The Next Morning

I kicked the covers to free my leg and let my foot fall to the floor in an effort to stop the room from spinning.  My mouth tasted like cotton and my eyeballs felt too big for their sockets.  It wasn’t my first hangover, but it was certainly the worst.

The ringing was new.  I’d never had the incessant ringing in my ears before.  I moaned and stretched, pulling the pillow over my head.  Strangely, the pillow muffled the ringing in my ears.  That’s when I realized it wasn’t in my head, it was actually the phone.  I was too miserable to wonder why someone was calling so early.

I pulled the slimline phone off its hook and put it to my ear. “Hello?” I mumbled.

“Tracy?” asked a vaguely familiar male voice.

“Yeah.”

“Um, hey. It’s….” and he said his name.  At the time, it brought instant recognition.  It was the guy who offered me a ride from the frat party.  In the years since I have forgotten his name and those of his friends who came with us to the bean field.

I was confused.  Scenes from the night before played behind my closed eyes.  My nostrils flared with the remembered scent of his cologne mixed with piss.  I had gone straight to bed without showering and I could smell myself.

“Okay?” the voice on the other end of the phone asked, clearly wanting something from me.  Something I had failed to comprehend.

“What? What did you say?” In my preoccupation with smells I had missed what he said.

He repeated his request.  One of the other guys had a girlfriend.  The girlfriend’s friend was at the party and had seen him get in the truck with me.  She told the girlfriend he had left the party with me.  The girlfriend was furious.  If the girlfriend asked, could I please say I was with him and not the other guy?

My head was spinning.  Was he really on the phone acting like we were friends?  Like what happened was normal?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  I needed to throw up.  I wanted to scream, to cry, to say something that would sting him.  Instead, I heard a meek voice that sounded a lot like mine say, “Okay.”

The relief in his voice was palpable.  “Cool.  Thanks.  Oh, by the way.  Um, you know we were all just having fun last night, right?  I mean, you were cool with it.  It’s not like it was rape or anything.  You wouldn’t say that, would you?  We’re cool, right?”

I heard that voice again.  The one that sounded like mine.  It said yeah.  It told him we were cool.  And then my hand hung up the phone.

I pulled myself upright and stumbled to the bathroom.  In the stall I braced myself, one hand on the back of the toilet, the other against the cold tile wall.  I retched.  It came violently, spewing out my mouth and nose at the same time.   I could feel bits of something coming through my nose.  I gagged.

Again and again it came.  I couldn’t breathe.  I had to blow my nose.  The insides of my nostrils burned.  My throat was starting to hurt.  Chunks of watermelon floated in the brown water in the toilet.  The smell was foul.  I leaned against the tile and slowly slid to sit on the floor.  The cold tile felt good on my skin.  I didn’t want to move.  Gently, I laid over, putting my head on my arm.

I don’t know how long I stayed like that.  I couldn’t think and yet all I could do was think.  The phone call played over and over in my head.  It wasn’t rape.  We were just having fun.  You liked it. 

He must be right.  I got in the truck.  I didn’t struggle.  I didn’t fight back.  I just laid there.  How could that be rape?  I needed to face the truth.  I was just a nasty girl.  A slut, really.  I probably even liked it.  He didn’t say it, but I knew.

Putting both hands on the porcelain for leverage, I pulled myself up.  I flushed the toilet and turned on the shower. Afterwards, wrapped in a towel, I was brushing my teeth, trying to get the sour taste out of my mouth, when I heard Julia come in.   I had last seen her in the frat house, leaning against the wall of the upstairs hallway, talking to a cute boy, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other.

I assumed she had stayed with him and would want to talk about her night.  I was in no mood.  I came out of the bathroom and crawled back into my bed without speaking.  She said something and I moaned, pulling the pillow over my head.  I just wanted sleep.  I knew I would have to talk to her eventually but once again I thought of Scarlett, “Tomorrow.  I will think about this tomorrow.”