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I guess you could say I screwed up.
I started partying on Friday. Saturday got kinda hazy.
Remember, Holly and Tara hate cheating, and they guarantee a Happy Ending Again, and again, and again…
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That’s what’s changed: I can hear birds. Feels like five seconds ago, it was four o’clock, and the gray drone of traffic was singing me to sleep. Good times—those were good times. Fuzzy times. Night was my buddy, then, spooning me sweetly, promising me protection from the grubby reality of dawn .
But now there are birds. And I’m cold. And I can smell someone on me—sweat that’s not mine, that one perfume that’s like…vanilla mixed with root beer ….
I gag a little. Lift my head. My cheek peels off the toilet seat with a wet-masking-tape crackle. Hurts bad enough I probe the tender patch with cautious fingertips. Skin’s raw, probably red as hell, but not broken .
What the fuck happened last night ?
I grind my knuckles into my eyes, blink hard, and let my surroundings swim into focus. I’ve seen worse: a linoleum floor printed with a fake tile pattern; a bathtub with no curtain; an old-fashioned free-standing sink, with runnels of something black and viscous spilling over the sides .
Oh, right. That girl—I helped her dye her hair. She wanted to look like…Said she was ….
The memory flits out of reach. I fumble for it—the chemical smell, the way my eyes watered…What’d we talk about, while we waited for the color to take? She had…She had those tight little elf-curls, sneaking out from under the dye cap, plastering themselves to her temples. Long nails with chipped silver polish. Glittering stars and moons on her cheekbones. Said her name was…was ….
It’s no use .
I stare into the toilet. The greasy puke-ring I’ve left round the bowl isn’t even the scuzziest thing here. Everything’s covered in a thin film of ick: nicotine-yellow, with brownish blotches. A network of water stains crisscrosses the wall, laps at the ceiling. There’s mildew along the baseboards, some kind of orange substance around the base of the sink. Looks…alive. Fungal. I drop my head onto my arm and entertain a brief fantasy of curling myself into the corner and letting the native flora grow over me till I’m nothing but a slumbering, mushroomy hump .
Did I even have fun last night? Was it good, before I got sick ?
I don’t remember that part. Did she sit with me, the hair dye girl? Rub my back, tell me it’d all be okay ?
This—this, right here—is my most hated hangover symptom: this miserable, soggy self-pity. This isn’t me. This isn’t —
Something else edges into my awareness, something unpleasant. Voices, coming from outside. One, I don’t recognize: low, female, bored. The other—that’s Tom. Must’ve called him. Don’t remember calling him. Don’t even remember being awake, before now. Did I do it last night ?
Guess it doesn’t much matter when I summoned him: fact is, he’s here. And he’s knocking. And knocking some more. And…knocking in time with my pounding head. How does he do that ?
“Keep your pants on !”
I glance down at myself: well, shit. Could’ve used my own advice. Got a wild hose situation down there. Snake on the loose .
Peeling myself off the floor hurts . My feet swarm with pins and needles, and my hips ache like an eighty-year-old’s. There’s something stuck to my knee—not just stuck, but pressed right in there—either a Sweet Tart or a pill, stamped with a smiley face. It leaves an angry red indent when I flick it off .
“C’mon, Jim! I know you’re in there!” Then, quieter, “Can’t you just open the door ?”
There’s that other voice again—brazen asshole’s trying to get housekeeping to let him in .
“I said one second! Christ!” I stagger out to the bedroom. And my pants would be ….
Well, not on the queen-sized bed, complete with Magic Fingers—can’t believe that’s still a thing. Looks like I couldn’t believe it last night, either, had to put it to the test. There’s quarters everywhere. The covers are rumpled, pillows piled in the middle of the bed. There’s a raft of Chinese food cartons in front of the TV, half-buried under a Blockbuster bag—and where’d that come from? Didn’t the last of those die with the Palm Pilot and the payphone ?
I feel like I’ve stepped through a time portal—Niagara Falls, 90s edition .
I’m really not seeing my pants .
And that knocking’s out of control .
“I said I hear you ! ”
Tom’s put-upon sigh drifts through the crack under the door. I hear him shuffling around out there, probably texting while he waits. Always got to be doing something. Like if he stopped being useful for a second, he’d drop off the face of the earth .
I hook back into the bathroom. No towels on the rack—why would there be?—but there’s one wadded up by the toilet. Must’ve been kneeling on it. It’s damp and clammy when I wrap it round my waist. I shudder so hard my stomach clenches, and I almost end up back on my knees .