2 September 2002 | Vol. 2, No. 3
When You Got Somebody
Twenty minutes until my brother's wedding and I'm drunk and my mouth is hot and thick with vomit.
I'm in the last of three stalls, kneeling on a bathroom floor carpeted with shreds of warm wet toilet paper and puddles of thick strawberry milk that probably aren't puddles of thick strawberry milk. And the toilet water is staring at me.
My bowtie and vest and white dress shirt are all pink. My knees are wet and smeared with pink and the baby blue sleeves of my jacket are pink. I'm missing one of my gold cufflinks and my right foot is pink and squishes anytime I put weight on it.
I can hear my mom asking me if I'm okay from doorway, asking me if I want someone to take me home, asking me if there's anyone else in there with me to help. I tell her she has a beautiful voice, sounds a little bit like Janis Joplin, and then I tell her that Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose in 1970 only sixteen days after Jimi Hendrix choked to death on his own vomit.
I tell her heroin is two letters short of hero, then I ask her if Jimi's death puke was pink like mine is now.
It's a nice bathroom that I'm puking in right now. White tiled floors, black marble stalls and walls, chrome sinks and toilets, brass lighting fixtures that look like little starfish, black ceiling fans that would sound like Lego helicopters if Lego helicopters could make noise, paper towel dispensers and hand dryers, and a Monet hanging over each urinal and toilet.
Above my toilet is a chrome-framed replication of The Magpie, and I have the sudden urge to scream until my throat crawls out of my mouth, toting my Adam's apple as a bludgeon to smash that pretty little building behind those little pretty winter trees into nothing more than a pile of toothpicks, or rocks, or Play Dough, or whatever the hell those syphilis-ridden bastards used to build things back then. Then I ask my mom if she'd be ashamed to piss in front of La Promenade, you know, if she could piss standing up and everything, but I don't hear her answer because I'm listening to my brass starfish light humming over the sinks behind me, to my black Lego helicopters flying above me, to the moaning of my chrome toilet after trying to swallow down my puke three different times, to my brother's almost-wife screaming at me from somewhere that isn't my bathroom.
My mom asks me if I need a doctor, but my sudden fascination of the thin saliva strand stretching from the toilet water to my bottom lip prevents me from saying anything. Then I ask her if spider webs are made from my spit.
And I'm really tired, but before I can put my burning forehead against my chrome toilet and fall asleep, some guy starts banging on my black marble stall door and tells me to open my black marble stall door. So I have to get up and turn around and open my black marble stall door.
I feel like a Slinky when I move. Not the colored plastic kind, the original wire kind.
When I open my black marble stall door, it's my father. His ears are red. I tell him that it's no use- the toilet was accidentally clogged accidentally, and if he'd like to go to the bathroom, he needs to use the next stall. Please.
He rips me from my stall and throws me to my sink and tells me to wash my hands. I ask him if he wants to have a hand-washing race, but he tells me to shut up and wash my hands. So I shut up and wash my hands. Then he tells me to dry my hands, and I am so worried whether he wants me to dry my hands with the paper towel dispenser or if he wants me to dry my hands with the hand dryer that I panic and wipe my hands on my pink baby blue tux pants. Then he yells at me and tells me to wash my hands again and to use either the paper towels or the hand dryer to dry my hands this time. And this time when I dry my hands, I close my eyes and yank a paper out of the dispenser. Luckily, it's the right choice because he doesn't yell at me.
I tell him I felt like MacGuyver that one episode where MacGuyver had to pick between the blue bomb wire and the green bomb wire, and he tells me to shut up again.
My father holds my arm and walks with me out into a room that isn't my bathroom. My brother and my brother's almost-wife are sitting on a wooden bench, and my brother's almost-wife is crying and looks really embarrassed. She asks me how much did I have to drink and where the fuck did I put the ring. She says, the wedding starts in fifteen fucking minutes. She says, you better find that fucking ring. She says, you asshole. She starts crying harder.
I ask her if crying feels different when you're not alone, when you got somebody, and she starts shaking and gets real quiet.
My brother asks me if I'm okay. He looks exactly like me except cuter and smarter and funnier.
I tug on his sleeve, point to my bathroom, and he follows me. In front of my sink I tell him. I tell him all I want is fifteen more minutes. Just fifteen more. Dexy's Midnight Runner's got fifteen. Sinead O'Connor got fifteen. I get fifteen at least. Just give me fifteen, I say, and then you go can go with her. Me and you, we're brothers. I promise.
My brother shakes his head and says I got to stop this. I got to accept this. Things are changing, he says, and you just got to understand this. He says I can't stop him this time. He says, I love her. He says I got to give him the ring when I come out. Then he walks out of the bathroom and closes the door behind him.
And I just stand there for a while, staring hard at the tile floor, trying to make bigger symmetrical squares from all the smaller squares. It gives me a headache. Then I turn on the sink and slowly splash some water across my face. When I raise up to dry my face, the mirror is looking at me expectantly, like it's waiting for someone else to share its space with, like I'm wasting its time.
About the author:
Clint Meadows attended Ohio University. He now lives in Columbus.
For further reading:
See the complete list of work by Clint Meadows at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 2, No. 3, where "When You Got Somebody" ran on September 2, 2002. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction.