How To Survive Another Filthy Friday in Ottumwa, Iowa

Dirty and sad. That’s all there is to say about last night.

Dirty sad sex.

The kind of sex where the next morning you go home and cry in the shower. You scrub with a bar of soap and try to wash off that dirty feeling like they do in Lifetime movies after they get raped. Except you don’t have a bar of soap, just a loofah and an empty bottle of Suave body soap, so you use your roommate’s ex-roommate’s shampoo. And you sit and you cry till the shower water crashing over your head becomes unbearable because you can’t lay your head against your rug-burned knees without it spraying in your face and interrupting the steady rhythm of cinema-worthy sobs you worked so hard to get going.

So you get out.

You get out, but don’t get dressed because pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that was last night are reappearing like the loathsome little units of cardboard that would fall off the bottom of your grandfather’s glass of Passport scotch. The units you needed while attempting to put together a massive photo of a BNSF train engine that had to be finished before you could ride your bike, with your sister, to the general store to waste money on things like lavender stationary and sunflower seeds that tasted like pickles. These pieces appear just when you thought you had moved on, just when you thought that you’d remembered the worst, just when you’d started to feel free. One piece appears and wedges it way into the corner of the puzzle, like a forgotten tampon, smashed and pressed into the furthest recess of your fleshy cavity.

Time to wake up and smell the scotch, you remember an assortment of grown-ups saying. It gets worse from this point, as you remember the way his dick was so small it felt like a finger, the rank stench of his hot breath, the way he held his mouth open and little bit of his tainted saliva dripped onto your forehead. You figure that it was probably because he was missing some teeth. He has meth mouth, you’ve heard it said. You shudder and lay down on your bed, no, on your couch, in just your towel, and turn on the television. You know this will make your hair look like hell, but that doesn’t matter right now. You don’t plan on going anywhere else ever again.

For about 4 to 5 hours you watch back-to-back episodes of Jersey Shore or The Real World. You don’t sleep off the hangover, but live through it. The shows subdue you. You are comforted by the madness of the pseudo-reality. There are a couple things which make you sick — a commercial for Long John Silvers, as it brings back an insult from High School you’ve never gotten over. The cell phone you thought you lost begins to vibrate across the room. Whoever it is, they probably know what you did last night. You find the phone and turn it off, at least the vibration anyways, without looking to see who it is. This is how you know you’ve really hit a low point.

Everyone on the shows is having sex, or is upset about sex in some way or another, and you come to notice that the issues always run so much deeper. Daddy, race, sexual identity, socio-economic. You realize this is how it is for you too, in a nebulous sort of way. You start to feel a little better as you cry, convinced that you have been through so much, in such a little space of time. Your life has been so unsteady, and you’ve been done wrong so many times; it’s no wonder last night happened. You are really fucked up and alone. This is actually very comforting, and makes it really easy to identify with the characters on the flashing screen. The commonality of individual suffering.

You say a small prayer, just a little one. It’s more of an abstract apology and a very tentative request for help. Your mind starts to race a bit, and some pretty inappropriate thoughts intrude on the prayer, not to mention the dialogue from the show dribbling out the speakers. Before you know it you’ve abandoned your prayer without even saying Amen. You close your eyes briefly and say Amen.

At this point you feel much better. Not that you’ll tell anyone about it or anything, but you feel good about yourself because you are keeping your relationship with God going. You watch one more episode of Jersey Shore or The Real World. And during the commercials you think about how you are really a very spiritual person. This is superior to being religious in a lot of ways. You figure that there isn’t a single building, a single teaching, or prophet, or book that can hold everything you believe in. You are universal. You care about the earth.

The whole reason you even bought Sara Jessica Parker’s perfume was because you read in People magazine that it had a slight scent of patchouli in it and you liked that it would have something earthy about it. You realize you have been worrying about last night too much. You are easy-going, fun, and friendly. You don’t care what other people think about you. You don’t buy into that snobby stuff. So what if you slum it sometimes? So what if you had some sad dirty sex? You also didn’t shave your legs for one entire summer, and you smoke camel wide lights because you like things rougher than most. You have been too hard on yourself. Free love. That’s right. You just like to party. You start to wonder who that was that called you.

Your gay roommate comes out of the back room and says he’s ordering pizza, do you want some? You do. You are starved. You had planned on eating healthier. You have switched to drinking that Budweiser beer that has ginseng in it. You were thinking of quitting smoking, and you always make sure to dance when you go out to burn calories. But one piece won’t hurt. You go to your room to get dressed because your roommate says seeing girls half-dressed ruins his appetite. He doesn’t mind seeing boobs, but even thinking about pussy makes him dry heave.

You stand on top of clothes in front of your closet. There isn’t much hanging in there, as most of it is on the floor. You figure you should clean this place up in case there is after hours at your place sometime soon. You realize you haven’t worn your denim dress yet this summer. The one that fits like a glove. The one that looks like what Jessica Simpson was wearing in US Magazine five summers ago.
It probably wouldn’t be that good of an idea to stay home tonight. If you did, what would happen anyways? You would just sit around and worry about last night and the sad dirty sex. Wouldn’t it make more sense to go out there and look really hot and own it? It’s not like you have to go to the same place. It is early though, only around 4 o’clock. None of your friends will want to go out until later. You wouldn’t want to put on the dress too soon. Plus it is so tight that sitting down and eating in it just wouldn’t be practical, so you think that you might just throw something on.

Thing is— who knows who might show up? Your roommate, he has people over— a lot. Since you live right across from the restaurant where he works people come over after their shifts, before their shifts, during their shifts, and you definitely have to think about this. You don’t really want to work out a whole outfit to wear just to go back to your roommate’s room, and then change into the dress after because what about the make-up? Will it match both outfits?

You don’t want to change.

You put on the denim dress, because you can just have a little slice of pizza. Besides, someone might want to go have an early drink at the tavern downstairs, or maybe you’ll just go down there yourself. If anyone asks, you’ll just pull your face back showing a smile as shiny as the sparkles in the glistening glass of your gin and tonic double and say you’re meeting someone later. It won’t be a lie because you are always meeting someone later. You pour half a bottle of Malibu rum into a jumbo-sized plastic cup that was stolen from Pizza Hut and add a splash of pineapple juice. This you take into the bathroom and sip from it while you do your hair, which actually doesn’t look that bad considering that you didn’t blow dry after washing. There aren’t really any funny bends in it. It’s flat to be sure, but there are worse things than flat hair. There are worse things to deal with than gray circles under your eyes.

You remind yourself things are going to be okay. You like to party. There are worse things than having burning lesions all up your nose, your second bout of syphilis this year, court on Monday morning, an over-drafted bank account, and a chicken bone clogging the drain in your bathroom sink. Think of the year you had to get an abortion on your birthday. That was so much worse than anything you’ve got going on now.
Dirty and sad. That was last night. You chug rum till your stomach turns, set down the cup, and resentfully brush your teeth. You slip a tube of lemony lip gloss into a tiny pocket on the breast of your dress, and snap it shut. No point in applying any till you are done drinking.

Till you are done. TC mark

image – Steven Roemerman

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://profiles.google.com/amaviena Amanda Viers

    shit.

    • http://profiles.google.com/amaviena Amanda Viers

      oh…and buy some soap.

  • http://www.roxanegay.com Roxane

    Fantastic.

    • sgerot

      Thanks.   @rgay:disqus I sat next to you at the Mission Creek Festival.  I really love the little book you sold me.

      • http://www.roxanegay.com Roxane

        I'm glad you're liking that book, Sarah. I thought this was you because I remembered you were living in lovely Ottumwa. Midwest, represent!

  • http://twitter.com/rhodeislander rhodeislander

    Ottumwa is the motherfucking bomb. It's practically the thinking man's Muscatine.

  • Pfft

    i hope for your sake this is fiction

  • Robertbenesh

    Ottumwa frightens me, frankly.  I feel like I stumbled on a cult meeting whenever I go to visit.

  • Jane

    This is fucking awesome.

    • Sgerot

      Thank you.

  • Alice

    Isn't Ottumwa where Methland takes place?  And the hometown of Todd Arnold's drug-dealing sister?

    • sgerot

      Yes and yes.

  • http://twitter.com/bedhead86 Kieran Gregory

    It's lovely to know that I am not the only rambunctious hot mess who puts themselves in these situations on a regular basis.

  • http://profiles.google.com/isabelle.a.ferreira Isabelle Ferreira

    “The commonality of individual suffering”, raw and uncomfortable. but truly beautiful capture of helplessness and despair, peppered with bursts of reassurance that there are worse things in life. This piece encapsulates the denial of hitting rock bottom with flawless precision.

  • Ruthlezz

    Gnarly!

  • angiephone

    amazing, raw, and breathtaking.  I'm so excited to see you writing here, Sara!

blog comments powered by Disqus