I awoke to the peering eyes of some stranger. Two big globs of brown, white and black stared at me less inquisitively than I would have hoped. My first reaction is to put my hand to my head, to make a human cast for this splitting headache. With palms cupping my temples, I suddenly understand the term lobotomy. Who the fuck did I pick up this time?
I tried to remember the events of last night. As I search for my phone within the confines of my bed sheets, I realize how cliché I have become. One night stands. Marathon hangovers. The taste of tequila still on my breath. I could probably light a match and blow this apartment to ashes with one simple exhalation. I am so basic it hurts. But still, I search my memory database, hoping I cataloged bits and pieces of my night.
This man, let’s call him Fred, has taken up far too much space on my twin bed that we inevitably shared last night. Well, “share” would be a generous word. I slept coiled up in the crack between the wall and the wood frame while Fred — my good old friend — exercised the full length of his arms and legs.
The night started out just like any other. We all put on cocktail dresses that were one size too tight and three sizes too short. We painted our face like warriors of the nightlife. Cue dancing. Cue unsolicited flirtation. Cue free drinks. Cue blackout. This is the story that keeps rewriting itself — the sequel that nobody wants to read. I can’t remember a night where I didn’t seek a stranger’s company.
Fred’s eyes begin to analyze the room. I can tell he is confused, and satisfaction returns to me. Before he can say a word, I can feel my hangover creeping up on me like a small child gymnast. I look at him, taking him in, that dark-looking man. Maybe he’s Brazilian. Or Colombian. I can smell his Giorgio Armani drift throughout the room, the spirit of last night that lingers in the darkness of my studio loft. That intoxicating Eau de Cologne leaves me dizzy and coats the room with thick nostalgia.
Our eyes meet for just enough time to turn both of our faces red and hot with embarrassment. In that moment, I realize the novelty of this situation has dissipated. I’m getting tired. His lips part, and I interrupt him by walking away toward the kitchen. I fill two shot glasses, stained with the words “Cabo San Lucas,” with Kettle One. Nothing makes me happier than chilled Vodka, fresh from the freezer, with a side of Brazilian. Or Colombian.
Fred still hasn’t said a word. He starts to sit up in bed, gaining orientation, as I hand him his shot glass.
“Cheers, Fred.” I take my shot.
“Fred? It’s 8am…”
“You’re right. You should be halfway to your photo shoot by now.”
Fred laughed. I could tell he liked my sense of humor. Either that or I was wildly egotistical from the ethanol.
“I am not a model,” he protested.
“You could have fooled me.”
I edged the shot glass to his lips, begging him to join me in my downward spiral. Without hesitation, he welcomed the vodka and handed me the acceptance I needed. A stupid grin almost cut through my face before I closed my lips tightly, stood up and began to get dressed.
“You really should be going.”
With nonchalance, I peeled last night’s soiled dress off my achy body and replaced it with an outfit Jackie Onassis would approve of whole-heartedly. Fred just sat there stupidly. Watching me.
“This isn’t MTV. Hugh Hephner is not funding this reality show.”
“Could have fooled me.”
There’s that stupid grin again. Why am I even engaging in this semi-cunning flirtation? It is in this moment of power and sensuality that I actually take in the mess of my room. Piles upon piles of clean laundry and dirty clothes blanketed the stained pink carpet of my room. Paths cut out by shuffling feet lead to the bathroom and kitchen. My things are everywhere. It looks like Madonna threw up in here.
As I voyage to my dresser, empty picture frames decorate the blank walls — swap meet finds I didn’t realize had no utility. In the corner of my room, a disheveled bookshelf was emitting romance novels and books collected over the dozens of school years. I almost apologize before I realized I will probably never see this man again.
“Would you be willing to give me a ride home?”
I clench my fists and stroke each knuckle with my thumb in an effort to calm my anger. I take a breath and let Giorgio fill my lungs with slutty air, an anti-cleansing. The arrogance. I just want him to leave. I open a window and let the breeze give me chills, a full body sensation as I let my vodka soaked tongue sit heavy in my mouth.
“Sure. We’re leaving now.”
I grabbed my belongings, headed out the door and began my descent down the street.
“Did you park in the boonies, or what?”
“Relax. We’re almost there.”
I was leading him to the bus stop. I don’t have a car. I live in a studio apartment, on a twin bed, in a neighborhood that brings fear with the simple utterance of its name. But I almost feel bad for the guy.
The bench is becoming larger and larger. I can see the adjacent sign with a painted bus silhouette and the number “11” tattooed next to it, when Fred catches up to me.
“Where are you taking me?”
“A really cheap Taxi service. It’s almost like a limousine, but without the notoriety.”
“You’re quick, aren’t you? Beauty and brains.”
I sat on the bench, applying MAC Matte Lipstick in Diva, a fitting name if I do say so myself. I feel drunk off narcissism. I pout my lips together, in order to spread the color evenly, and face my reminder, a corpse of margaritas on the rocks, salsa music and forced intimacy.
“Where are you headed?” I don’t really care. Just small talk.
Thankfully, I remembered to grab my sunglasses before leaving the scene of my crime. I felt elusive, and powerful. I didn’t even ask him before I chose which bus stop. All I know is where I am headed. I’ve been experiencing tunnel vision all morning, with the faint feeling of symptoms that lead up to an epileptic attack. I can sense the strobes of light about to blind my vision completely, once and for all, and let the ice pick make its final incision in my temporal lobe. This leaves me terrified. My heart starts to knock on my chest cavity, letting me know its engorged thump is still alive, but I silence it.
“Home,” he says with the most monotone voice and uninterested face. I want to punch it.
“Geez, Keanu Reeves. Care to expand? And where is home.”
I cannot contain my cynicism any longer. With alternating expressions of interest and indifference, I find myself actually engaging in conversation, albeit short, with this stranger. For a second, I almost feel disgust with myself, like when you sit down in a public restroom, and even though you took the precaution to put down a seat cover, someone else’s old urine still seeps through and touches your bare bottom. Your clean, holy ass.
I don’t even wait for him to respond. I turn my head with ambivalence toward the direction of the oncoming bus route. I have already grown bored with him, already played with him enough times and want a new toy. I wish he would disappear and remain a bittersweet memory, a trophy to add to my collection of dozens. With my back now turned to him, I bury my chin into my fist and count the weeds sprouting up between the cracks of the sidewalk.
Both of us are on the opposite edges of the bench. I take one last look at his lifeless body, draped over the plastic slope of the bench and avoiding direct confrontation with sunlight. I have so many questions, but no longer want to know the answer. It’s like that feeling you get when you’ve worked up something for so long, only to have it fall flat at your feet, and die in an unimaginative way before you. Cue cheesy metaphors for life. I can’t even think originally.