“I looked in the mirror. It had gone cold turkey. I hadn’t. I couldn’t. But I refused to turn look away.”

—excerpt from Confessions of a Lint Head by Wyatt Duvall, pg. 295

The lights above me flickered, taunting me, laughing at me. My pockets were barren, filled with little more than loose change. I looked in my belly button. There was nothing but scabs and scrapes.

The air conditioner hummed a funeral dirge and reeked of a future electrical fire. Every time the AC spat a death rattle, the window pane shuttered, and the cracks in the glass grew by another half-inch. My body was a poorly packed pipe bomb of glass shards, half-truths, and the urine-filled jars in Howard Hughes’ quarantine room.

I looked in the mirror. It had gone cold turkey. I hadn’t. I couldn’t. But I refused to turn look away. I refused to turn around, away from the taunts of magic marker dick jokes, anti-Semitic taunts, and the random rants of a speed freak crankshaft who was worried that Jesus’ asshole was about to expel the rear end of days. Even though I had read these words time and time again, they told a new truth. The mirror was suffering. The mirror was aching. The mirror was sick. And so was the AC.

I could see the air conditioner’s beer-battered face in the mirror, it’s grill a Connect Four combo of cigarette butts, chewing gum, and swaddled globs of snot. I thought about trying to console it, but I knew it was no use. The smell of burnt rubber already filled the air. All it needed was one sweltering hot day, and it would finally break and set this whole entire hellhole called the Back Alley Bar on fire. And so I stared.

Suddenly, I could see it as it flickered and floated out of the AC’s mouth like the first timid snowflake of winter. I watched it as it floated across the room. It looped and swirled and danced. And then it landed on my shoulder and I saw it for what it was. It was still and matted as a dreadlock, but it was lint. I had struck the motherload. The AC was full of the very thing that I needed. And so I dove into the gaping maw and tore away.

Hours later, I finally came to. I had a stack of paper towels in my right hand and a bottle of cologne in the other. There was $212.75 on the plate in front of me. I looked back up at the mirror and at the air conditioning unit. It rattled and shook and fell to the floor.

It was time to move on. It was time to leave the Back Alley behind. It was time to move beyond a world of laundromats and petty pranks. It was time to diversify.