the bedside table. His, not mine. Leaving an artefact of himself in my half of the day, because he knows it'll piss me off. Think about taking a swig, just for the hell of it, but there's no point. I won't feel it, not really. Can't drink enough to enjoy it, so what's the use in wasting it? Plus, the pressure in my abdomen already sucks, reckon alcohol will only add to the gastrointestinal distress.
Double-check for keys on the way out the door. Always double-check, even though I can feel them stabbing me gently in the thigh. No matter how often I forget everything else, no matter how much time I lose, I'll never forget my keys. It's the little things like that, the few scant certainties, that I hold on to. Have to. When there's nothing else left in one's life, the little things take on more importance. And in a world where nothing is set in stone, where the walls can come crashing down in an instant, one small thing like knowing I'll never find myself locked out, that takes on a whole lot of meaning.
Down the stairs at speed, almost tripping over myself on the way out to the street. Feet hit the pavement hard, the slabs of concrete feeling all too close to the bone. Glance down amidst the frantic pace, just to make sure I'm wearing shoes. One time I left the house barefoot, didn't notice for a block and a half. Mind was drifting, off somewhere else, wondering what happened the night before. I don't wonder any more. Now, I try not to think about it beyond tidying up whatever scrapes and bruises I wake up with. Or in the case of this morning, a beach ball that seems to be steadily inflating in my gut.
They're going to be pissed that I'm late again. Not them, don't know why I naturally go for the collective pronoun, like it's anyone other than Phil that's going to give a damn. He's the Managing Director, which means jack-shit to me, but he likes to make sure his employees remember he's the Managing Director. Any time there's a chance to mention his title, his six chins begin to flap, saliva starts frothing away at the corner of his thin, grey little lips. He's a horrible troll of a man, takes great pleasure in reminding the people under him that he's been at this job going on twenty six years. Can practically see the tragic uncircumcised little nub of an erection blooming out of a gnarled thatch of unkempt hair between his legs every time he restates that he started this business himself, with no support, no staff, pulled himself up by his bootstraps and made it work. Glosses over that the company, Stone Mutual Homes, has a Wikipedia page that clearly states it's a charity, Lottery funded, Government backed, and has been since day one. In truth, all his little company does is buy up slums to turn them into slightly less-leaky slums, and rents them out to whoever's desperate enough to sign a lease. Social housing for the lowest common denominator, with the lowest tenant satisfaction rate in the county. Great job, Phil.
It would obviously be admirable work, if he didn't take such pleasure in informing and reminding everyone that works for him how admirable it is. Not to mention the tenants themselves; either they're grateful beyond compare that they've made it to the top of the list and are able to rent a place they can actually afford; or they're the majority of the clientele, who are never satisfied, and despite the peppercorn rent they pay to have a roof over their heads, always want more. Or worse, they launch into hate-filled diatribes about how some fictional immigrant family is taking precedence over them, generally with no proof that any such family exists. Idiots terrified of a theoretical 'other' that's more of a priority than them. Same people who voted to leave the EU, I reckon, thinking it meant instant deportation of anyone who wasn't 'British'. Type of people who believe that we, a country of immigrants and people with ancestral lineage to bastard children from invading fathers, would get 'our country' back. Calling them idiots doesn't even begin to cover it.
Coming round the corner to the SMH building, I check the time. It's almost one. As late starts go, that's perfect timing. Maybe Phil hasn't stepped out of his office all day, maybe he passed my desk at twelve-ish and assumed I went out for lunch. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But knowing my luck, he knows full well I haven't been in all day.
Slip through the door to the old Victorian building behind the accounts director, Julie. She reminds me of a gnome or an elf: short and pale, with round, red cheeks. Always seems to wear some shade of green, which makes the rosiness seem all the more prevalent. Somehow, she always has a smile on her face. Maybe she's more Mrs. Claus than an elf, like she could reach into her handbag at any moment and pass out a gift of something sweet and delicious.
“Afternoon, Nate!” she says through a gigantic, beaming smile. When she smiles like that, it looks like her mouth is too big for her face, or perhaps it's her face that's too small for her mouth. She stops ahead of me, sidesteps and holds the door open, letting me enter ahead if her. I shoot her a polite smile, and leans in towards me. “Phil isn't going to hear you're late from me!” she whispers theatrically, that smile still fixed on her lips.
I don't know how to take that, what to say in response, so let the polite smile on my lips elongate a little wider. I'm no good at small talk, not any more.
Crane my neck away from her to avoid the lack-of conversation. Look over my shoulder to the receptionist behind the desk. He's new, third guy in as many weeks. They keep going through them, and that's probably through no fault of their own. Solely due to Phil's proclivity for flaunting his authority, trying to make everyone fear him, instil the notion that any of us could be gone as the tide turns. The new boy feigns recognition and buzzes us through from the thinly painted plasterboard walls and shatter-proof windows of the lobby to the inner sanctum. That's what Phil called it when he gave me the grand tour.
He guffawed at the name, as he ushered me into the staff's domain, a sanctuary magnetically locked away from the riff-raff that come up to the window begging for scraps. He took me past a wrought iron spiral staircase to the large room on the ground floor. Unlike the lobby; with it's drop ceiling, stud walls, maglocked doors, and reinforced glass, this room had the full floor's height of eighteen or so feet. Original Victorian features carved or moulded into the plasterwork, and a chandelier hanging at the centre of an oval bulge in the middle of the room's ceiling. The chandelier was only for decoration, and he was too cheap to have it rewired – let alone have any ceiling lighting installed. Every desk had a crappy lamp, with a pound shop energy saving LED bulb crammed into the socket, throwing three watts of flickering white light in the faces of whoever was unlucky enough to sit in front of them. When he gave me the tour, there were three women sitting at the bulky old computer monitors, CRT relics from the nineties that barely displayed two hundred and fifty six colours. The women all had names, but he didn't seem to know or care what they might be, referring to them all as Sheila, or Cheryl. That was indicative of how he would treat anyone on the ground floor. They might have been the facilitators of all the basic operations of SMH, but anyone who resided below the first floor did not deserve the privilege of our almighty employer retaining their names.
I let Julie walk up ahead of me on the stairs to our floor. Her entire mass sways with every step, not that it's a problem for the staircase. Every day it deals with ten overweight members of staff and myself stomping up and down, and I've never felt so much as a tremor. Something about this office seems to encourage over-eating. Maybe it's Phil, his egocentric rants and constant attempts at claiming the success of his staff's hard work as his own ingenuity. No victory is too small for him to deem that it was down to him, whether it be applying for a grant or achieving some small write up in the press, it's always his victory, rather an an achievement for the collective.
God, I've only been here a few weeks and I can only imagine how much weight I'd put on if I was in any way invested in the work. But, of course, to put on weight I'd have to eat. And I haven't been eating all that much since I got back. . .
Julie walks through our room to the accounts department. A thin stud wall and tragic excuse for a door separates her side of the room from ours. There are four desks on this side, but only three are occupied, by two housing officers that have to deal with almost a thousand tenants, and me doing all the shit-work the two of them don't want to do.
Turn the computer on. Up here we've got flat-screens, a good ten years old, but flat nonetheless. The computer coughs and churns as it thinks about booting up. Mocking me, as if it knows that time is of the essence, that Phil could walk in at any moment. It just wants to make me sweat. Even though I'm already sweating. The fast walk over here has shaken up all the fettered alcohol that's coursing through my veins, making it leak out of every porous outlet it can find.
Turn the screen on, damn thing is still considering the boot up sequence, it only just found the hard drive, and now it's mulling over whether the 3.5 inch floppy is still attached.
The office door opens. I'm afraid to glance over. Stare at the screen, maybe he won't walk round the desk, take a look and see that it's still booting up.
“Late again, Bloom?” Phil barks. There's a puff of air that emanates from his joules on the B. Air he was probably saving up in those fat cheeks, an emergency supply to keep his mammoth body running.
“Lunch ran on . . . ” I say, avoiding eye contact.
“Lunch!” he bellows, like I had walked up to Mr Bumble, asking 'Please sir, may I have some more?'. “Always an excuse, isn't it, Bloom!” another audible expulsion of air on the B. I don't understand how that's a natural sound for his body to make, and wonder if it's something that comes with gaining that much weight to the face.
“Sorry.” Still avoiding eye contact. In my periphery I can see the Windows 95 logo loading up. It's going to ring-a-ding any second now, cry out a confession on my behalf, declare to the room that I've only just turned the damn thing on.
The door opens behind Phil, chuckles and laughs covering the sound. I wipe the whisky-sweat from my brow and exhale softly. Tim and John walk in, ceasing their amusement as soon as they catch Phil's stern glare. Phil doesn't like joviality in the office, says it isn't good for productivity. Timidly, the two grown men lower their heads, arc their gazes to the floor. They're both at least a full foot taller than Phil, Tim almost two feet, and yet our employer's glare instantly makes them shrink. Never seen anyone so grotesque wield that much power. It makes me sick to my stomach. Not as much as the whisky rotting in my gut, and the expanding mass of gas is literally making me sick to my stomach . . . Can feel it burning away, a tightness in both my throat and bowel. The alcohol wants to snake back up along my oesophagus and crawl away down the sewer line. Whilst the gas, that wants to blow out my belly or arsehole, and doesn't seem to have decided which yet. Just have to wait another minute, wait for him to leave, then I can work out which or the two expulsions is going to take priority.
Phil eyes up the two housing officers suspiciously as they turn their screens on and tap at the keyboards and mice, instantly invested in a flurry of work. Then he turns to me. I don't react, don't look up, but can feel the heat coming off his glare. Just have to stare at the screen a little while longer, tap at the mouse, hit some keys, make it look like I'm busy.
He huffs, and turns – which based on the laboured breathing, took great effort on his part. I try and muffle a sigh of relief as he leaves, the door slamming behind him. His footsteps thud upwards on the stairs towards his office, just a little while longer . . . just have to wait for — The door slams at the top of the stairs. I'm already out my seat, out the door and across the hallway, barely lifting up the toilet seat in time for an acrid spurt of demon spunk to launch itself from the fettered organ that used to be a fully-functioning stomach. The burst of thick bile is thankfully short and sharp, but stings on the way out, and the burn lingers. I try to think of anything else, not picture the acids melting me from the inside out. There's a thin film over my teeth. Vomit clinging to yesterday's grime left unwashed. Dammit. There was no time for a shower, but at the very least I could have brushed my damn teeth before I left the house. Knock back a sip of water straight from the tap, slosh it about and spit it out. Takes four goes 'til the taste leaves my mouth, then I try swallowing some, try to calm the burning in my throat.
Doesn't do much good.
Figure it's probably time to try and deal with the gas build-up. Flush the toilet, letting the vomit spiral away into the abyss before I sit on it, trying to work out if there's anything solid to come out, or if it's just a big, angry fart. Neither seems to emerge as I sit there, straining. Sweat starting to pour from my forehead, can feel my cheeks getting red and hot. Nothing comes out. No solid, no liquid, no gas.
I give up. Whatever it is, it doesn't want to emerge now. Might not come out at all today. Might just sit there, rotting in my guts. Either way, feels best to give up rather than blow out my sphincter, or worse, give myself an aneurysm and be found here, some time later, dead on the toilet like some kind of Lupe Vélez tribute act.
Go back to the sink, splash water on my face, take another handful of water and force myself to swallow it. It doesn't burn as much as it did before, feels less like I'm trying to drink gravel.
Not a Lupe Vélez tribute act, I'm remembering that wrong. She didn't die sitting on the toilet. But one way or another, Lupe Vélez was going to die that night. . . Fate just swerved her demise in an unexpected direction.
She had set up a beautiful and elaborate suicide scene, her bed covered in petals and candles, where she would be found the following day, succumbed to an overdose. But death came for her a little earlier than expected. She slipped in the bathroom and hit her head on the toilet, drowned in the bowl. Her maid found her, then her husband or ex-husband was called, set it up to look like she passed as she intended. At least that's the apocrophal tale that's told.
That story has always resonated with me for some reason. It's one of those tales that can be read differently at different times, an interptetation for every season. In brighter times, one can focus on the love of her partner wanting to create the perfect death scene from a tragedy. Or right now, I can reflect that despite being unable to shit, and the vomit still caking my teeth, it could always be worse; the fates could have it in for me as bad as it did for Lupe Vélez and her toilet-drowing 'accident'. . .
Back at my desk, I notice a stack of paperwork awaiting my attention. Memos from the kid on reception, calls nobody wanted to take. Third of it is from yesterday, bits I didn't get to, but most of it is new. Flipping the pile upside-down, I pull the now-top sheet and go through the details.
Mr Carrogan calling to be rehoused, wants to know what the hold up is. Please call ASAP.
The hold up for Mr Carrogan, is that he's a racist piece of shit, who thinks 'All them migrants are taking the good homes.' For the most part, he blames 'All them Pakis from Sudan.', which, even if his racist-geography wasn't entirely incorrect, still makes him wrong on oh so many levels. His number's on the memo, and I pick up the phone.
“Carrogan?” Tim asks. He must have heard the familiar exasperated sigh that everyone expunges whenever they have to deal with him.
He points at the pile. “Check through 'em all . . . it's never just one problem.”
Not sure whether to take him seriously or not. Although it certainly feels true, in my limited tenure and experience here, Carrogan is the tenant with the most problems-that-aren't-problems. I don't understand it, there can't be that much to complain about, not when he's paying less than forty quid a week for a two bed flat for just him and a cat. Six complaints in a day and a half. Each of them different. Each of them idiotic. Under normal circumstances, he should actually be moved into a one bed. But the cat, I discovered, has been legally diagnosed with claustrophobia, and he bullied some goon at the RSPCA to inform us that it had to have its own room. I wouldn't be surprised if that 'claustrophobia' was more likely, the same distinct dislike of Carrogan that everyone here has managed to acquire. But that's not something that can be said. Not in a professional capacity at least.
The phone rings. Once. Twice. Carrogan's old, has a gammy leg, I think. I'll wait 'til five before I hang up. Three rings. Praying he doesn't answer. Four, just one more. The fifth ring – and a click of the receiver being picked up. Dammit.
“Yeah?” he barks. Gruff, angry without reason for anger. Not yet at least.
“Mr Carrogan?” I ask, despite knowing it's him.
“It's Nate Bloom, from Stone Mutual.”
“Got me a new house?”
“No, sir –“ I start, but he's already on to his next complaint.
“Gonna move those wogs next door?”
“No sir, I'm afraid —”
“Got a date for my letter box to be fixed?”
“It's not broken, sir, you just don't have any mail —”
“What about that leak?”
“It's not a leak, you just have to turn the taps off properly —”
“That stair still creaks, do I have to just 'walk on it properly'?”
“It's an old house, sir. It's going to creak every now and —”
“What about keys to the garden? Cat's got to stretch its legs.”
“You're on the third floor, the garden is only accessible from the ground floor flat, I can't give you keys to their —”
“Well what use are you?” he screams, slamming the phone down.
That went better than I expected. Maybe not better, but certainly faster. The sheets with all six of Carrogan's complaints go straight in the trash, and I take great pleasure in putting them there. Only another sixty or so calls and I'll be up to date . . .
Half hour left of the day, and I've still got over thirty memos left to go through. The tenants waiting for me to call are mostly old or infirm, don't have much in the way of friends or family. In the short time I've been in this job, got the distinct impression that they don't always have problems that need to be addressed, and sometimes call just because they don't have anyone to talk to. And they're happy to talk, even if I don't have anything to say in response. The act of them talking is enough to make them feel like they're making a connection, reminds them that they're still human.
I used to do more than just being a sounding board for the elderly and impotently addressing the complaints of racists. Used to have a career. . . But that's the old me, the guy with a real job, with a family, life plan. With a life, full stop. The me that died in the accident.
This new me isn't as industrious as him. Not just because of how the nights go, but because my focus is elsewhere. I'm driven, but not in the same way. Going up a corporate ladder, that's a bullshit drive in comparison.
Putting the phone down from another call that I mostly yup'd and uh-huh'd through, I come in on the tail end of a joke between Tim and John. They laugh hard. I smile politely and avert my eyes to the stack of memos. No good at that any more, connecting with people, being jovial. Don't have it in me. Makes me wonder whether I ever did. Can we ever really know ourselves? Do we ever truly know who we are as people. And if we can't know ourselves, can another person ever really know us? There are all these motivations and machinations, thoughts and feelings, and we're just meat automatons running on a potent combination of apparently sentient behaviour skewed by chemical reactions.
I must have been able to connect before. The old me must have been able to connect . . . He loved, and was loved in return. That takes connection.
It feels like a lifetime ago, but it was real.
Until it all changed.
And that's without the demon being let out the bottle as soon as the sun goes down . . .
I got nothing done in the last half hour of the day, losing those thirty minutes to staring at the pixilated Windows 95 icons, and running the same thoughts over and over. Same thing at the end of every work day. Dread of the night to come.
Leaving the office, I can feel my gut gnawing at itself behind the ball of noxious gas pulsating under my skin. It thinks it's raw and empty, desperate for any kind of sustenance. My head doesn't feel hungry, my body isn't any more exhausted than it is any other day, but my damn stomach seems to be begging for something to digest. I don't want to do it, don't want to add to the bulge I've been carrying all day. My belly is literally hanging out in front of me, a thick, solid mass, like how I imagine a football coach's gut must feel. It's still hoarding all that gas, or shit, or whatever.
Briefly consider going to the shops, getting something healthy to eat, cooking for myself, but know it won't happen. Time is a factor, as is laziness. Burger place round the corner from my building opens up almost exactly the same time as I seem to walk by every day. The guy sees me from down the street and is already throwing a couple of thin cylinders of beef mush on the grill, dropping frozen potato strips in the fryer. This isn't food, not really, but it'll do the job. Has done for the sporadic nights over these weeks that I've decided to give in to my stomach's cries. Keep promising myself I'll change this routine, but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe tomorrow. Doesn't matter what I eat, not really. Just need something in my belly before night falls, or I'll feel worse for it in the morning.