Authors Note: The morning light is filtering through the darkness from somewhere. Keeping my eyes shut as long as possible, I listen and smell for some clue as to where I am. The taste is awful – cigarettes, expensive whiskey, cheap vodka and lipstick all congealed with the bacteria that congregates in your mouth and on your tongue when you pass out with your mouth open. I smell the unmistakable smell of cheap bacon frying, a smell that grew to haunt me while I was cooking three meals a day for a camp full of spoiled girls. There is the overriding smell of perfume I can’t place and my clothes reek of pot.
Taking a chance, I open my eyes. My head screams in terror at the sudden sensory overload. I feel thick, aching, sore, gross and relatively sure I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be. My interview! Shit. What happened? I dimly remember drinking expensive bourbon at a bar I used to frequent when I was in graduate school – when I was someone else. I remember high-fiving some guy I didn’t know while taking a piss in a trough in the restroom. I remember a blond girl with lots of lipstick and a fishnet outfit – it was eighties night, what a night.
The cinder block walls, adorned with selfies, Christmas lights, empty six-pack cartons and a shelf full of sex toys tell me where I am. A girl’s dorm room. Damn. I must have been wasted. I quick check reveals that I am still fully clothed, but I can smell lipstick strongly, so it must be on my face. My wallet is across the room on a nightstand covered in girl stuff – tubes of lipstick, make-up, glitter, thongs, bras, pictures of current and/or ex-boyfriends. I don’t know where my phone is, and I don’t care. It has only one number in it anyway and they will give me another one as soon as I turn up.
I slide out of bed and pull on my missing boot, not bothering with the mirror or state of looks. I only want to make it back to my old truck and sleep this shit off until I can make the drive back to D.C. This was stupid, dumb of me. I never went home with anyone. Not ever. My number one rule while drinking. I hear girls giggling in the background, behind the closed bedroom door and I catfoot to the window, relieved that it is open, even more relieved that it is on the ground floor.
I fade into the mid-morning sunlight like a vampire seeking his coffin. I catch a glimpse of myself in a store window while walking down the hill away from the girl’s dormitory. The man looking back at me is not the same one I used to see. He’s sad. Lonely. Sick. Tired. Emaciated.
I wake up to a cold rain rattling at the windows and the sounds of a hospital room. Breathing carefully, I open my eyes and see the IV placed in my hand, taped in place by what appears to be experienced hands. A catheter snakes out from under my blankets and I really don’t want to deal with that fact at the moment. Baby steps.
A man in a doctor’s coat is sitting in a chair at the foot of my hospital bed. A visual check of my surroundings reveals nothing about the date or what hospital I am in. I’m not handcuffed nor restrained, which is good, or at least not as bad as it could be. My brain tries to process for a moment, then retreats like a Comanche into the mist. I collapse back on the bed, still trying to breathe, pulling air out of my abdomen, as deeply as I possibly can. My abdomen is swollen, grotesque under the covers. I’m in more pain that I have experienced before. My mouth is beyond dry, parched, my tongue swollen. My hands shake so much that I can’t reach the water that is just out of reach beside the bed and I collapse back, content to let the mystery of the guy at the end of bed go unsolved for the moment.
There are footsteps from soft soled shoes, unmistakably worn by a nurse. They have the best shoes for your feet in the world. Even better than what we wear in the kitchen, as there worn shoes are a testament to the number of years you’ve spend behind the line, slinging plates, shouting orders, yelling for corrections, enduring the searing heat that you eventually begin feel is normal.
I realize that my alarm is going off and I feel the world fading. Hanging on to the present with both hands, filling my head with memories, I ask the guy at the foot of my bed about my wife, my son. He is on his feet with a clinical look of puzzlement, nodding to my questions. They are ok – yes, your wife brought you here, no you can’t call, not at the moment. The nurse leans in close and checks my pupils. I’m shaking all over now, trying to retch something up that isn’t there.
The doctor, if that’s what he is, pushes me back in the bed with one hand. Despite my massive weight, I am too weak to even attempt to sit up. My hands seem to belong to someone else as I place them over my face and begin to weep at the realization of how far I have sunk and fear of what I may have done. The nurse presents a needle and over my mostly feeble injections, adds it to the contents of my IV bag. I fall back into a semi-coma like a lost soul into hell, wondering what happened. Did I hurt anyone? WHERE is my wife and child??
Everything turns gray and I turn to the nurse, mouthing the question one last time. She squeezes my hand. “Everything will be fine. Rest now.”