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Knee Sprains and Sugarcanes

July 19, 2018
Far Cry by Elaine Mckay
July 18, 2018
Answer C by Annabel Lang
July 20, 2018

Knee Sprains and Sugarcanes by Eric Ingram

The dude with the pretty eyes accidentally makes me a large green smoothie instead of a small. I wonder if I should try to finish it before I get home so Ali doesn’t see me drinking it. He might even grab it from me and trash it. We’re competitive in our health; sipping something sugary is anathema. He’s an actor, I’m bipolar. We need physique and mood-stability. Those drinks are real sugary (google will confirm) and sugar kills.

            But I’m injured already.

At least I got a soy protein boost. Two of them. Unjustified, though, cause I haven’t worked out since I sprained my knee. Ali’s gone vegan recently and is making soy protein shakes at home, but his mom keeps texting him articles saying too much soy is unhealthy. I disagree with her – I grew up on soymilk.

            I sigh, limping back toward the car I see one of my hubcaps is missing, and as I reach into my pocket to look for my keys I remember I don’t have anything at home for dinner. There’s a Ralph’s about a hundred feet away, it wouldn’t hurt too much to get there. I slip the smoothie into my cupholder. As I sweat my way through the hot puzzle of a parking lot I talk to an imaginary Ali in my head but out loud. I construct a self-deprecating story about the status of my knee. I don’t know I would say I’m walking, but I can do this thing with my legs that puts me somewhere else with minimal pain. I repeat the speech about three times to get the intonation right. I am aware that I am wearing dirty clothes, as I ran out of clean shirts and underwear right before the sprain. So now I am a smelly 25 year-old man talking to himself in a grocery store parking lot. This makes me laugh. Now I am a smelly 25 year-old man laughing to himself in a grocery store parking lot. I’ll really read as a nutjob.

In the Ralph’s I forget where the peanut butter usually is. I find myself rambling over by the hot sauce which incidentally is sold right next to the discount rosary candles. I pick up a couple and stroke the body of Jesus on the cross. This does not appear to be the correct aisle. I ask a large man where to find the peanut butter and he doesn’t remember. I say oh, looks like you’re restocking it now. He looks down at his hands and says would you look at that. We do the awkward dance of me getting behind him to examine the shelf and I grab two jars of the most natural-looking kind I can find (hardly any sugar) and go to the self-checkout.

            The machine tells me you cannot buy alcohol or spirits at this machine. I say that’s ok, machine, that deal at CVS next door lasts until the 6th. The deal being the half-price bottles of Bulleit bourbon and rye. A further 10% off if you buy six or more bottles at once.

            I fight my inclination to swipe only one of the two jars.

The machine asks me for my phone number. I type it in but it doesn’t work. The machine beeps and a small man comes over and swipes a barcode that gives me the small discount. Good thing then that I swiped both bottles of peanut butter, he would’ve noticed and who knows what would’ve happened to me. I hobble back to the car, one jar in each hand. Inside the CRV my smoothie sizzles. I contemplate how warm and dripply the peanut butters will be by the time I get home.

            I decide I don’t care if Ali finds out about my sugary smoothie, I can justify it by pointing to my knee brace.

It takes a minute or two to get out of that area of the parking lot cause lotsa cars and people with babies or LA gang tattoos or both mull about at all hours. A take a sip of smoothie and it somehow sticks to my mustache. A Justin Timberlake song comes on K-DAY 93.5 as I drive up the steep hill onto my block, the one my ten year-old car can hardly handle. The smoothest station in Los Angeles.

            I find a solid parking spot and am glad and lucky I don’t have to limp too far with my smoothie, laundry, and backpack. No crips in sight. As I grab my smoothie I remember Ali’s grandmother’s funeral is Saturday; he’s already gone back to Texas. I have nothing to worry about.

            I’ll sprawl out on the couch, crack open a bottle of rye and a jar of peanut butter, turn on the Golden State game, and most importantly I will drink my smoothie in peace.

            My knee is feeling much better than yesterday – I haven’t needed to ice it at all today. And driving is ok for me now, obviously.

Seeing the SD bumper sticker on my car reminds me Ali and I were supposed to drive to San Diego tomorrow for Cinco de Mayo, my hometown’s favorite holiday. Now I don’t think my knee can handle a drive like that. But if I did drive I’d get the sugariest beverage in the world though it would give me a headache at best.

            As I get to my gate I notice there’s an even closer parking spot, right across the street from me. Should I go back to my car and move it closer to my apartment? Does that matter? Probably slightly lower chances of my car getting broken into, or another hub cap stolen.

            At the same time it doesn’t seem worth it to slowly lurch back to the car and also the missing hubcap exposes the black underbelly of the wheel which looks pretty cool. I wish the thief had taken the rest of them. It’s the least you could do.

Eric Ingram is a writer from San Diego. His work has been published or is forthcoming in SCAB, Hawai’i Review, Third Point Press, Soap Ear He graduated from Columbia with a degree in philosophy and visual arts. He lives in Los Angeles, where he works as a video editor. His writing reflects the structures of millennial life, LGBT experience, and mental health issues. Eric is represented by InkWell Management and is working on his debut novel, “The Best Man.”