Sober Sheila—Clark Humphrey
Sober Sheila awoke, in her own bed, with her usual Saturday morning hangover; only this time it was on a Tuesday.
She was on the left side of the bed this time; how odd.
Her first task, as it usually was on mornings such as this, was to get her brain into gear, to prepare herself for her second task. That was to turn to her side and inspect whomever Drunk Sheila had brought home the previous night.
Because Sober Sheila seldom if ever remembered anything Drunk Sheila had done, every post-drinking morning was a mystery. “Will your Mystery Date be a dream or a dud?”
It seldom mattered whether he’d been good at, or even capable of, the sex for which Drunk Sheila had acquired him. What mattered to Sober Sheila was what to do with, or to, him now. Had he thrown up anywhere? Would he want a “do-over”? Would Sober Sheila want anything to do with him, besides getting him dressed and out the door?
She had such different tastes in men than Drunk Sheila had. Sober Sheila didn’t care if a guy was tall or trim so long as he had good manners and treated her nicely. Drunk Sheila brought in all sorts of specimens (depending in part on the whim of the moment and the available supplies); but seemed particularly attracted to the loud, the loutish, the expendable, the kind of guy she wouldn’t feel bad about snaring, using, then tossing out.
Sober Sheila turned to her side. There was definitely a human there. A breathing, and thus presumably living, human. A hand appeared from under the covers. A slightly wrinkly, slightly hairy hand, with no visible wedding-ring tanlines.
He rumbled about in the bed a little. He quickly opened his eyes. He looked at Sober Sheila for the first time. He emitted a kind but weary little smile.
Good, thought Sober Sheila. No hangover grouchiness. He’ll be easy to get up, dressed, and out.
He coughed a small cough, said a not-too-embarrassed “Good morning,” and reached over toward her. She politely turned away and stood up. On some of these mornings Sober Sheila would rush to get a robe on. This time she took a little more time. The guy watched in smiling approval. Sober Sheila felt comfortable enough that she didn’t turn away when he got up, as she often did with these guys. His body was surprisingly “average” for something Drunk Sheila had picked out. Not too tall, muscular, or hairy. A flat ass. The part of him that had undoubtedly been Drunk Sheila’s center of attention looked all right enough.
Next came the usual taking turns in the bathroom; first to pee, then to shower. Sober Sheila was on a schedule this morning, so she asked the guy to forego a shower. He very willingly agreed.
It was in the shower that Drunk Sheila made her presence known. Not as an auditory “voice;” more of a thought process that emitted words and sentences.
“So whaddya think, dearie? Not too bad a specimen, if I do say so.”
Sober Sheila blurted “What?” out loud, until she realized there was a guy just in the next room. She switched to silent-response mode.
“Look,” Sober Sheila thought. “I don’t know what you’re pulling here. If you think one nice guy makes up for all you’ve done to my my bank account, my driving record, my social reputation….”
“C’mon hon. We’ve got a great reputation. All business by day. All FUN by night.”
“Barfing at the bar? Stumbling over chairs? That’s fun to you?”
“I thought you didn’t remember anything I did.”
“I’ve had those stories told to me, and worse, by people who didn’t look happy to see me.”
“That’s ’cause you were sour-tits You, not fun-lovin’ Me.”
“And how come I black out and don’t know what you’re doing until it’s too late, but you can run your DVD commentary track in my head on everything I do?”
“You’re just lucky I guess.”
“Your idea of ‘luck’ is as stupid as your idea of ‘fun.'”
“Well aren’t WE being harsh today? And after such a great night? Remember when we met up with those two tourists from…. No, that’s right, you wouldn’t.”
“You… after all… try to make ME feel guilty…”
“Words not coming to you, eh? That’s why you need me, hon. To chat people up when you’re afraid. You just can’t help it. You know you can’t chat up strangers or do that ‘networking’ thing at all. But there’s always that friendly bottle and that friendly shot glass. You pick it up. That means it’s my turn to come out and save your sorry ass.”
“More like make messes I have to clean up.”
“But we need each other, don’t you see?”
“No. You need me, to keep my job and to stay clothed and fed.”
“You might bring home the bacon, sister. But I bring home the sausage. Say goodbye to me, and you can say goodbye to anything hunkier than your pinky finger.”
“But it’s you who gets to enjoy the guys. If you call that ‘enjoying.’ I wouldn’t really know what it’s like. I’m blacked out during that, remember?”
“Don’t tell me that. I know you can feel the heat. And I know you’ll never want to live without it. Remember the last time you went to one of those meetings?”
“So you just sat there. Couldn’t speak even when they asked you to.”
By this time, Sober Sheila had showered, dried off, brushed her teeth, and applied at least enough make-up to hide any bags under any bloodshot eyes.
“Look at me,” Sober Sheila thought. “I’m a mess!”
“A BEAUTIFUL mess,” Drunk Sheila silently chimed in.
“Oh, NOW you try to flatter me. When you know I’m about to get rid of you forever.”
“Me? You’d never do that. You can’t. I’m your good twin.”
“Just try it. You’ll beg to let me out again. You always do.”
Sober Sheila opened the bathroom door to find the guy, now dressed, standing at the kitchen counter, having made Keurig Cup coffee for himself and for her.
Sober Sheila also realized two things.
She was still naked. (Most women who meet a guy for the first time, Sober Sheila thought, start out dressed.)
And she’d been responding out loud to Drunk Sheila’s thoughts, starting with the first “Bullshit.”
She darted into the bedroom for her work clothes, which were emphatically not a thing like Drunk Sheila’s party dresses. When she re-emerged, the guy was sitting at the dinette table with a calm look on his face.
“No problem. I talk to myself all the time too. You know what they say: it’s only a problem if you talk back.”
Sober Sheila gave out an obligatory smile and accepted his offered cup of coffee. She made a mental inventory of every liquor bottle in the apartment, and how long it would take to send each bottle’s contents down the toilet before she had to get to work.