Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me, I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed. That was my mom. “Are you calling me a tool?” I had said, sitting in the shopping cart, reaching in vain for a box of Golden Grahams. My tips had just been frosted for the first time; I was 12.
“That’s exactly my point,” she’d said, “You’re slow. You don’t understand things. The world’s a cold place, and it only gets colder.” She pushed us out of the cereal aisle without saying another word.
I wake up to the Nevada sun cracking through the metallic blinds, my body starfish’d across the mattress, comforter crumpled on the floor, right cheek resting against my pillow, mouth ajar and leaking a puddle of drool. My digital alarm clock says 7:59 a.m. It turns to 8 a.m. and starts playing “I’m a Believer” at max volume: “I thought love was only true in fairy tales/Meant for someone else but not for me—” Smash.
Why do I even set an alarm? It's not like I have anything to do nowadays, anywhere to be.
I stand up and slip my feet through the Shrek-themed shower shoes resting at the foot of my bed. Everything in my house is Shrek-themed—the sheets, cross-hatched with mini, screen-printed Shrek heads; the orange, Puss in Boots patterned shag carpets; the beanbag chairs in the shape of Lord Farquaad's head; Eddie Murphy even does the voice on my answering machine—DreamWorks furnished the place in lieu of cutting me a check. Mike Myers took the same deal.
My head starts spinning, so I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose. This happens three or four times a day. The pills Dr. Moore prescribed me—Zoloft, Xanax, Prazosin—fog up my brain and give me vertigo. He says PTSD isn't curable, just treatable.
I wobble to the bathroom with my palm pressed against the lime-green wall for balance. I rip open the Shrek-headed shower curtain, step into the clawfoot tub, and turn on the water. Neon-green liquid shoots from the showerhead. I open my mouth and taste that unplaceable taste, vaguely metallic, like synthetic lemonade, or melted Jolly Ranchers. Before I moved in, DreamWorks told me that they were hooking up my plumbing to a Mountain Dew reservoir. "Mountain Don't," I had said, and laughed, but they did it anyways.
I push my face into the center of the stream and pretend a robot is peeing on me. After five minutes, I realize I'm ankle deep in Mountain Dew, so I pop the rubber plug with my big toe and listen as the Dew gurgles down the drain like chemical runoff.
I turn off the shower and step onto my Shrek bathmat, sticky. I pull a Princess Fiona beach towel from a hanger and dry myself off. I catch my reflection in the mirror and freeze, struck by the ruddy sagginess of my once cherubic face, now mottled with hives and flanked by jowls that hang off my cheeks like strip steaks.
I trace a finger along my jawline. I want to shave my chinstrap, but then how else would people differentiate me from Guy Fieri? And if people started calling me Guy Fieri, I'd be even further away from finding out my real name.
People have always called me Smash Mouth Guy. I didn't care at first; I was an individual, I had told myself, my band didn't define me. But then details started slipping away, memories from my childhood. What did my dad look like? Where did I grow up? Did I have any siblings? And then one morning—around three years ago—a dull sense of aphasia clouded up my mind after a Starbucks cashier asked for my name. What was my name? Quickly, I withdrew my wallet and looked at my driver's license, but the name that appeared next to my photograph was just "Smash Mouth Guy." My credit cards: "Smash Mouth Guy." My social security card: "Smash Mouth Guy." I ran out of the Starbucks in a sweaty panic and puked on the pavement. I've been trying to uncover my real name ever since. I think DreamWorks is messing with me.
I get dressed—a bowling shirt, cargo shorts, and wrap-around sunglasses—and slide down the banister of my spiral staircase. One time I slipped and landed face-first on the marble floor, cracking my head open. I lay in a pool of blood for two days or so, until I regained consciousness. My left eyebrow was a scabby, crimson gash of rock candy for the rest of the month. Accidents happen.
In the kitchen sink, pots and pans are stacked like Jenga towers; the fridge is empty. I open the walk-in pantry. It's eight feet deep and packed to the ceiling with columns upon columns of Shrek Fruit Roll-Ups. DreamWorks gave me a lifetime supply in 2001, but they expired 10 years ago. Sometimes I wrap them around my face and pretend I'm a mummy. Lately, they've been giving me diarrhea; I don't eat them as much anymore. I take a Fruit Roll-Up from its box, clutch it in my fist, and leave my house. I need groceries.
First, though, I walk through the backyard, the long grass bristling my shins, and pet my donkey. He lets out a low moan; I think he's dying. His gray fur is patchy, and his teeth—what’s left of them—are yellowish-green. His distended gut hangs below his knees. His hooves are overgrown; they look like wooden clogs. I open my fist and let him eat the Fruit Roll-Up from my palm. He likes the plastic wrapper as much as the candy.
I climb into my truck and drive to the local Safeway. A homeless man—one long tooth poking out of his otherwise gummy mouth—tosses pieces of a kaiser roll to a flock of pigeons congregating around the entrance. The incident flashes before my eyes: baguettes whizzing past me like spears; croissants like boomerangs; bagels like grenades. Bread, bread, bread everywhere.
I breathe deep, long breaths, just like Dr. Moore instructed me for this type of situation. I tell myself: You're a grown man, S.M.G. You can handle a little bread. When I approach the entrance, though, the man cocks his fist, ready to launch a chunk at my head, and I crumble to the ground, hyperventilating in the fetal position. He stands up, his shadow looming over my balled up body, and asks, "Can you spare some change for gas?"
"Yep, what a concept," I blurt out involuntarily, "I could use a little fuel myself, and we could all use a little chaaange."
He flips me off and walks away.
When he's a safe distance down the parking lot, I stand up and enter the Safeway. Pangs of nostalgia shoot through my stomach as I walk across the grimy, faux-wood floors. There's something inarticulately familiar about this grocery store, about the way the bell peppers shine in the flickering fluorescents, or how the ground beef, sitting in its refrigerated display case, looks like brain matter fed through a can of Silly String.
In the cereal aisle, a woman with wild, gray hair stares at me, her mouth hanging open. "Steve?" she says, "Is that you?"
I glance over my shoulder. Her grandson must have run off or something; she's probably looking for him. "Have you lost your boy?" I ask. She nods. "Steve," she says, louder this time, "Steve!"
Her knees buckle; she leans on her shopping cart for support. I better help find this kid, or else she might faint. "Steve!" I call out, walking past the Lucky Charms, the Cap'n Crunch, the Golden Grahams. "Steve, where are you?" My shouts echo through the Safeway. "Steve, you're lost! You're lost!"