“Hello? This is Bipolar Man.”
“Hey Jameson, this is Midlife Crisis Max calling.”
“Hey! It’s been what…five or six months? How are you?”
“Doing alright. Do you want to hang out tonight?”
“Umm…I don’t know man, that doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
“Why not?” Max inquired.
“That sounds like trouble. Plus, Debbie Downer is over right now…she’s having a bad day.”
“She’s always over at your place…having a bad day.”
“Not always.” Jameson pointed out.
“Just be careful Jameson, she can be trouble; if you get on her bad side.”
“Yeah, I know. Sometimes she just shows up though, unexpectedly, so I have no choice but to put up with her.”
“What’s that!? Are you saying something?” Debbie called out, from Jameson’s basement where she was watching TV.
“Nothing. I’m just on the phone with Midlife Max; he wants to hang out.”
Max overheard the conversation on his end of the call.
“Jameson, listen to me, do NOT invite—”
“Do you want to come with us?!” Jameson called back to Debbie, out of obligation.
“Dammit Jameson!” Max complained. “She’s trouble man; she can do this weird shit where she transforms herself into negative brain waves, gets in your head, and messes with your shit man! She messes with your thoughts if she gets pissed off!”
“Yeah I know…I’ve had it happen. I just can’t get rid of her though,” Jameson replied.
“No!” Debbie replied. “I’m just going to lay down here for a while and watch this movie…Titanic is on right now.”
“Did she say yes?” Max asked.
“No…she’s out,” Jameson responded.
“Doesn’t Kit care that she stops over, unannounced?”
Kit was Jameson’s wife.
“Yeah…sometimes. It bugs her when she gets in the way or whatever…tries to play with our kids sometimes. I’ve known her forever though, so what am I supposed to do?”
“Just shut her out man. Cut her out of your life.”
“Just…I don’t want to talk about it now Max…what do you want to do tonight? I could probably slip out for a while.”
“Nice! I’m thinking downtown Men-Tal…the heart of Metropolis brotha! That’s where the action is.”
Jameson closed his eyes to think, while he rubbed his thumb and pointer finger across his eyebrows.
“Phhhhh,” Jameson exhaled. “I don’t know man…that sounds like trouble.”
“Jesus, you’re always so fucking wishy-washy. Just make a decision!” Max challenged.
“You’re gonna get me caught in some ridiculous situation, I just know it. Where downtown are you thinking?” Jameson asked, hesitantly.
“No, I won’t. We’ll find something. I’m just jumping out of my skin here. My life sucks. The misses is always on my damn case, the kids are driving me crazy…it’s the weekend man, I need something different, anything exciting right now.”
“Fine, whatever. I’ll come pick you up,” Jameson conceded.
“Perfect. When you pull up, turn your headlights off; everybody is sleeping.”
“It’s like 6:30 Max. What time do you guys go to sleep?”
“Just do it!” Max barked.
“Fine, I’ll text you when I get there.”
Jameson hung up the phone and walked upstairs. The carpeted staircase near the front door, with a brown railing lining each side, went directly up to a small room with tan walls and four wooden doors. To the immediate right, was his four-year-old daughter Dash’s room, and just next to that, also to the right side of the room, was his two-year-old daughter Nika’s room.
Straight ahead was a full bathroom, and directly to the left was the master bedroom. Jameson turned left, walked through the door, down the short hallway that housed the walk-in closed on the left-hand side, and entered the larger bedroom area.
“I better text Kit…let her know I’ll be out for a while,” he told himself
Jameson took out his phone.
Jame: Hey. I’m going out with Max for a while. What time are you guys getting back from Grandpa’s?
He put a pair of jeans on, took his shirt off, and walked into the bathroom to turn the shower on. His phone buzzed in his pocket.
Kit: Prob late. Kids are having fun. Midlife Crisis Max?
Kit: I feel like he’s going to get you guys into some shit.
Jame: No he’s cool.
Kit: Is Debbie Downer there?
Jame: Yeah…in the basement.
Kit: Ok. She just lurking?
Jame: Yeah, but she’s stayed away for the most part…left me alone.
Kit: That’s good. Please be safe tonight.
Jame: I will. Text if you need anything. Hopefully I won’t be out too late.
Jameson slid his phone back into his front pocket, and walked toward the shower. He leaned forward, and bent his body at the waist ninety degrees. The warm water rained down on his head, dousing his brown wavy hair.
He shut the water off, let the excess water trickle down into the jacuzzi-style tub, then grabbed the towel that was hanging on the shower curtain. His hands pressed the towel into his hair, to sponge off as much water as possible, then he set the towel down and shook his head aggressively, side-to-side, like a dog who had just exited a pool, and more water sprayed out of his hair and onto the walls.
His long-sleeved, black t-shirt he wore quite often was on a hanger in the closet, so he walked in, grabbed it off the rack, then went and laid it on the bed. He took the red, tight fitting, half polyester and half spandex shirt that he almost always wore, off of the dresser, and slid it over his head. Once the black shirt was subsequently applied to it’s proper destination, over the red shirt, Jameson walked back into the bathroom to gauge his appearance.
His five-foot, ten-inch, 175-pound athletic frame, with wet hair hanging wavily down to his eyes and below his ears, was sufficient in his eyes for a night out.
“Ok. Hopefully this is a quick night out,” he uttered to himself as he walked down the stairs.
“I’m heading out Debbie!” Jameson called down to the unlit basement from the top of the wooden staircase.
“Ok, I’ll just be here then, hanging out alone,” she replied, sadly.
Jameson shook his head, and felt somewhat guilty for leaving her behind. He knew it wasn’t good for him to hang out with her all the time though.
“Can you just lock up when you leave? Kit won’t be home for a while.”
“I will,” she affirmed.
Jameson briskly tiptoed to his right and into the laundry room where he slipped his black tennis shoes onto his feet, then made a quick escape before Debbie changed her mind. Once he walked out into the garage, he remembered he forgot to take his mood stabilizer medicine.
He paused for a second, then realized he didn’t want to walk all the way back upstairs.
“I’ll just take ‘em tonight when I get home,” he told himself, as he jumped into his car and backed down the driveway.
The car reached the cul-de-sac pavement, Jameson clicked the garage door button hanging on his sunscreen, then headed off into the night.
“Don’t mind if I do,” Neurotic Nigel said to himself, suspiciously, as he popped out from the side of Jameson’s house.
He shuffled toward the garage, bent down, then quickly side-step-jumped inside the closing garage door, over the laser, before anyone saw him.
When the garage door had fully closed, Nigel slithered his way into the house, as quiet as a cat burglar, and lightly fluttered his way down the hall and up the stairs, and into the master bedroom.
Nigel clicked the light on.
He clicked it off immediately.
“Off,” he whispered.
Neurotic Nigel worked in threes when he turned the lights on and off. He had to, otherwise he would become so obsessed with the feeling of incompleteness, that his mind would vortex deeper and deeper into itself, with his thoughts spinning faster and faster, to the point where he was eventually paralyzed…unable to function.
Nigel pinned himself against the wall, and painted himself along its length, until he reached the bathroom, where he popped inside and shut the door.
“Alright Bipolar Man, let’s see how you do without your spinach,” Nigel whispered, slyly, as he opened the medicine cabinet.
“Where is it?” he asked aloud, as his eyes scanned the variety of prescription bottles inside.
EQUILIBRIUM ELIXIR – TAKE 2 DAILY TO STABILIZE MOOD
Nigel grabbed the bottle, and put it in his pocket. He pulled the substitute bottle, with the exact same label, out of his pocket, and set it on the shelf. The sugar pills inside looked identical to the Equilibrium Elixir, and Bipolar Man wouldn’t know the difference.
Nigel exhaled, and tiptoed out of the bathroom. Without his Elixir, Bipolar Man’s mood could fluctuate wildly, from severe depression to hypomania. There was no telling how he would feel or what he would do without his Elixir. That’s when he would be the most vulnerable to Neurotic Nigel and his cohorts.
“Shit…what’s that?” Neurotic Nigel wondered aloud, worriedly, when he heard a rumble coming from downstairs.
The garage door was opening! Someone was home! Nigel’s heart began to beat more rapidly as he weighed his options.
“Lights,” he reminded himself, as he quickly shuffled across the bedroom.
It was no good, something didn’t feel right. Nigel had to start over.
Click, Click, Click.
The lights were on.
Nigel could hear the laundry room door creak open downstairs, and footsteps followed.
Click, Click, Click.
The lights were off. Nigel’s heartbeat was racing. He could hear footsteps drawing nearer and nearer, as someone was quickly moving up the stairs.
Click-Click-Click…the lights were on again.
Nigel couldn’t help himself; it wasn’t perfect.
The footsteps had reached the top of the stairs. Nigel needed to hide. He darted toward the bathroom; a few long strides whisked him inside, and he hid between the door and the wall.
Between the very slim seam in the door hinge, he saw Bipolar Man walking down the bedroom hallway, with a perplexed look on his face. Nigel noticed the eyebrows on Bipolar Man were scrunched down, in a confused manner, as he looked up at the lights.
Nigel’s face began to sweat; the lights were off when he first arrived! He couldn’t get over the imperfect light flicking either; he was in trouble.
“Why would I have left the lights on?” Jameson wondered aloud.
He walked toward the bed, to the left of where Nigel was looking, and out of view. Nigel leaned back up against the wall, and pulled his hands toward his body, against his thighs.
“Oh no,” Nigel mouthed to himself, without making a sound.
His eyes were wide open; he had the Elixir pills in his pocket he realized. Any sudden movement, and the pills would shake noisily, blowing his cover. Nigel had to wait out the storm. He stood, frozen, sweating, unable to think of what to do next. Hang on and hope he figured.
“Hello there,” Jameson said.
Nigel closed his eyes and shook his head. Busted. He lifted his foot to take a step.
“Yeah I’m just leaving now; I had to go back…I forgot my wallet. I’ll be there in like ten minutes.”
Nigel’s eyes popped open. Bipolar Man was on the phone with someone! He pulled his foot back, and continued to hide.
“Ok…think of what you want to do,” Bipolar Man continued, as he walked toward the window on the opposite side of the bedroom from where the bathroom was.
Nigel poked his head around the end of the door to look at the mirror. Instantly, he saw Bipolar Man turning around to face toward the bathroom, and Nigel jerked his head back to hide. The sound of one pill clinking against another was audible. Nigel squinted his eyes and clenched his teeth as he held his breath. He was on the verge of a panic attack.
“Ok, be there in ten,” Nigel heard…Jameson’s voice drawing nearer.
Nigel’s eyes softened, and he quietly exhaled. Jameson hadn’t heard the sound of the pill.
“Bye Max,” Jameson said, just as he walked into the bathroom.
Nigel opened his mouth as wide as he could, and tried to breathe as slowly and quietly as possible.
Bipolar Man opened the medicine cabinet, took out the bottle of Elixir pills, and pulled one out with his pointer finger. He turned on the faucet, bent over, took a gulp of water into his mouth, then popped the pill between his lips as his head pulled back.
Nigel was shaking slightly; he couldn’t get enough air in his lungs at the moment, and he was starting to twitch as he thought about the lights that needed more flicking. His body was in overdrive, trying to manage his racing heart and sweating pores, and he couldn’t inhale enough air with how slowly he had to breathe to maintain his stealth.
Jameson peered at himself in the mirror, and flicked his hair with his fingernails on his left hand.
Neurotic Nigel was becoming light-headed. Time was running short.
“I can’t tonight,” he heard Jameson blurt out, randomly.
“No, not tonight Max,” he followed up with.
Nigel held back laughter. Bipolar Man was practicing his no for later as he peered at his reflection…just in case he needed to refuse a Midlife Crisis Max demand.
“Just say no dude…be a man,” Jameson finished with.
Nigel closed his mouth as his cheeks held all the air he had in his mouth. He couldn’t manage much longer.
Jameson walked out of the bathroom, and flicked the light off as he walked down the hallway.
“Phhhhhhhh,” Nigel exhaled, slowly and quietly, before he began breathing very deeply.
Once he heard the footsteps walking down the stairs, he swiftly pranced over to the light switch to pick up where Bipolar Man had left off.
It was sufficient this time, and the lights were off. Nigel would allow himself to use someone else’s light switch flicking as part of his three-count, as long as it made the right sound. He was very particular with his processes.
Nigel regained his composure for a minute, and waited, until he heard Jameson’s car start and pull out of the garage. As the sound of the door closing rumbled once more, he walked lightly out of the bedroom, down the stairs, and into the laundry room.
“Until we meet again,” Neurotic Nigel whispered, as he exited into the garage.
He walked to the far corner, slowly opened the door exiting out the side of the garage, poked his head out to gauge the situation, and slide outside.
Nigel pulled the door shut behind him, twisted the knob to make sure it was still locked, and disappeared into the night.
When Jameson turned down Midlife Crisis Max’s street, he clicked his headlights off and glided his car into the driveway. Most of the lights in the house were on.
Max immediately tiptoed out the door on the side of his garage.
“You growing your hair out?”
Max had blonde, curly hair, down past his ears, and slicked slightly back above his forehead.
“Yeah man…I’m trying it out.”
Jameson backed onto the street, and drove away.
“You get those jeans at the paint store?” Jameson poked.
“Dude…this is my new look. Get used to it.”
“I thought you said your family was sleeping.”
“All your lights were still on.”
“So, what?” Max replied.
“Does your wife even know you are leaving right now?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t fucking care. She’s all pissed off tonight. I told her I was going to buy a new car and she flipped out on me.”
“Where are we going?” Jameson asked, as he sped down the road, toward the interstate.
“I was thinking we should hit that dance club near Men-Tal University. That’s where all the college chicks hang out.”
“Good god. You’re joking right? Let’s do the sports bar by the football stadium.”
“No. I got all dressed-up, I got some ecstasy from some dude I work with…we’re going clubbing,” Max demanded.
“Dude. Seriously?” Jameson asked, as his eyes opened wide. “Are you losing your mind? I can’t be a part of this.”
“Part of what?” Max asked.
Jameson turned right, and pulled over to the side of the on-ramp to the interstate.
“Part of wherever tonight seems to be headed.”
“You don’t need to do shit man. Let’s just go down there, have a few drinks, and if you don’t like it, we can head home,” Max assured.
“Jameson…come on. I need to have a night out. I need you to keep me in line. How long have we known each other? Do me a favor.”
Jameson shook his head.
“Fine. I’m not staying late though,” Jameson conceded, as he punched the gas.
“That a boy! You won’t regret this buddy.”
Jameson’s eyebrows popped up, as he looked over at Max.
“Let’s call Manic Mandy!” Max shouted, as he flipped through his phone.
“Why not? She’s super fun!”
“Not happening,” Jameson declared, as he shook his head.
“Give me one good reason why not,” Max challenged back.
“Dude…Bipolar Man, Midlife Crisis Max, and Manic Mandy together? That sounds like the worst idea—”
“Hey Mandy, it’s Max calling. Jameson and I are headed downtown.”
Jameson closed his eyes for a second, and exhaled loudly.