I used to read on the subway. Now I can’t think with the hoard of passengers, coming and going. Their movements distract me. Since the drinking started, the morning world does not allow for concentration.
Today, the hangover is bad, and every leg that brushes mine brings on a wave of nausea. Every voice is garbled in the subway din. I gag, just a little, and taste rice wine. Thank God I got a seat.
Groaning, I lean to pull my wallet from my back pocket. I fish through the few remaining singles, and pull a mostly wrapped stick of gum from its hiding place in the gritty folds. I hope it will help, but it only serves to make my mouth water. I swallow spit and gag again. Damn it. I will not be the guy who barfs on his shoes. Not today.
I check my watch, next. Thirty minutes left of the forty five minute commute to my place, then an hour before my shift at Luna Park. Hopefully, Nick will switch with me today, so I can run a water ride. I know my head won’t tolerate the music of my usual gig at the carousel.
Just thinking of carnival tunes and screaming, sticky kids makes me feel worse. I fold forward; head on arms, arms on knees. My pants, of course, smell like rice wine.
Here it comes, I think. There’s no stopping it now.
My back arches with a heave, and I attempt to lean forward and miss my shoes. In the millisecond before I let go, a white styrofoam cup appears at my mouth. My vomit hits the clear liquid at the bottom and splashes up onto my cheeks, but it doesn’t make it to the floor or my clothes. The cup slides away and a napkin appears. I wipe at my lips, and detach a line of drool from my chin.
I toss the napkin onto the floor, and look to my right. There she is. My hangover fairy. She’s wearing a simple white dress, brown hair pulled back to reveal a plain but sweet face. I mumble a thank you, and she nods with a smile. Sympathetic, though I have a feeling she’s never been in my current position. I notice that she has tucked the cup of vomit between her shoes, which look more like ballet slippers to me.
She talks a little. I don’t mind, since she seems to understand that I don’t feel well enough to respond. She tells me about her plans for the day, but I don’t really listen. I’m distracted by the hem of her dress. It crept up a few inches when she crossed her legs, and now rests halfway up her thigh. I feel a telltale stirring in my pants. Bad timing there. How old is this girl? Does she know what I’m thinking?
I’m guessing she doesn’t. I’m guessing she feels sorry for me. Also, I’m not quite dirty enough to be scary, and I’m good looking enough make up for my disheveled state, at least a little. She’s naive. It adds to the attraction.
She pulls a water bottle from a miniature backpack that I hadn’t noticed before. She hands it to me, and says she can get another, later. Having purged the worst of my sick, I find that the water helps. I can sit all the way up. I wipe sweaty hair from my damp forehead, and give her a smile.
“I’m a mess,” I say. “Rough night.”
She actually pats my shoulder when she says, “It’s okay. Glad I could help.”
I’m feeling better by the moment.
I mention that my stop is next, and as fortune would have it, she’s getting off there, too. Something about babysitting for a cousin. She exits the car in front of me, and I can smell her perfume. It doesn’t make me sick. It’s subtle and pleasant, like the rest of her.
Once out of the subway station, I make a small misstep, and stumble. She catches this, and suddenly a cool hand is on the back of my arm. “You were right. You’re a mess,” she whispers, with what sounds like genuine concern. “Let me walk you home.”
I am suddenly concerned that I am asleep, and she’s only the deus ex machina in my alcohol soaked nightmare. Just as I’m fully convinced that this can’t be happening, she’s pulling me up. Her hand remains against my skin, reminding me of the reality. I tell her she’s an angel. I tell her my address. In a handful of blocks, we’re there and she’s climbing the stairs behind me.
“Maybe you should call in to work today. You need to rest,” she grins, adding, “and take a shower.”
I allow myself to laugh, as I unlock door to my shitty apartment. “You’re probably right,” I say, through thin embarrassment. “You can come in, if you want.” When I turn around, our faces are too close, and I can see that she’s nervous. “I’m sorry. That was inappropriate. Thank you for… everything.” The blush spreading across my face seems to alleviate her nerves.
“I have to go, but I think I’d like to give you my number.” She reaches into that little backpack again, and pulls out a pink business card. “It’s for my Etsy shop,” she explains, fumbling, “I make these flower headbands and, um…” Her entire face reddens. She closes her eyes, taking a breath. I watch her struggle through her own moment of embarrassment, before finishing, “Anyway, it has my number on it.”
When she opens her eyes, she glances not at me, but behind me, through the now open apartment door. “Oh!” she exclaims. I turn to see what caught her eye and am immediately reminded of what I’d been doing last night, pre-blackout, before I had hit the subway and headed across town for late night food and way too much alcohol.
My kitchen floor is covered in plastic, and on it lays a thin, pale body. Her skirt is hiked up and gore cakes every inch of her skin. The knives are still out, scattered on the stovetop. Blood is spattered on the cabinets. I hadn’t noticed that. Sloppy. I’m usually on top of the cleanup. I had obviously drank too much, but I already knew that from this vicious hangover. Thank God I had remembered to shower, before leaving home.
The girl is standing in the doorway. She’s taking it all in, eyes widening. I watch it register on her face that she is currently in danger. That she has walked a madman home. That she did everything wrong, and she needs to escape now.
I grab her by the hair, and slam her head into the doorframe. Delicate as she is, that’s all it takes. I pull her in and toss her to the floor, beside the other. If I untie the dead one, I can reuse the rope. Good thinking.
I pop two Aspirin and chase them with a swig of cheap brandy, from the still open bottle on the counter. A while back, I started to feel bad about the girls. The drinking helps.