You know the feeling you get when there’s only one left. A sense
of melancholy, mixed with bittersweet reflection. How could it come to
an end so quickly, you wonder, even though the end has not really been
reached. It depends on your self-control. Can you stop right now, even
when it’s in your power to keep going? Will the last one make any
difference? Will it make you feel better, make you forget the past wreckage,
make anything better for anyone else? You think back to when you were
an undergraduate at Bowdoin, bankrolled by your father over your mother’s
objections, just another weapon they used against each other after the
break-up. The days were crisp and the nights seemed to go on forever.
Another never mattered then. There were plenty to go around. The progressive
types in the student council even convinced the school to pay for them,
and if you couldn’t get to the office or find a representative,
there were always the townies at the convenience store, Bill and Rebecca,
with her retarded little brother Doug (or something) tagging along. He
would giggle, sometimes drool, whenever you went to refill the supply.
He thought it was funny. Didn’t everybody? Then there were those
years you don’t like to think about. The low-paying jobs, the revolving
door relationships, the squalid apartments. Especially that one too far
uptown. Cheap rent, maybe, but for a reason. The guy who lived upstairs
was all appetite and lived in a perpetual present. When he ran out, always
at about two in the morning, he would tear apart his apartment looking
for the one that he knew just had to be somewhere. In the sports coat?
In the back pocket of the jeans at the bottom of the drawer in the dresser?
Stashed somewhere behind the molding, or in a light fixture? It sounded
like he was using a crowbar on the walls by the time you were supposed
to be waking up to get to work. And the roommates. You knew that they
were stealing yours, they had to be. You never used them up that quickly
before, and with so little effect or pleasure or memory. You thought that
things would get better and finally start making sense when you took that
job in the office park and moved out of the city. A fresh start, more
money, a reduction in stress. No more rushing around, never able to check
to see how many you had, an end to the inability to find a place that
had what you needed or was even functioning on a regular basis. The suburbs
run properly and reliably, you thought. Maybe on TV. You discovered that
you wasted more time commuting, your development was in a corn field in
the middle of nowhere, just a freeway exit. How could you keep up the
supply? You couldn’t buy in bulk at the mega-grocery store, like
you could for Golden Grahams or laundry detergent. You’d get home
late, park the car in your spot, number 533, look across the lot at all
the identical units, each emitting a flickering blue glow, wonder if you
were dead, and say, let's have some. But you had only one left. Would
you use it? Where could you get more? There was nothing down the freeway
for miles in both directions. The closest town was nothing more than a
Victorian theme park filled with antique stores and bistros open on weekends
for daytripping city dwellers. Even the convenience store closed at 6:30.
You were stuck. Again. You’d fantasize about your upcoming two weeks
off. Freedom. Two weeks? Two weeks out of a whole year, when you’d
be jet-lagged and sick and unable to use what you had, if you had the
foresight to pick any up in advance? How do you get them in another country,
what were they called? How could you ask for them, and who? What was the
point anyway? You put some pasta in the microwave and watch the news.
You go to sleep, or try. You lie awake until the alarm goes off. This
is what it’s like when there’s only one rubber left.