Your Quarter Life Crisis!

Lots of drugs, not much sex, and a general fear and loathing mark these tales of twenty-something angst.

I sit in the guest chair of my boss's office. He has a window that looks out over the Front Range from Longs Peak to Pikes Peak. I stare out this window, wishing I was anywhere but here.

Everyone calls him "The Troll" -- even his superiors, I'd bet -- and it's an accurate description for this runty, graying, sallow-skinned man who resembles an aging Hobbit. He's the kind of single, driven baby boomer who has nothing to show for his life except a few material possessions and an office with a window. Yes, he does have a fabulous house in Wash Park and a German car (it's a Volkswagen, if that counts) -- both things I can only dream about -- but I see him working a few more decades, receiving the obligatory gold watch and then vanishing like morning fog. I'm certain he'll be filed away in some dismal, suburban nursing home, where he'll eventually die in a pool of his own filth. But maybe I'm just being vindictive. This is what boomers think of as success, I guess.

He folds his hairy hands in an attempt to seem calm, and then he lays into me: "Your work has too many errors in it. I don't think this job is made for you."

I sit there in silence. He rambles on about attention to detail, focus, etc., but my mind is wandering. I'm thinking about all the fabulous ways I could tell him off. A little voice in my head implores me to "tell him to fuck off" or "just walk outta here, just leave, go ahead." This isn't worth it, I think. This isn't worth the thirteen bucks an hour I make, the tedium, the commuting, the cost of rent. It's ridiculous, I think. I'm 27 years old, and here I am with nothing: a thirteen-year-old truck that leaks oil, a job that doesn't pay crap, and tons of accumulated debt that I figured I'd wipe out as soon as I graduated from college -- back before investments went south. Somehow, I'm envious of the losers in my Western Slope home town who spend all their time drinking and screwing other people's wives. It wasn't supposed to be like this, I muse.

He carries on about commitment or something -- odd, I think, since he's never had a girlfriend in the time I've been here. I wonder if the girls at Shotgun Willie's know him by name -- or maybe they call him "The Troll" too.

I run over various scenarios where I tell him, quite explicitly, where and how to stick it. Instead, I mutter aloud: "Oh."

He explains that he'll give me another chance, that I'm essentially on probation. I'm not sure if this is good news or not. I stand up to leave. As I'm walking out, he says, "Have a nice weekend."

"Tell him to fuck off," the little voice begs. Instead I say, "You, too."

At home, I set my keys on the table. The light on the answering machine is blinking impatiently. I press the button. The tape rewinds and starts playing. "This is Dr Smith's office, and we've got your test results back. There were some slight abnormalities. Please give us a call so we can talk about these."

I laugh the kind of laugh that precedes random violence. This is it. This is the late twenties, where you don't have the power or respect of the aged and the evil, but suddenly the body -- the sole thing all those SOBs in their BMWs envy -- starts to go. Soon, all those beautiful people on TV will be younger than I am. Maybe the twenties, as older people have told me, are the best years of your life. That's true so far, but only because the teenage years sucked so much.

I think about taking a shower, but the drain isn't working very well, and the thought of standing in used water up to my ankles isn't appealing. Instead, I fall onto the couch and turn on the TV. The television girls sing and dance in beer commercials for men with great abs. I open a beer. It's clear that they will not sing for me.

Jason Pierce grew up in Southwestern Colorado but came to the city to seek his fame and fortune. So far, this essay is as close to fame as he's gotten. He's given up on the fortune part and would settle for home ownership.


How About a Nice, Cold Beer Today?

By Jennifer PooleMy little brother has a fiancée and two cats. Sarah's graduating from dental school; Cara's moving to South Korea; and Katie is planning her wedding. Ty and Suzanne are working on second novels, and Amy admits to having "baby fever." I'd feel better about all this if I weren't 25, in an alley, emptying slop.

While all of my friends seem to be taking adulthood by the horns -- throwing dinner parties, considering retirement plans and graciously extending their dating pools to people with thick waistlines and questionable personalities -- I've relapsed into an embarrassing collegiate lifestyle of stealing toilet paper from public restrooms and waiting tables to make ends meet. I sometimes spend ten hours a day writing my name upside down on paper tablecloths and asking people how they like their burgers cooked, then arriving home at night sweaty and nimble of mind, the smoky-sweet cologne of various condiments lingering for hours in my clothing and hair. I've been stiffed on more than one occasion and typically spend a third of my tips in parking fees near work. I remind myself that this situation is temporary, a character-building stepping stone on the long, rocky path to personal greatness and professional superiority. Years ago, people came west in search of gold. I just wanted more closet space.

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