For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.
I’m in Seattle with three of my best girlfriends. I had to decide whether to go home and write today’s story or stay out and drink. I decided to do both so I’m writing this on my phone at a bar in Columbia City.
As we drink and retell old stories of our debaucherous youth, they remind me of another night when I lived here years ago. I spent a summer sleeping on my friend Carol’s couch and freelancing for a nature photographer in West Seattle. We frequented this bar called the Cha Cha Lounge around the corner from Carol’s apartment in Capitol Hill. And when I say frequented I mean it. Every day I’d get off work at 4:00 and head to the bar. It didn’t open until 4:30 so I’d usually have to wait at the coffee shop next door until it opened. I’d drink gin and tonics until Carol and our friend Sally got off work and they’d find me in a booth waiting for them.
That bar was amazing–pitch black and divey with painted Mexican wrestlers on the tables. I’d rack up the gin and tonics and we’d play credit card lottery with the bill–meaning one of us would open a tab with a card and hope that after several rounds, the bartenders would forget to add a few of our drinks to the total.
One night a bunch of us girls were camped out at a booth in the front of the bar. One of them recognized a guy from her office–George–and invited him to join us. By the time George sat down I was about eight drinks in and I decided he was super cute. My friends were impressed with how hardcore I was at hitting on him, buying him drinks and charming him with delightful drunk talk.
“You’re picking him up like a dude picks up girls!” Carol said more than once. I wasn’t the only drunk one at the table.
Carol and Sally are telling me I was drinking Chi Chis that night–some girl drink specialty of the bar that came in a fancy glass covered in fruit and umbrellas. That may be the case. I don’t remember. I do remember that after several hours of drinking I switched to strawberry margaritas, for some reason. I wasn’t in the best decision-making condition.
Carol and Sally and the rest of the girls saw me moving into closing position and decided to head home so I could make this thing with George happen. I had been sitting down for hours and hadn’t noticed that I needed to pee. So I excused myself and stopped by the bar to send two more drinks to the table and then headed for the bathroom.
There were three people waiting in line and after standing there for 15 seconds I realized I was going to barf. I agonized over which would be more rude-asking the people in line if I could cut in front of them, or barfing on the floor in front of them.
I finally decided I couldn’t wait. I wasn’t going to make it. I turned to the guy at the front of the line and said, “I’m so sorry, but do you mind if I go ahead of you? I’m totally going to vom-”
As I said the word, I did the deed, yakking up a couple pints of alcoholic fruity nightmare. Just then the bathroom door opened and the guy in line said, “Oh, no. You go right ahead.”
I stepped in and closed the door, washing my face and checking to make sure there was no barf on it. I was embarrassed and felt bad for the bartender outside cleaning up my mess. But I was more concerned about maintaining some level of dignity and poise in front of George.
“He won’t be able to tell, right?” I asked myself out loud. I looked down and noticed the large pink stain on my powder blue wool sweater and panicked. I tried rinsing it out in the sink but the water just made the stain bigger and more prominent. I had no choice but to return to the table, quickly putting on my coat as I got there.
George politely pretended not to notice and asked if I felt like getting out of there. I did feel like getting out of there. I felt like it a lot.
As we walked back to Carol’s apartment, we made small talk and pretended that nothing horrifying and humiliating and pukey had happened. I started to believe that maybe George hadn’t even noticed–that I had succeeded in shielding him from my upchuck adventure.
Sally and Carol were sitting in the living room when we walked in and I quickly shed my coat and slipped into Carol’s bedroom to change into a clean shirt. But in the 10 seconds between taking off my coat and closing the bedroom door, Sally’s eagle eyes focused on me and she yelled across the living room, “Is that barf on your sweater?!”
Sally could always be counted on to point out whatever shameful secret you were trying to keep. She’s kind of great that way.
Annoyed, but not defeated, I changed clothes and joined them in the living room. Sally and Carol excused themselves and left us the futon–Carol quietly reminding me that there were condoms in the desk drawer beside it.
“Didn’t Carol barf out her bedroom window that night, so that she wouldn’t interrupt you guys in the living room?” Sally just asked us.
I never knew that little detail until just now. Thanks for being a friend, Carol!
In the morning I saw George for the first time in the light of day. He was cute, but not as attractive or charming as the previous night’s alcohol intake had made me believe. We walked to the fire escape and had a smoke and then he began to make the awkward and somewhat obligatory “I’ll call you” speech. Before he could form the words, I stuck out my hand to shake his and said, “It was really nice meeting you.”
We both knew that “It was really nice meeting you,” meant “Best of luck, but I hope to never see you again.”
And I never did. Until…
Two years ago I visited Carol and Sally and we went to our favorite karaoke bar. When the karaoke emcee called “George” up to the stage, Carol stared at him trying to figure out why she recognized him. After a few minutes, she turned around to face me, wide-eyed, and excitedly exclaiming, “Puke on your shirt guy! Puke on your shirt guy!!”
Puke on my shirt guy, indeed.
I pretended not to recognize him and focused on the strawberry margarita in my hand. Some things never change.