THE CELEBRATION by Zac Smith

Usually, when my week was shitty, I liked to order Thai food… I was the only one in the family who liked Thai food, which meant I didn’t get to order it much… But since I was getting divorced and living alone in a shitty apartment, I got to order it as much as I wanted… I was getting into it in a big way, basically… Since most weeks were shitty, I ordered Thai food most weekends… And I never got sick of it… Thai food is varied and complex… It can be very exciting, but also comforting… A perfect cuisine… I like Thai basil, which is a special kind of basil… I like the other flavors, too, but you know what I mean… Thai basil is especially good… So basically, in most ways, Thai food is perfect, is how I feel… And most of my weeks were shitty… So I wanted something perfect to level things out… I ordered Thai food to celebrate my shitty week, basically… I called it “celebrating” my shitty week because I thought that if I called it “celebrating” my shitty week, it’d feel good, like my week wasn’t actually shitty for shitty reasons, but just that I had accomplished something by getting through it—whatever it was—that made the week shitty… And the “celebration” thing usually worked… It made me feel like I had accomplished something by having a shitty week… Plus my cat came back… That was actually good… I liked my cat… That deserved an actual celebration, I thought, looking at the online menu system… And Thai food is good for a celebration… And that milk tea with the little tapioca balls is good for a celebration… Most people call it bubble tea and I liked it a lot… I liked the bubbles… I liked the tea… The whole fuckin’ she-bang, you know… The whole tea-ball game… Heh… So I ordered some bubble tea to go with my celebratory noodles and soup and those fried tofu things… I went all out, basically… I even ordered it for delivery instead of takeout… Oh yeah… Since I was really celebrating, I was really celebrating, you know… I was kicking back in a big fucking way… I told my cat to hold onto his ass, you know, because we were about to go nuts… And then it arrived and I laid out the food on my table… A little of this, a little of that… I put on some music… I gave my cat one of the triangle tofu things and he was like oh yeah, daddy… But I was most looking forward to the bubble tea to get things going… The fireworks that signified the start of the celebration… The bubble tea from that Thai place comes in a plastic cup with a plastic film/lid on top… You have to jab this special, thick straw that comes with it into the film/lid on top… And you suck up the bubbles and milk tea through the big fat straw… It’s, like, the best part of the celebration… The pop of the straw through the film/lid, I mean… It’s like a starting pistol or some shit… Like, ready, set, go motherfucker…  So when I heard that pop, I was pretty excited… Like, basically, peak excitement… I was ready…  I was set… I was going…  To suck up those little bubbles… That first suck was the cherry on top of the firework sundae to celebrate another shitty week crossed off the calendar or whatever… I opened up the paper bag that everything had come in, you know, looking to get that special, fat straw… Rifling around, you know, getting good and excited… But I’m sure by now you’ve guessed that this is where we find out there was no straw… And you’re guessing right… (There was no straw)… So I thought, Shit… Basically, I was like, My celebration is ruined… I had the bubble tea… But no way to drink it… It’s like… Shit, man… I was so fucking down about it… I’m sure you can think of something to compare it to… It was like a Twilight Zone kind of twist… I had all this bubble tea but no way to drink it… It sucked (heh)… Everything was starting to suck… But I didn’t want it to suck… And I didn’t want my food to get cold… And time was running out… The suck was starting to creep in… That creep-suck… So I started eating, just to get the party going… I figured I could come up with something… I figured I could get the bubble tea popping off just right if I was calm and patient… I wanted it to be a good night in spite of the flaws and challenges, you know… I wanted to drink and enjoy my bubble tea, of course, but there was the food, too… I ate some, you know… But I was distracted… I mean, I was actually pretty pissed off… I was getting stressed out… Chewing and slurping and feeling real upset, basically… I thought about calling back the Thai place but that was stupid… They weren’t gonna send a guy back out to my shitty apartment just to give me a straw… And I didn’t want that to happen… The delivery driver would feel like shit… And I’d feel like shit… I ate my tofu triangle things, but instead of thinking about how good they tasted, I was still thinking about the missing straw… Like, instead of thinking, Yummy yummy, I just thought, Fuck this, fuck this… Just that, over and overOr sometimes I thought, Fucking straw… All the triangles were gone and I hadn’t even enjoyed them… I still didn’t have a plan… But I wanted to persevere… I wanted to win… That felt good, thinking about it in terms of winning… Because at that moment, I was losing… And I’ll admit that I considered giving up… But then I decided, No, you know what, fuck that, I’m gonna win… I had to figure out how to drink the bubble tea without the thick straw… It was simply a have to kind of situation… I thought about how stupid I had been…  I had been too dependent on the random whims and mistakes of other people… I was never really in control, basically… Maybe even my entire life, just pissing my pants and hoping for someone to come and change me… (I’m not sure that makes any sense, but, whatever)… So I thought about it while I started eating my pad see ewe, you know, those fat noodles with the Thai basil in it… I was in planning mode… I needed some ideas… So my first thought was that I could use a normal (skinny) straw and a spoon… Root beer float style… The old suck and scoop, you know… Yeah, that seemed good… I walked over to the Takeout Condiments and Other Bullshit drawer… There were a couple (skinny) straws in there because you never know… And there I was, in search of a straw… So, it’s like, maybe I did know, you know… I felt good about my Takeout Condiments and Other Bullshit drawer, basically… My friend Big Bruiser Dope Boy turned me onto this kind of drawer, but that’s not really relevant to the story… Then I opened my normal silverware drawer and got a good spoon… One of the small spoons that fit nicely in my mouth… You know the kind… Like a teaspoon, I guess… A good spoon for the old suck and scoop lifestyle… I went back and ripped off the plastic film/lid of the bubble tea all the way off… It felt like I was about to do some real raw dog shit to this bubble tea… I didn’t like seeing the tea that way, you know…  But I had to persevere… I stuck the straw in and readied the spoon… I sucked up some tea… The old suck part of the suck and scoop… And it tasted great… I was like, Oh yeah, good tea, just missing one thing: some motherfucking bubbles… So I scooped up some of the motherfuckers (bubbles)… Moving onto the scoop part of the old suck and scoop, now… But there was ice in the cup… I hadn’t really planned on that…  The ice was small, but still large, kind of… They crowded out the bubbles… So I had a spoonful of bubbles and ice cubes… Not ideal… Not good to be honest… I tried to slurp up a bubble with my lips with the tea still in my mouth… You know, trying to get the balance right… But I accidentally slurped up some of the ice, too… And like, oh man, the ice just ruined it all… Tea, bubbles, and ice?… No thank you… It sucked… Like, I didn’t want to crunch the cubes while trying to enjoy those little squishy motherfuckers and milky tea… So I tried spitting out the ice but it was hard to do… Try to imagine it, you know, juggling all that shit in your mouth… So the tea dribbled out of my mouth… And there was still some ice in there… Total opposite of the goal… Just full-on failure… But I figured I just had to power through, crunch up the ice in my mouth… I crunched away, man… And it was a bad experience overall… I didn’t like it very much at all… So I had to try something else… I ate some pad see ewe noodles and thought about it again… I figured I could suck up some tea with the skinny straw, but then use the straw to latch onto one of the bubbles, like, use the suction to pick up one bubble at a time… I remembered doing that shit with, like, uh… No idea, actually… But I knew I could do it… And then somehow leverage the bubble into my mouth… I thought, Alright, yeah… That seemed possible… So I sucked up some tea… I cornered one of the bubbles with my straw… I sucked on the straw… The suction worked… I was like, nice, hell yeah… I took the straw out of my mouth and put my finger over the hole… I lifted the straw… I was getting somewhere… But all the bubbles, like, it was weird… They all stuck together… It was insane… Like as soon as one bubble left the tea, it turned into a bubble magnet… All these other bubbles were along for the ride… And, all together like that, the bubble frenzy got too heavy, I guess… And the suction through the straw couldn’t hold them all up… They all plopped back into the tea… I was like, What the fuck… Maybe it was a fluke… So I tried it again… You know, suck, slurp, suck, grab, lift… Come on, man… But then… Plop… And I thought, God fucking dammit… It just wasn’t working… I ate some more pad see ewe… I just chewed it all up without thinking about the Thai basil, the skinny little caramelized onions, the little bits of egg… I was just thinking about the tea and the bubbles and the way that physics kept fucking me over… I was just chewing and scheming, basically… I had to get the bubbles individually… That was clear to me… The root beer float approach seemed good for that, but then there was the ice problem… So, yeah, there it is, I had to get rid of the ice… So I went and got a bowl… I poured the tea and bubbles and ice into the bowl, soup style… Fuck the straw, you know… Just go at it with the spoon… Bubble tea soup, basically… But that fucking ice was still causing problems… I scooped out a cube with my teaspoon… And it was pretty difficult… Surprisingly difficult, actually… But I got one out, you know, because I was persevering… I had removed one, but it was only one of many… One of, like, thirty little ice cubes… I went for some more but they danced away from my spoon… I thought, Little piece of shit ice cubes… It was obvious that it was gonna take forever… One cube at a time was just, ugh… I needed a better approach… So I decided to get the ice out with my fingers… Yeah, I know, but I figured I could corral all the cubes together and then scoop them out with my hand… A man’s hands, you know, they can do a lot of things… Beautiful instruments, basically… My hands could do almost anything… I put my fingers into the tea soup… And, you know, it didn’t feel great… Like, my dirty fingers just sloshing around in my tea… But I got most of the ice cubes out… Which was progress… It was what I wanted, you know… And then I figured I could finally go back to eating it like soup… No more straw, just full-on spoon time… But the fucking bubbles… I don’t know what it was about them, but every time I tried to scoop a few out, every bubble would stick into the bubble mass again… It was that fucking magnet shit all over again… I couldn’t separate them at all… And the tea was getting warmer because all the ice was gone… And it wasn’t really appetizing anymore, like, knowing I had fingered it all up… Thinking back on my beautiful man hands and all the dumb shit we had done together before eating… Thinking back on when the last time I washed them was… So I was feeling really defeated, basically… And the more I thought about it, I was getting more and more grossed out by the room-temperature, dirty-ass bubble tea soup I had made… So you know what… And it hurts to say this… But I just gave up… I dumped the whole fucking mess into sink… And like, you know, frosting on the cake kinda shit, the bubble mass clogged the sink hole… And I was, like, ugh, just, so fucking, ugh… So, you know, I stuck my fingers in and plucked out the gooey mass… I was feeling pretty grossed out and sad… I put the gooey mass into the garbage… I washed my hands… I sat down at the table… I looked at the rest of my pad see ewe… And this hurts to say, too, but I didn’t feel like eating it anymore… It didn’t look like food anymore… It just looked like garbage… Like, I mean, I had this epiphany, I guess… In less than a minute, probably, all this food would just be sitting in the trashcan along with the gooey ball mess and the egg shells and coffee grounds and broken glass and whatever else was in there from earlier in the week… And I was stuck with this thought about how food turns into garbage, just really ruminating on it… Thinking, like, Man, there’s almost no difference… I reasoned that maybe there was no difference… Food, garbage, food, garbage… I was looking at my food, but also looking at garbage… That’s all it was… And I thought about what a celebration was supposed to be… I thought about how maybe celebrations are a time when we distract ourselves from recognizing that everything around us is either made of garbage or slowly turning into garbage… And this celebration had failed… I saw everything for what it was: garbage, garbage, garbage… And I even felt myself decomposing… My skin flaking off… My blood turning cold and gooey… My bones buckling under the weight… I was garbage, too… What are people but walking corpses, I thought… What are corpses but special garbage, I thought… I looked at all the garbage on the table… I looked at my place in the world, my place as human, as corpse, as garbage… My place in the giant landfill… And then I realized that everything was normal… This was just how everything always is… I just hadn’t been paying attention… So I cleaned it all up… I put the garbage into the garbage… I rinsed the dishes… I took a long, sad shit… I washed my hands… I fed my cat… I went to bed… I was so fucking depressed… And I had to prepare for the next week… I thought about the week coming up… All the shit I’d have to get through just to make it to the next celebration… I thought maybe I’d try pizza… Or maybe just some Arby’s or something… I didn’t fucking know… I just wanted it all to end.


Zac Smith is Zac Smith.

Art by Eli Sahm.

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