I sat on the lip of a hotel bed, my heels sunk deep into the carpet to keep the room from spinning. It wasn’t alcohol; it was enochiophobia. Still, the rest of the room was so drunk, so close, so thick, that my blood alcohol level was rising in the liquored humidity.
There was some awards show on the television, and people were still pouring into the room to watch. They all took turns shouting, “Hey! Are you sure you don’t want anything!?”
“No, I’m alright,” I said.
Tired of being the one who always left first, I ground my teeth and swallowed until my tongue was raw. I wasn’t moving until it was over.
When the walls began to blister, the door opened and another three people squeezed in. Two guys with Big Johnson T-Shirts, clutching beer cans so hard that their necks were swelling. Between them was a girl with a floor-length spring skirt. It was white and semi-sheer. Somehow, she brought a breeze with her; when she stopped, the skirt still swayed.
Callie sat down real close, but the bed didn’t pull towards her. She smelled like mangos and sun-tan lotion.
“Hi,” she said. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“Umm … I’m in a show? On campus?” How was this girl talking to me?
“Oh! That’s it! You’re a comedian, that’s where I know you from.” She split the room with a smile. “Tell me a joke,” she smirked.
“I’m kidding. That’s the worst thing to say to a comedian, right?”
A friend coughed on himself, and elbowed me. “Oh my god,” he whispered, and then stumbled over to her other side. Immediately, he had her laughing — a sound like bells.
He drank, I didn’t. He smiled, I couldn’t.
But she shared her laughs with me.
After the show ended, everyone crowded into taxis. Callie asked, “Are you going?” so I had to. At the club, she danced with him … and then with him again.
I wasn’t a good dancer.
The DJ spun huge music, and my shoes got glued to the ground. Sticking out of the wall was half of a Hummer, clustered between fake palm trees. A second floor was crowded with pool tables; a caged bridge connected the bathrooms to the dance floor. It was the kind of place where American college students go to die.
Finally, the place stopped pounding, and we all walked into the mud on the street. I found Callie in the crowd, (”Walk me home?” “Sure.”) and the three of us made our way back to her hotel together.
Callie invited us to the beach, where it was cold. She sat in-between he and I on a lawn chair, as the sky turned purple and gradually pink. We talked and shook, waiting for her to decide.
Finally, as the sun came up over the ocean, she put her arms around me, and rested her head on my shoulder. My friend left without resentment.
Six days later, after watching her run out on the rocks to a lighthouse, after swapping books and tucking her into her bed, after photographs in front of a fountain, Callie asked me:
“I wonder what my boyfriend will think of all this.”