Salt and Oil

 

You wake up because you’re sweating, as usual. Your head is pounding, and it takes you a few minutes to get your eyes open. You look around and realize you don’t know where you are. Again. You sigh to yourself, and the headache starts setting in for real now, panging the sides of your head telling you to get up and find water, a beer, something. You hear someone making kitchen noises through the wall behind you, and you try to stand up. BANG, your head explodes. So you crawl out of the room and down the short hallway, just enough to see who is in this place; maybe they can tell you who you slept with last night.

It’s Nick. Fuck, okay. Who does he live with again? You groan to get his attention.

“Aw Mel, you alright there?”

“Do I look alright to you?”

“Nah mate, you look right awful. Want a cuppa?”

“Yes, dear god yes. Everything hurts.” The corner of the cold tile floor and concrete wall is surprisingly comfortable, considering the shape you’re in, and you stop sweating for the minute.

“Yeah you and Jim got into that bottle pretty fierce last night.”

Oh. It was Jim. Okay, you saw that coming. At least he’s hot. You feel immediate relief, but then you notice one of your toes is numb. Great.

“Bro, I think I broke a toe.”

“Is it an important one?”

“There are important toes?”

“Sure, the outside ones, the inside ones ain’t too bad.”

“I guess I’m okay then.”

You spit out the tea he brought you and say, “what the fuck man? This tastes bollocks!”

“Shit Mel, I thought that was sugar. Guess it was salt. Sorry mate. We really ought to label these jars.”

As you try to piece last night together, you know of course that you can’t; blackouts are becoming a bit too usual. You at least remember that Jim had left on holiday that morning, so you didn’t have to deal with him for a while. Another sigh of relief, and now your toe is starting to throb. You pick yourself up slowly to sit against the hall wall and look at it—it’s definitely broken.

“Oy Mel, you’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got a shoot to go to and I got to lock up.”

“Nick I’m dying here mate, can I have a few?”

“Sure, I need to shower first.”

“Where are we anyway?”

He tells you where you are, a part of town you’re not super familiar with, and you dread getting home. You go to find your phone, keys, and wallet, and luckily they’re all on a nightstand. As you hear the shower running upstairs, you scrawl a note to Nick thanking him for leaving you some bacon, and you head out into the wet, tropical heat.

            You wake up on a couch with your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth. Looking at your watch, it’s two in the afternoon. That means four hours sleep, which isn’t enough considering you were up all night. You want to go home and grab some water, a beer, something. Your boyfriend John is asleep on the chair next to you; the apartment is quiet, so you’re the first one up. Mark and Nadine must still be passed out in their room. You amble to the kitchen to find something to drink, and Karl wakes up a bit.

As if a rooster crowed, everyone is up within a few minutes, and they’re back on the beers. You feel disgusted at the thought of a beer now. Mark and Nadine suggest calling the girl who brings the drugs, and you start getting really mad. Nadine goes upstairs to the pool to make sure you guys didn’t leave anything up there the night before, and Mark goes to put on some music. You tell John to come out into the hall so you can yell at him.

“What are we still doing here? I’m exhausted. I want to go home.”

“Why? Let’s stay! The girl’s going to bring more stuff, it’ll be fun, right?”

“No, it won’t. This is fucking bullshit, we talked about this.”

He shifts his weight on the cold, unforgiving stairs. “What?”

“We talked about this! I told you I don’t want to do this shit anymore. I told you I want to spend more time at home watching movies, reading books, whatever. Less time drinking and doing that crap she brings. This isn’t fun anymore.”

“I know, but it’s Mark’s birthday babe.”

“So that makes it okay? Fuck this and fuck you, you said you were with me.” You brush hair out of your face, and as you feel your oil-slick skin, your stomach turns.

“I am with you, you’re right, I just want to be here for his birthday.”

“His birthday was two days ago. We’ve been up with barely any sleep since then. I’m going home, I fucking hate this.”

“You used to love this, I don’t get why you’re so mad.”

“I’ve been drinking every day for years, I’m tired. This shit isn’t fun anymore.”

“Well what would be fun? Tell me, we’ll do it.”

“Honestly? I don’t know anymore. This is all I know to do for fun, this is all I’ve done for, fuck, a decade. If not this, then what?”

He doesn’t answer, and you both sit on the steps in the hall for a minute, stinking like the days before, waiting for one of you to say something that makes sense. After a few minutes, you get up and get your stuff and go home; he stays.

You wake up with puffy eyes, sore from crying. He’s up already, and from the sounds in the kitchen, probably making breakfast. You look at your watch: seven thirty. The boys will be here to game in half an hour. You don’t know if you can do this today.

The echoes of the fight last night are still ringing in your head. You can hear him saying those words over and over again, I don’t know if I love you. I don’t know what this is supposed to feel like.

He comes in with a cup of coffee, sugary and milky just like you like it. You still want to punch him in the face.

He looks like a whipped dog as he asks, “Are you getting up?”

“No.” You try not to sound like you feel, but your voice cracks anyway.

“Babe the guys are gonna be here any minute.”

“I don’t care. Why don’t you tell them you don’t know what love means? See how they take it.”

“I’m sorry, I really am. I didn’t mean for it to come out like this, I didn’t mean for this to happen. I want to try, I want to work on this. You know I love you, right?”

“I’m not sure I do. I know this is all new to you, that’s why I’ve been checking in with you every month or so. That’s why I’ve been asking you how you feel about what we’re doing so often. And you lied to me. You said we were on the same page every damn time, and what did I say was the worst thing you could do to me?”

He inhales sharply and lets out a large sigh. “Lie to you.”

“Besides the fact that you’re terrible at it, what am I supposed to do now? How am I supposed to trust you?”

“I don’t know Miss. But I’m here, I want to be here, I want to do this. Do you?”

You rub salty tears out of your eyes and say, “I don’t know.”

“Are you with me?”

His voice pulls you back from outer space—one of Jupiter’s moons. You’re in the bath and he’s rubbing your toes with the sea salt scrub he brought over. It smells like lavender and spice. The oil feels slick on your skin, and you think of John, sitting on the stairs, looking like a ghost. You think of Nick, putting salt in your tea. You think of cold tile floors and sticky skin. You think of the salt in your eyes as you tried to decide whether to trust him again or not.

Back on Earth, he asks, “what were your bad dreams about last night? You were moaning quite a bit; sounded scary.”

“Just some memories floating up. I broke my toe once…” Your voice trails off as you rub your eyes and blink away the feelings and say, “it still feels like yesterday sometimes.”

“Are you okay?”

Seemingly out of nowhere, you say, “I’m glad I decided to trust you.” As he looks a bit baffled and flashes that goofy grin you love, you add, “I think you missed a spot on my heel.”

 

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