Morning After – Tom
Paul has always been dramatic when he vomited, Kevin thought. Never really good at keeping his wits about him once a certain level had been attained. At least there were no fights, not like when they were kids. All in all, things could be much worse. However, sitting with Sarah and listening to Paul vomit was a sight less than comfortable.
“No, he’ll be fine. I’m sure it’s the stress.”
“Save it Kevin.” She sighed, tapped her toe. She looked lovely in her dress.
Her gaze wandered out the window to the yard. The room was spare. He could not hear the murmur of the assembled crowd outside.
“Time, Kevin – what time is it?”
“We’re not late yet. It’s 9:45. He’ll be ready in twenty; we can still get this off on time.”
“Let’s hope so,” Sarah said, her icy glare made him shiver like it hadn’t in years. He hoped he was sounding a bit more confident than he was feeling. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she said, “I am going to give Anna an update.”
It had been a party for the ages. The exuberance of friends long apart coming together had been the first intoxicant. A rare hooley. First the house, then up to the Union until they closed. Then back to Sarah and Paul’s where he and Kevin and some of the old boys shared toasts until nearly four.
Certainly not kids anymore. He had been expecting a spot on the floor, or the couch; imagine the surprise when someone picked him up at the light rail. They had given him an honored spot, or so he thought, in the guest room. Which is where he found himself two hours ago, sprawled on top of the covers, in his clothes.
With one sock on and one sock off he had hobbled to the bathroom regretting every drink, grateful for the guest room and the chance to move unseen. His hands were shaking, sweat and pollution beginning to desert him via every pore. At least he had kept his belly. He double checked the room when he got back there, even looked under the bed, just to make sure.
The shower had helped. But before he got there he had cut himself shaving and stood there in front of the mirror watching the blood drip down his neck. He had nearly fallen asleep as he stood there, watching it. He had been roused by the general alarm about Paul’s state and seeing as there was much else to be done, and while Paul was a certain priority he was hardly the day’s main event, and a large share of the responsibility for Paul’s situation had correctly been assessed to be his, Kevin had been put in charge of helping to get him ready, out, and about. Good to be busy, he told himself, keep the shame and loathing away.
Kevin had not had to dress him, but nearly so. A parade of memories passed by: of parties and hangovers, late nights and music and plenty of foolish blather. They were not currently pleasing to recall. He often missed his old pals and the rowdier days. When was the last time we closed the bar? When was the last time we walked arm in arm down the street singing at three a.m.? High tonight, low tomorrow. Takeoff and cruising were easy – the landing is what required management.
The drive from the house, though short, had been painful. Neither of them was asked to drive. Silence fell like a curtain as the two of them insisted the window be opened all the way. It was cold, but no one complained. Not a word in the car. Such a beautiful morning, such a happy day.
Sorry folks, what is done is done.
The changing room bathroom had quieted down.
Kevin knocked gently on the door. “Hey lad, are you in there? You ready to go?”
He was answered with a groan, and a “fuck off.”
With a deep breath he opened the door. Fortunately, although still in a pose of worship, Paul had all his clothes on and had had the decency and forethought to remove his jacket and tie before bowing at the altar.
Kevin closed the door behind him and moved to the window and opened it. The fresh air was a momentary delight. He arranged his arsenal of curatives on the windowsill with shaky hands: a flask, a loaded one hitter with lighter, two little white pills and a satsuma. He had hoped to employ these on himself but there had been no time or space and now necessity was intervening.
Paul slowly rose to his feet and washed his face. They might pull this off.
“Get over here asshole.”
“Ah Jesus, what the fuck have you got there?”
“Do you remember that time in Eugene?”
Paul started giggling and moving towards the window. He was ready to stand. He washed the pills down with a bit of whiskey. He did not ask if they were both his. Gagged, and then drank some water from the sink.
“It has always amazed me,” Paul said, “that a little shot can help you get through the day.”
“True. I have not had to use it in a long time.”
But use it Kevin did, and felt a stronger man for it.
“Hopefully not a career move.”
A quick light, then Paul inhaled, held his breath, then reached and craned for the window and a surreptitious exhalation. Kevin could not and did not deny himself the assistance of a smoke, so reloading had been necessary. It did not seem fair for the satsuma to end this way. They both tasted its freshness, but peeling and eating it had drained the scene of what little color it had. Kevin deeply wished he could retain the composure, buzz, and freedom from pain he would enjoy for the next two minutes. Retaining last night’s moonlight would be easier, eventually.
Paul got the jacket on and Kevin helped him with the tie. Once, Kevin remembered, he had been a snob about bowties. He was thrilled at the sight of the clip on. As Paul put the tie on it was noticed that the shirt had not escaped unscathed. There was a nice yellow stain on the shirt right above where Kevin imagined his friend’s swollen liver must be.
Paul turned to face Kevin. The tie was straightened and Kevin made him button his jacket. They both watched the button strain to hold his belly back.
“Suck it in Paul, stand up straight lad – you have to hide that stain.” Kevin looked him straight in the eye and gave him a strong slap on the cheek. “Get out there and give your daughter away.”
They left the little changing room to face the glare of the light coming in through the stained glass windows. Paul looked quite respectable in the end, and Kevin watched him as Paul strolled over and patted his wife on the ass while sharing greetings with the new in-laws.
Kevin shrugged his shoulders and observed the glare Sarah showered on Paul.
“That’s pretty saucy, you fucker,” Kevin muttered, “You are on your own now.” He went to find his seat.