As I said on Friday, my friend Jordan has seen me at my worst — including my worst tequila stories.
I guess it was only fair that eventually, he’d pass that torch on to a new man. Still, I wasn’t sure if I could let anyone else see me like that — nor was I sure if the new man was up to the challenge.
So the BBQ in Galveston? Was a blast. With me in a sundress and cowboy boots and Eric in pearl snaps, we arrived with two kinds of tequila, sweet tea vodka, plus a whole bunch of other liquor and beer. As we walked up the beach to the house, I suddenly saw Jordan coming toward us, and we reunited like two Golden Retriever puppies, jumping in place, tails wagging.
Once we got to the house, I whipped out the buffalo chicken dip I’d made that morning, started mixing up a pitcher of blackberry margaritas, and was declared the best party guest ever.
I handed the first margarita to Eric to taste, and he didn’t cringe, so I poured a whole bunch more tequila on top of that drink, for myself, and then added more to the pitcher. I didn’t have any measuring tools for all the ingredients, so I just winged it — meaning I have no idea how much liquor was actually in each drink. But if Eric wasn’t wincing, I figured it couldn’t be that much.
Eric and Jordan got along really well, and we spent the afternoon hanging out, catching up, drinking, and snacking. I had three four five (apparently? I’m learning this now) pink margaritas and a whole lot of that (amazing!) buffalo chicken dip over the course of the afternoon. By the time the party was winding down, I had the troubling sensation that the room was spinning. When I told Eric this, he said maybe it was time to go home.
We walked down the beach back to my car, where I hopped into the passenger seat, just as I had on the 75-minute drive down from Houston. Eric noticed the gas tank was empty so he stopped to fill it up, and returned to the car with a soda for himself and a bottle of water for me.
That’s so sweet, I thought. How did he know I’m so thirsty?
As we pulled out of the gas station, I realized that I didn’t feel too great. However, I don’t normally get sick from drinking and I hadn’t had that much to drink, so I sort of didn’t really think that I needed a bag handy. Still, I reached into the back seat and pulled out an empty Whole Foods bag, thinking to myself that I was really being overdramatic, because it’s not like I was just going to throw up without warning. To continue with this dramatic moment, I put my face in the bag, as if I was going to get sick at any second. I didn’t actually think it was going to happen.
And then, without warning, I started throwing up. A lot. While I was horrified to be doing this in front of Eric, I do pride myself on barfing like a lady — Eric later said that I did a very graceful job and didn’t even make any noise — and I got everything right in the bag where it belonged. So embarrassing, but not the end of the world.
Eric was already looking for a place to pull over, and a few seconds after I finished, as he was pulling into the Kroger parking lot, the paper bag began to leak. And leak quickly. And then the bag had apparently had enough of this business was just like, “Fuck you and fuck this,” and broke, sending a buffalo-chicken-pink-margarita waterfall cascading onto the front of my sundress. And, because my lap isn’t nearly big or deep enough to hold that much liquid, it leaked through my dress and onto my thighs and continued to flow onto the seat, down my legs toward my cowboy boots, and onto the floor.
As this was happening, Eric parked the car in front of Kroger and went in to get something for me to use to clean myself. I realized that I really needed to get rid of the disgusting shredded paper bag I was still holding. I threw open the car door and stepped onto the curb, right as a man walked by. While he probably wanted to just keep walking, he sort of couldn’t, because a girl covered in vomit was now standing directly in his path.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I said. Again, I try to barf like a lady, and, somewhere, somehow, I still thought I was carrying myself like a lady. And besides, it was only 6:00 PM and I wasn’t wearing heels or Greek letters.
“Just a little carsick.”
Eric returned to the car in about two seconds (I’m still trying to figure out how he did that so fast) and handed me a roll of paper towels to start cleaning up with. I got back in the car and he drove around the back side of the store, to the loading dock.
I’m not sure if he told me I needed to change out of my dress or if I realized it myself, but without a lot of conversation, that was the next thing on the agenda. There was no one around, but he stood shielding me from anyone who might drive by as I stepped out of the car, unbuttoned the dress, and stepped out of it. He handed me my cardigan, which, at this point, was pretty much a necessity, as the cut of that sundress makes it impossible to wear a bra.
“We need to toss this dress,” I said. I’ve only thrown up on myself one other time in my whole (adult) life, and that dress did not live to see another wearing. This was a $20 Target sundress and I wasn’t that interested in saving it.
“Don’t get rid of your dress,” he said. He handed me the Kroger bag and I put the dress in it, tied the bag in a knot, and tossed it in the trunk. Then I climbed back into the car wearing nothing but my cardigan, my lace panties, and my red cowboy boots, hoping desperately the ride home would somehow only take 15 minutes.
I should also add here that every other word out of my mouth this entire time was “sorry.” I mean, I did not envision the first time I stood in front of Eric wearing nothing but panties and cowboy boots would be under these circumstances, and I was beyond embarrassed. But for some reason, Eric refused to get even the slightest bit annoyed. He didn’t wince as we got back into the car; he didn’t even shame me by cracking a window.
I had hoped to stay awake for the entire drive home, because I most certainly would have been annoyed if the drunk ass I was driving home fell asleep after a similar series of events, but he didn’t seem to mind. The next thing I knew, it was dark, and we were in the parking lot of his apartment building. Then he was opening my door and holding a blanket for me to wrap myself in to walk into the apartment. As soon as I was awake, the apologies began again, but Eric still didn’t seem mad or irritated at all.
He ran a shower for me, and then came back to the bathroom to check on me. I was standing in front of the shower, waiting for it to get hot.
“Is it not warm enough?” he asked.
“No, it’s not,” I said. I leaned forward to try to make it hotter, and slammed my head right on the corner of the wooden cabinet that hangs over the toilet next to the shower.
“OW!” I screamed, clutching my head with one hand and trying to cover my naked chest with the other.
Eric winced at the sound my head made against the wood and again, I waited for the impatient exhale, the eye roll, or the “You’re a train wreck” snicker — I mean, I deserved it. But it never came. He really wasn’t judging me.
“Well, I don’t know what your appetite is right now, but do you want some dinner?” he asked.
“Like…?” All I could think about was pizza in that moment. I just needed pizza.
“We have one of those Newman’s Own pizzas in the freezer,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
“I’ll turn the oven on,” he said.
I got into the relatively cold shower — I mean, in situations like these, the water will never be hot enough — and washed my face and body. Then I got out and brushed my teeth twice and fixed my hair, which was making me look more like a drowned rat, due to the damp sea breeze and, well, the vomiting. It didn’t take me long to clean up and put on warm, dry yoga pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt. I went into the living room, expecting to have to put the pizza in the oven, but Eric was standing in front of the oven, pulling what appeared to be a done pizza out of it.
Now, I knew I wasn’t exactly sober, but seeing Eric standing there pulling the pizza out of the oven made me wonder if I had also taken hallucinogens. Because Eric? Does not ever cook. If we are on the couch and a pizza is done cooking, he’ll come with me to take it out, mainly just so he can watch me bend over, but I have never, ever seen him pre-heat the oven, take a pizza out of the box and put it in said oven, set a timer, and then remove the done pizza from the oven. What he had just done was cook me dinner for the first time ever, and, despite how terrible I should have felt about everything, I suddenly had all these good feelings. I felt clean and dry and warm, and then just really safe.
I thanked him for the thousandth time and apologized for the millionth time, but he just kept dismissing my apologies, smiling like I was silly for even saying I was sorry and telling me it really was OK and not that big of a deal.
And maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it’s part of becoming Real, like the passage from The Velveteen Rabbit says. Maybe when someone really loves you, they don’t think twice about driving you home for an hour, when you’re totally out of it and covered in your own vomit. And maybe I’m not a total asshole for doing that and maybe he’s not a really good boyfriend for not getting upset with me over it.
But I’m pretty sure that I am and that he is, and I’m most definitely sure that it is a big deal — not the barfing, but everything that followed. Until Saturday, there hadn’t been much opportunity for Eric to take care of me like that, and, to be honest, I didn’t think it would happen for a long time, because I’m so used to taking care of myself. But even though I knew it would happen eventually, I didn’t know why it was so unnerving when it actually did.
I couldn’t put my finger on what I was experiencing. It felt like falling a little more in love, but that wasn’t quite right. I’m used to that. This was more like…falling more in trust. And I was overwhelmed by this, and the sense that I’d just gotten the answer to a really important question.