Hugh wakes to realize he has only five days left of his twenties. He looks in the mirror and opens his mouth. His teeth are OK, his face has the complexion he’d had since high school. It’s better now, of course, seeing as how he doesn’t spend several hours a day standing over hamburgers that spray a sheen of grease in his face. He decides to spend the entire week drinking. His 20’s will go out with a bang.


Wakes up early. He'd gone to sleep around 10 pm after a long day at work. He’d gone out to eat the night before, had one beer and ended up slurry and headachy. The Nachos were substandard and stale. Work went as usual and Hugh ended up mourning his 20’s most of the day and ate lunch alone - no one feels like listening to him lament his birthday. He’s desperate to somehow change the flow of time. Maybe if he just set all of his clocks back a few years. Will Windows NT run properly if continually set back to 1992?  He listens to "Pretty Hate Machine" for five minutes before slipping into a deep depression.  He never thought that "Head Like a Hole" would make him feel as if he were preparing for 40.


He sits out back smoking and reads more of “Neverwhere”. The cool comfort of a Neil Gaiman novel sends him back to the days when he bought “Sandman” on a regular basis and read it greedily. But the book makes him feel alone and tired. The yellow bug light makes his skin look old and jaundiced. He realizes this only after sitting outside for a few hours. He’s grateful for the tall fence that hides him from the view of his prying neighbors. He drinks tea and shivers, it’s late March and still a little chilly this evening. He fixes himself a shot of whiskey and sips it slowly, fixes another and drinks half. He’s out of smokes and goes to bed.  On the way upstairs he trips over the cat and hits his shin on a stair.  He's aging in dog years now and wants to chase the cat out of the house.


The pressure is building and Hugh starts to examine the hair in the bathtub drain. It’s too long to be his so he assumes its his wife’s. He’s relieved. Looking in the mirror he checks his hairline and stares at the wrinkle that formed a few years ago beside his mouth. It’s more of a smile line; he calls it a smirk line because he only smiles with half of his mouth. He looks at the photograph on his work badge and holds his thumb over half his face. One half smiles, the other looks dead and lifeless. This picture is almost six months old. Hugh realizes with some shock that he has a split face. There is very little symmetry between sides and this disturbs him. He thinks back to a Learning Channel program that talked about beauty. The conclusion of it was: “symmetry is beauty” . I am not beautiful. He thinks this with a little sadness. But I never have been. He shrugs and gives his reflection a sidelong smirk. If only both sides of his face were like the left side. Damn. He notices the time and realizes he’s late. Work is typical and he leaves early to hang out with friends again. They pull out the “age card” and waggle it in his face over and over. They always gave him a hard time about being older but now it is different - he’s hitting 30 first and they have no intention of letting him forget it. Frustrated and depressed, he leaves early and grabs food at Wendy’s on the way home. He eats until he’s sick.


Again, he leaves work early and gets ready for some kind of party. They go to a nightclub and dance. He drinks, heavily. He’s not drunk though and this makes his desperation to drink more a little disconcerting. It’s not that he wants to get sick, he just wants to forget (for just a moment) that he’s turning 30. He goes to the bathroom and looks in the mirror. He’s been dancing all night. He dances as if he’s taking an aerobics class, feet stomping, arms flailing, head jolting… He’s a mess on the dance floor and it shows… He looks like a broken windup toy. In the mirror he can see that the exertion has made his face turn sunburn red. His face is blotchy and his hair is matted with sweat. His shirt is stained dark with sweat in the armpits and across his chest. He’s not attractive at all - how does Maggie stand looking at me? He washes cool water over his face and pads it with paper towels. This doesn’t make him look better or feel any better. He looks at his watch and sees that he has five more minutes left of his twenties. Hugh runs back to the bar and orders three shots of 151. He drinks two, in desperate gulps, while standing at the bar. His friends and wife are standing at a far, corner table chatting. He takes the third back and they toast the death of his youth. It is not his last drink of the evening.


30. Hugh wakes up at 8 am, staggers to the bathroom and stares in the mirror. His face is pale from dehydration and his lips are chapped and bright red. He tries to drink more water but pukes it up immediately along with some type of black gunk. He can only assume it is leftover from the Rum and Cokes which finished the night. His head is ringing, his stomach burns and he feels like absolute shit. This is how he expected to feel at 30 and he’s angry with himself for not trying to moderate his drinking. He’s kneeling in front of the toilet with kitty litter crushing into his knees and he’s struck by the fact that this is exactly how he normally feels after drinking too much. He stands, brushs the litter from his legs and looks again at the mirror. The line in his face seems less defined by his pale, pale face. He tries another glass of water. He tries to hold it down. He stares at his reflection as if the other guy can somehow provide mental support. It fails and he spins around, retching again. He’s puking up his 20’s like a bad meal and feels as if he can’t stop. When he finally does he’s shaking and his eyes are tearing. He cleans his face at the sink and smiles. He makes a declaration that will go unheeded for many years to come. I’m too old for this - it’s time to stop drinking like a kid. Yea, right. He staggers back to bed to pass out, hits his skull on the headboard - bang! -  waking Maggie's bleary complaints. He rubs the back of his head and settles into the pillow. He's up at 3 pm. It’s a brand new day and he wakes with a smile, there's a party tonight.  That wasn't so bad.

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