The Oceanographer and the Heroin Addict

The Oceanographer and the Heroin Addict

"My ankle hurts a lit­tle," said the man in the cof­feeshop to the cute barista. She had her hair tied up in a bun and a tat­too of Che Gue­vara on her ster­num just above her supple breasts. She scowled at every­one and every­thing as her life was in a hold­ing pattern, go­ing on a few years, give or take an eter­ni­ty or two. She just want­ed to be an oceanog­ra­ph­er, a guardian of ma­jes­tic whales of mys­te­ri­ous sea crea­tures who car­ry in­tel­li­gence that the av­er­age cof­fee drinker had no un­der­stand­ing of. Every bas­tard who want­ed a spe­cial­ty cof­fee, rife with sug­ary, con­scious­ness-low­er­ing garbage was glow­ered at with a ha­tred borne of not get­ting what she want­ed years ago. Stel­la was not go­ing to go qui­et­ly into the gen­tle night, oh no, she wasn’t. She was go­ing to go loud­ly into the ocean, into the bo­som of deep blue sea and nev­er re­turn. Yes, she was land-based now, but how much longer could it last? She was now 48 and ag­ing rapidly. She had the heart of a lion, the eyes of a tiger, and the pa­tience of a tur­tle. Crav­ing a cig­arette, she ex­cused her­self from the cof­fee steam­er and got Melanie to cover for her. Melanie was 23 and not in­ter­est­ed in any­thing but hav­ing a good time with hot guys who splayed at­ten­tion on her like the sun. She stepped into the cof­fee sta­tion, watch­ing Stel­la go out the front door and light up. She thought it bizarre that Stel­la was so in­ter­est­ed, one might even say ob­sessed, about the damn ocean. She loved go­ing to the beach to tan and stuff, but why would any­one want to see what was in the freak­ing thing? It was gross! She hat­ed when her foot stepped on some­thing she couldn’t iden­ti­fy. Jel­lyfish were the thing that would chase her out of the wa­ter im­medi­ate­ly and make her want to shoot up. She liked hero­in. Oh, did I for­get to men­tion that? I’m so sor­ry. Let me kill my­self. I am not thrilled with be­ing the sto­ry­teller who weaves this tale for you. Al­ways try­ing to bal­ance sor­row, in­sight, and hu­mor. I am just a guy who is over­weight, sit­ting on a re­clin­er with an iPad Pro and a cup of cof­fee trying to ham­mer out a piece that will make me feel a lit­tle bit bet­ter about my­self and there­fore about life. Joe Biden, who is a his­tor­i­cal war-mon­ger­ing politi­cian, gave a speech last night to a sparse au­di­ence due to the pan­dem­ic. He pro­posed some help for the Amer­i­cans who ... what the hell am I do­ing? I just want­ed to write about a chick who’s into the ocean, then I men­tioned hero­in, and you judged me, and I went on an apolo­getic at­tempt that be­came in­fest­ed with pol­i­tics, doubt, and a lack of cre­ative juice. Yes, I've been side­tracked. I mean, can you imag­ine if I went on with this sto­ry about an oceanog­ra­ph­er trapped in a faux art­sy cof­feehouse with a hero­in ad­dict who man­aged to be su­per­fi­cial de­spite a se­ri­ous ad­dic­tion? Can you imag­ine that? How great and di­vert­ing that would’ve been for the both of us? Well, my an­kle hurts from hav­ing sprained it a month and a half ago, and the po­di­a­trist said it could be three months be­fore it heals. All this to say that I have been twirling the afore­mentioned an­kle while writ­ing the sto­ry of the oceanog­ra­ph­er and the hero­in ad­dict. Should that be the ti­tle? THE OCEANOG­RA­PH­ER AND THE HERO­IN AD­DICT. I like it! I re­al­ly do! But the an­kle thing had made me a bit of a pill, a bit of a grouch who doesn’t want to please. I know that you want me to get back to the damn sto­ry, and I know that this meta ob­ser­va­tion­al de­tour is a bit tepid, but I am di­vid­ed. I am the addict, and I am the ocean. I am the ad­dict, and I am the ocean. That’s an­oth­er good ti­tle! There is a fire that start­ed a lit­tle while ago in a trash bas­ket by my foot (the good foot). I am watch­ing it burn, hop­ing the smoke alarm doesn’t go off. I se­ri­ous­ly hope it doesn’t get big­ger. I tossed a match from a cig­ar I lit a lit­tle while ago. I love smok­ing a cig­ar while writ­ing. I feel like an old-school box­ing scribe, like Bert Sug­ar (look him up, you art­sy fucks). Stel­la fin­ished her cig­arette and tossed the burn­ing stick into a pile of doc­u­ments that were next to the cof­feeshop. She had been day­dream­ing about her Un­cle Mike who was a writer who was al­ways in­jured. She loved Mike be­cause he reflect­ed back to her the tragedy of not get­ting what you want, of not find­ing your niche in life but of keep­ing fight­ing for it no mat­ter how old you got. One thing Stel­la no­ticed about Mike’s writ­ing were the run-on sen­tences and the cir­cles that he would spin in his sto­ries that left you won­der­ing if he knew how to walk a straight line into suc­cess. "Screw it," she said as she drift­ed back to the cof­feeshop. She no­ticed Melanie flirt­ing with Den­nis, the surfer who piqued her in­ter­est as well. He was well-built, beauti­ful eyes, and the thing that en­deared her most was his bum an­kle.

*Feature photo by Eric Chen (Pexels)

Comic Eddie Pepitone's special For the Masses was named "NY Times Funniest Special" of 2020. His critically-acclaimed special IN RUINS debuted on Netflix, now on Amazon. Eddie's on tons of TV.
More posts by Eddie Pepitone.
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