The morning after my birthday I woke up in a bedroom I’d never seen before.
I’m in a bed, it may just be a box spring and mattress on the floor, its low. I’m tucked into the corner of a room with sloped ceilings. I look down at my body, I’m wearing men’s athletic shorts and a t-shirt, both are bright yellow. I look to my right, there’s eight, or his back at least, he’s in a white cotton shirt, tucked deep in the comforter. I take note of the alarm clock just beyond his shoulder, it reads 6:30am. In the middle of the bedroom floor, in a neat little pile are my clothes from yesterday. I don’t remember taking them off. I’m wide awake without even the hint of a hangover. I don’t know where my cellphone or purse is, I can’t see them from where I am, and I desperately don’t want to wake up eight. Blinking silently at the ceiling, in tandem with the quiet breaths of the man asleep beside me, I start piecing together my last 24 hours.
The morning of my birthday I woke up in my bedroom.
I responded to the “happy birthday!” text from eight. “Thank youuu! Night was good, had beers and burger and a giant J!”
I had booked myself a hair appointment at a trendy salon uptown to lift my blonde shadow roots and chop off some inches. I’d been here before but I was going to see a new stylist – she’s a total bad bitch with thick bouncy curls in black and emerald. Just like eight, she’s someone I went to school with uptown from grades 7-12, we sat together in art class every year, and shared a love for Notorious BIG. You have to understand though I live in a big city – it’s a major hub for tech startups and is home to several universities – for locals, it’s a small town. The high school populations regularly crossed over at house parties and student trips. We gossiped the morning away, catching up on the last decade give or take, with a focus on online dating and how batshit crazy it is. She tells me about hew relatively new beau, a single father from Tinder, she asks me about logistics of dating single parents, I tell her I’m not really sure, I haven’t gotten that serious with anyone. I don’t talk about my daughter to guys I date, other than to tell them she exists, and that she’ll take up a lot of my time. I tell her about a few of the guys I talk to, she vaguely remembers eight from school, in all the same ways I did: not super tall, dark eyes and total bro. “He was a pothead right?” she asks, yes, yes he was/is.
My boss texted me sometime during the hair appointment: “Happy Birthday, Hope you have a great day, that you’ll be able to remember.” I clapped out a response saying “Hope not to, lmao, dork.” This exchange will come back to haunt me. You’ll see why.
When I’m leaving the salon I see eight’s replied to my text from the morning. “Beauty! Who’d you enjoy that with?” I tell him my cousin bff, a girl called cheeks. He tells me he went to a buddy’s house and “had an epic living room sing along/rock out sesh” and I tell him “FYI, the fact that you jam out/dance around is such an attractive quality.” He thanked me and suggested I might feel differently seeing it in action.
I take my fresh blowout to the mall and do a whole host of things just to “live my best life”. I got second lobe piercings, shopped, ate steak for lunch, and shopped even more. Posting highlights of my nonsensical adventure to Snapchat as I had the time.
Eight checks in again, he’s getting on the team bus for an away game, says my steak looks bomb, asks where I am. “I’ll message you if we get back in reasonable time and possibly come have one with ya.” I respond as I do:
“Reasonably sounds like possibly a plan.” – Me, trying to be cute.
I realize he might think I’m being a chore instead of cute when he starts giving me timelines of their overtime game, and how it compares to today, when the game starts, travel time, etc. I decide to change the subject and warn him “Well, no promises on coherency if you make it. Say hi to your tight pants for me.”
I go pick up my BFF cousin cheeks, around dinner hour; we pre-drink and gossip until night time. She’s got Cuban rum that cost less than $10 and we polish off the bottle playing over/under and listening to EDM/Pop music. We head uptown buzzed and feeling silly. We pop into the bank to grab cash for drinks, two guys are there, asking where we’re headed. Cheeks tells them where we’re headed and that it’s my birthday, they wish me a happy birthday, and we wish them a good night. At the bar we see these guys again when they bring over a few tequila shots. I ask the guys how old they are, 26, oh hell no, they’re nice but I tell them I’m way too old for them. They ask my age, I tell them and they’re flabbergasted, but insist I need birthday shots. We talk about their degrees, I take two tequila shots. This is when I lose big chunks of time in my memory: I’ve never blacked out in my life before, and I have a gnarly memory for detail, so it’s the strangest thing. I don’t remember paying cover or showing my id, but I remember ending up across the street at the dance club. I remember two guys getting pretty aggressive with us about hanging out later; they got a lot of non answers and a fake phone number.
From here on out for the night I’m blacked out, the entirety of what I remember is:
- On the sidewalk out front of the bar, cheeks won’t let me walk home alone.
- Unreasonably bright lights and electric door, being at a pharmacy.
- Cheeks telling me “eight is here to drive us home”.
- Alone with him in his car, eight saying to me “So, we’re going to my house?”
- I remember saying “Yea definitely”.
- Unzipping my heels and giggling as I followed him up narrow dark stairs.
- A living room to my left, and the foot of a bed visible from the door on my right.
- Hopping onto the mattress, onto my knees, pulling my shirt over my head and looking back towards eight who’s standing in the hallway dumbfounded.
- Sex. The sound of eight grunting.
- Opening my eyes and seeing sloped ceiling in the early morning light.
The morning after my birthday I woke up in a bedroom I’d never seen before.
The alarm clock says 6:30am and I’m wearing a man’s yellow cotton t-shirt; and more than once I took note of the thickness of the fabric. I laid there for an hour collecting these thoughts, and piecing together what little I can. Eight’s breathing is such that I know he’s not in a very deep sleep; I know that if I move at all he will wake up. I wrapped my hair into a bun at the top of my head, and wiped around my eyelashes with my fingertips. The clock now reads 7:30am and I decide to make my move.
I shimmy gently to the foot of the bed, eight stirs. I gather the neat little pile of my clothes off the floor and ask where the bathroom is, he groggily tells me down the hall, and I make my way without saying anything. The bathroom has a clawfoot tub and a heavy wooden door that latches closed with a hook latch. I fold and hang his bright yellow t-shirt and shorts over the side of the tub, splash cold water on my face, swish and drink water from the tap. As I pad back to the bedroom, the creaking of the floors underfoot, I notice that while the apartment has it’s structural charm, the furniture and decor is devoid of personality; I wouldn’t know this is eight’s home to look at it. It’s a strange feeling. I remember feeling a mix of embarrassment and a neediness. I wanted so badly for him to ask me not to rush away, or at the very least say something to assuage the sinking feeling I had that I might not ever see this man again. But he and I don’t know each other, not really. I also don’t feel intimately closer him – because I don’t remember really being intimate. We don’t have any foundation of emotional intimacy – I’m a body and words on a phone screen – and I know if he wanted more he’d make the effort to get it.
I stood at the foot of the bed, near the door frame and asked eight if he had seen my purse and phone. He told me on the coffee table in the living room. I walked the few feet across the hall and gathered my things. I walked back into the bedroom and asked him where the front door was. And he told me, at the bottom of the stairs, and then asked if I wanted a ride. I told him I was good on my own, and he asked me to text him when I got home. I agreed I would. He didn’t get out of bed to hug me, kiss me, say goodbye. He just laid there beside the nightstand. I turned around and walked away silently. As I went down the stairs I saw my shoes and remembered giggling as I unzipped them last night. I descend and let myself out.
I decide as I’m stepping down onto the concrete porch that I’m not going to order an Uber. My actions should have consequences; I resign myself to a 5.5km walk of shame in heels.