1

I laid in bed sore and confused about what happened. The covers on top of me held me down, the warmth not letting me go. The complacent feeling lingered in me still. I got used to the dark-my eyes adjusting-and I could see in this queer room. The dark transformed regular shadows into monsters; the streetlights brought those monsters to life.

I didn't know where I was.

The fog lifted and I tried to remember exactly what happened. The funny feeling in my stomach did not dissipate; I felt sick. I lifted myself from bed and tried to remember my surroundings. Fear gripped my thoughts, panic set in, and distress dripped from my whimpers. Nothing looked familiar.

I felt it then, the one thing I should have realized as soon as I came to: my nudity. Strange place, no clothes, sore all over, sick feeling in my stomach-I lifted the covers, threw them aside and bolted to…where was I headed?

I hit the wall with my hand, but couldn't stop the rest of my body. There was a hallway of darkness in this room. This must be a hotel, I thought. I made my way towards the dark and felt for a door. My hand over my mouth made sure I didn't accidentally barf onto the floor. Weird, though, my consideration on not soiling the carpeted floor. My fingers felt the wall move, and I frantically grasped the wall for a switch. I found it and flipped them up.

I backed away as soon as the light flooded onto me and my surroundings. My eyes ached, the brightness exacerbated the feeling of nausea. My muscles ached, from my calves to my hands, and my temples throbbed-all in all I was miserable. I staggered into the bathroom, found what I was looking for and let my guts flow. The floor beneath me felt icy cold. The porcelain goddess supporting me felt the same.

I flushed twice, getting rid of the evidence of my presence here.

I perceived my surroundings better now. I could make out the rest of the room. I felt better when I saw my toiletries in the bathroom. I felt even better when I saw my suitcase just like I had left it when I left my room. Comprehension descended upon me slowly. Now I knew where I was. Now I knew why my head throbbed. Now I knew why I was sore. Now I knew why, despite having thrown up, my mouth was dry as hell.

But what the fuck had I done, and with whom?

The day flew by again, same as yesterday, and my boredom was intensified. Why I was back home I had no clue. My brother and my cousins were on top of the situation of my mother's burial, so why had I come? I was not needed. I made my way back to the same bar as yesterday-a hundred bucks in my pocket-ready to drink my night away. Maybe I might get lucky again, who knows? When I got to the bar I noticed what I should have noticed the night before. The ratio of women to men was staggeringly low, if not non-existent. I sat down and looked around. I noticed maybe three gals, all nice and prettied-up. They looked taken, so my chances of getting laid tonight did not look good.

"Hey mac, what can I get'cha?" the bartender asked.

"Rum and coke," I said, "Easy on the coke."

"That's what you had last night," a voice remarked from my left. I turned to look at whoever had spoken. I was stunned. His boyish looks didn't flatter him at all, they made him more female than male. His long, auburn hair hid the squareness of his face. His eyes looked soft and caring.

"Do I know you?" I asked. He giggled at my question, giggled!

"Am I that forgettable?" he countered.

"I'm sorry," I apologized. "I just can't place you. If we've met before, I'm sorry."

"My name is Jesse, we met two days ago. I'm a friend of your cousin Sandy." he said.

"Then how did you know what I had yesterday?" I asked. He looked at my quizzically, as if the answer was obvious.

"I saw you here yesterday. We drank together. Or, I should say, you drank till you passed out," he answered. The fog lifted further. I remembered everything that happened before I passed out. The talk, the drinks, the laughter, the crying-then it all got fuzzy near the end.

"I made sure you got back to your hotel room safely." he continued. Then a cold realization hit me.

"So I didn't get laid yesterday?" I asked. He looked at me weird before answering.

"No, not to my knowledge, no."

"Damn," I said. "So why'd I wake up sore?"

"I don't know chief," he answered, "but you are one heavy summabitch. I can take the blame for your legs, if that's the only place you feel sore. The rest? Hell, you can blame your mattress."

I leaned back on my barstool and looked upwards. The air of tobacco made me crave one and my hands felt about my breast pocket. Not finding a pack, I gave up and straightened up. He spoke before I had a chance to say another word.

"C'mon, chief. We'll get drunk in your room. I'm not about to have a repeat of yesterday."

"-You know? I mean, Christ almighty, what the fuck am I doing back in town if my relatives are on top of this shit? I shouldn't have come back. I only have sour memories of her, anyway." I slurred my words. I held on to a finished bottle of rum.

"Christ!" Jesse exclaimed.

"And-and you know, that's not the worst of it. Me and my brother, we used to get each other, you know? But after I left, this schism happened. I can't even talk to the goddamned sonuvabitch." goddamned sonuvabitch punched me square in the cheek at the funeral home.

"Fucking Rachel, too!" I said. "If it's not her goddamned whining, it's her incessant preening-"

"Chris."

"-looking like top-shit or something! The way she looked at me when I walked into the house-"

"Chris!"

"-was so condescending! Like she has a right to look down at me, you know? Goddamned family…."

"Chris!"

I stared at him. I regained my composure. I fiddled with the empty bottle before letting it go and putting my hand on my face. I leaned back and let the situation reel back into my consciousness.

"I'm sorry," I said.

"It's ok," he said. He looked hurt, so I didn't believe him.

"So, what are you doing here?" he asked me.

"Good question," I answered. "Maybe I thought I could reconcile with my brother."

"Are you serious?" he asked me.

"I have no clue," I said. I fell backward and my head hit the mattress hard. I sighed as I put my arm over my eyes.

"I'm sorry," I heard him say.

"It's ok, it's not your fault."

I felt him get up, heard the shuffling of his steps, heard the shot glass clink as he set it down on a table of some sort. The next bit caught me off-guard.

"Hey, what are you-" I tried to say, but he was already on top of me, making his way to my face. I felt his lips right on top of mine and kissing me square on them. It wasn't forceful, so I didn't panic as fast as I should have. He kissed me again, his hand on mine pushing it away from my face. His leg rubbed up against my crotch, stirring my cock awake. His lips were soft, like his kiss; he closed his eyes as he did so. This definitely felt weird. My hand moved to his hip and swayed him a bit. I swear to god I was trying to push him so I could get on top of him.

This wasn't right.

"Stop!" I exclaimed as I pushed him off, but I didn't move. He landed beside me, but I couldn't see his face. I didn't know if he was offended or hurt or surprised. I couldn't tell and I couldn't feel it. I could barely get a reading from my own reaction. I was breathing hard.

He put his hand on top of mine.

I intertwined my fingers with his and held it like that.

I continued to breathe hard. I couldn't say anything else, I just laid there. I was holding his hand! Why was I holding his hand? This didn't make sense to me. I turned to look at him with my arm still draped across my eyes. He was looking straight up at the ceiling and breathing hard. I couldn't tell if he was smiling. He didn't look it.

"Hey," I broke the silence.

"Huh?"

"Why me?" I asked.

"I don't know," he answered. "You're still holding my hand."

"Yeah," I responded.

He turned to look at me. His eyes had a hurt look in them, but also something else. I couldn't put my finger on it. His breaths got shallow and relaxed. He didn't let go of my hand, and I didn't force him to, either. He closed the distance between us and placed his lips against mine again. This time I kissed him back.

I don't know if it was the alcohol in my system or the sheer audacity of his actions, but I let him kiss me. I didn't stop it. I encouraged it. I placed my hand behind his head and pulled him in to a deeper kiss. His tongue licked my lips before continuing the kiss. His leg was between my legs and he rubbed on my already excited crotch. His hand caressed my side and traveled to my back. It felt uncomfortable as hell laying on my side like this.

He pushed me back and straddled me again. This definitely felt better.

He took a minute to look at me, to plan his course of action, and dove for my neck. I felt him on my stomach, could feel him through his pants and my shirt. He was excited. He wanted me, that much was evident. The sensation of his lips on my earlobe excited memories within-his lips against my skin, his smell, the sighs of his fingers prying off my pants-and they flooded my sense. His excitement wretched a sick knot in my stomach.

Now this felt wrong.

I pushed him back. I placed my hands on his shoulders and pushed him back. I tried to breathe. I sucked in air and expelled it, inhaled and exhaled, in and out-My mind was trying to force my body down into the pits of hell, it seemed. My jaw moved, my lips formed the shape of words, but no sound ever came out.

Finally I said, "I can't."

"Huh?" he looked hurt again.

"This-this is wrong," I managed. "This is all wrong."

His face contorted into this look of pain. He was still on me. He was still straddling me. His ass was mere inches away from my crotch. I felt his weight shift above me, felt one of his legs move up. He was trying to move away from me and looking away from me as he did so. I moved my hand from his shoulder, placed it on his leg, and forced it down. His head snapped back at me, obviously confused.

"What the hell?" he murmured.

"I don't know, OK? I don't know. I have no clue."

I really didn't, I was confused. This was happening all way too fast, with no explanation, no break for consideration-contemplation, whatever. I remembered being in this exact situation: him on top of me, caressing my shoulders, kissing my neck, his package rubbing up and down my stomach. I remembered him undoing my pants. I remembered taking off my shirt. I didn't remember pushing him off me.

"I thought you said I didn't get laid last night." I said. He looked at me funny again.

"You didn't." he replied.

"Then why do I remember us doing this yesterday? Why do I remember you taking off my pants?" I countered. He chuckled before answering.

"That's as far as we got. You passed out underneath me. I couldn't really take advantage of you any more than I already was."

"You told me to blame my mattress!" I shouted out.

"That was for your benefit." he said. "If you had forgotten me, maybe you forgot what happened the night before. Plus, you don't really seem the gay type."

I pondered that for a minute.

"I'm confused." I said. I turned my head and stared out the window. I saw that it was still light out. I caressed his thigh as I looked out the window. It couldn't be past eight o'clock in the evening I thought. I closed my eyes-I didn't open them for a while-and opened them again. His hand was caressing my chest.

"Jess," I said, "what the fuck are we doing?"

"Beats me," he answered. "Beats me."

I woke up around six in the morning. I laid on my bed-nude yet again-with the blankets thrown off and in disarray. The throbbing in my head was not as bad as the night before. My legs still ached, though, and my back did as well. I wasn't as confused as the night before, but then again I hadn't ingested twice the alcohol as I did then.

The hot water felt good. Well, it wasn't really hot. It was warm, but it wasn't lukewarm. I stood in front of the stream of water, letting the heat penetrate my skin and smooth out the aches. My hair stuck to my face as the water forced it down. I almost fell sleep standing up.

I sat on the corner of the bed as I had the night before, but with one difference: Jess wasn't here. He'd left the night prior. I put on my socks and laced up my shoes and got ready to face another day in Hell. I grabbed my mp3 player from the nightstand and checked the battery life. I had forgotten to charge it up last night, so I hoped I still had enough juice to get through this day sane. A nasty little habit of mine.

It's not like music calms me down, although it does, but it allows me to shut out the world around me. It isolates me. It makes the pain of socializing with people I'd rather not socialize with a bit bearable.

Half a bar left of battery read the indicator. It wasn't good, seeing as how I would be having another long day, but it was better than nothing. I rummaged through my book bag and grabbed the charger and pocketed it. I opened the door to leave and just stood there. I thought about what I was about to do, willingly do, once I stepped out of the door. I wasn't feeling it. Like stepping off a cliff-off a huge chasm-and accept fate. But this wasn't suicide. It was a wake. My mom's. Just having my mp3 player wasn't enough to quiet the hell raging within me. It wasn't enough to shut out my past.

I came home from school with a torn shirt and blood on my pants. I ached and I was crying. I dragged my feet across the threshold and muddied the hardwood floor. I tried to kick off my shoes and failed. One shoe clattered noisily down while the survivor hanged on for dear life. The blood on my pants was mine, I remembered, but I don't remember how I got it. I couldn't remember a damn thing before my agonizing walk home. The tears were there because I know I'd gotten a hurtin'.

I was twelve years old, walking home from school, messy and aching. My mom stopped making dinner to see who had come and greet them properly. I remembered her look. Incredulous. Angry. Mortified. My vision blurred as she walked into view and I couldn't remember much after that. I fell with a thud. The carpet, the white carpet, absorbed the sweat, mud, and blood from my clothes. It never washed off.

She called 911. I remember waking up during the ambulance ride and saw the paramedic fiddling with the console and looking at me. His face was calculating, focused, unemotional. I faded out again and woke up at a hospital room. My dad was there, holding my hand. They said I suffered shock, but I couldn't remember why. They said I was traumatized, and they needed to know what happened. I remembered the look on my dad's face. I wish I could forget it, I wish I hadn't studied it. He left us months after that. I never heard from him again.

My mom was dead. I came to accept that fact, but I just couldn't bring myself to look at her serene face and not replace it with that look she gave me thirteen years ago.