Punishment Fits the Crime – Sprint

Some things are so hard to deal with, your brain tries to just block them out – I tell myself as I grab the rim and throw up – but once you feel them again, the pain comes right back.

My nose and mouth burn, as I wretch, spit, and cough.

I lean back on the wall next to the tub, and groan. I reach out and press down on the handle to flush. What was once a few shots and many, many beers, sinks down the drain.

I look over at my friend, Matt. He sits, with his back to the sink. We have been here for an hour or so.

His eyes are shut.

“I- I feel, I, oh- this is rough,” he says. “Last night just- it just – it got so out of hand.”

“Don’t be dumb. I had a guh- (I fight back the urge to puke again) great time. Glad we went.” I mean it too; we spent the whole night at a ’20s theme bash. When I got home, I had time to take off my dress shirt. . . now here I am.

“We’ll live,” I say. But I’m not quite too sure, to tell you the truth. He groans again.

I reach for the knob to turn on the water. The sound helps.

“It was worth it, right?” Matt says. “I mean, you had your shot with Liz! You took her to her dorm, did you. . . ”

I shake my head. “I just made sure she got there safe. We did kiss. That is it.”

“Wow,” he says. “You are a good guy, you know that? I think we-” Matt stops, and goes limp. I look over to make sure he is ok. Still good – just out cold. My arms slip to my sides. I lean my head on the tub.

When I think of the night, the pain now does not matter much. If this is the price of living in the now, I will pay it.

 

A.H.W.

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Lies!

Sarah’s fake boyfriend was five-foot ten, rowed stroke seat for his high school’s varsity crew team, and was training to get his EMT certification on the weekend. They met at a church event, but Jeff and I knew him for school. We all used to take AP Physics together.

Of course, we would never surrender all of this information to Ted at once. The man was as unrelenting as he was greasy, and once he got the idea into his head that he wanted to conquer Sarah, there was no shaking it.

The boyfriend cover was the best we could come up with for her. He would hound each of us about it, at length and separated – as any good interrogator would. Piece by piece we would feed him the details.

There’s the problem with laying down a convincing lie: you want to keep the story simple so it won’t collapse under its own weight, but you don’t want to be grasping at straws when the questions start coming in.

The middle road solution: a concise and uniform back story that you can draw upon, but only when necessary. Researchers claim you have a different look on your face when you’re remembering something, than when you’re making it up. Call it an easy tell.

I’m not a liar – at least not a compulsive one.

When I do lie, you’d better believe I have good cause. If you ask the high-and-mighty types, they’ll tell you: honesty is the best policy – but we all know that’s crap. There’s a reason you don’t tell your friend her new hair color makes her look like an angsty tween, ask your cousin if his Prius can outrun a Rascal mobility scooter, or nark on your amicable coworker when they show up to work late.

I’m not saying you should become a complete sociopath – just protect the people who are good to you. Because in that right, loyalty is far more valuable than honesty.

A.H.W.

Punishment Fits the Crime

Some things are so unpleasant your brain tries to block out any memory of them, I decide – tightening my grip on the porcelain rim of the toilet bowl as I feel my stomach turning itself inside out – but once you’re exposed to them again, all those painful memories come flooding back.

My nose and mouth burn as I empty the contents of my stomach into the water. I cough, sputter, and spit several times, before I slump back against the wall next to the bathtub. My nausea temporarily subsiding, I reach out and press down the handle, flushing the toilet. What used to be more than a few rounds of champagne, Jameson, and Yuengling all recede down into the plumbing.

I look across at my roommate Matt. He’s slumped against the bathroom counter on the opposite side of the toilet. We’ve been here the last hour or so.

Matt groans, and closes his eyes. “I-I’m so sorry,” he stammers. “Last night just- it just- it got so out of hand,” he manages.

“Don’t be an idiot, that was a guh, (I fight back the urge to vomit again,) great fucking party. Glad we went,” I assure him. I’m not lying either: we spent the evening – leading into the early hours of the morning – at a 1920’s themed house party, with themed drinks and music to boot.

Upon getting home, I had enough time to take off my dress shirt before I started retching, but I’m still wearing the wool pin-striped pants I picked up at the thrift shop. My suspenders have slipped off my shoulders, and are partially tangled around my arms. Matt’s fedora is laying in the bathroom doorway.

“My head. Is kuh-ill-ing me. And my stomach isn’t doin’ great either,” Matt groans again.

“We’ll survive,” I assure him. Although I’m not so sure myself: I feel another wave of nausea swelling in my stomach. I reach around into the tub behind me and turn on the shower. Just the sound gives me something else to think about for a moment.

“It was kinda worth it, wasn’t it?” Matt mumbles. “I mean, things finally happened with Liz right? You walked her home, did you…” He trails off, as I shake my head.

“I didn’t want to try anything tonight. We made out a few times during the party, but I’m not that kind of guy. I told her I’d call tomorrow, and I will. If we ever get through this morning, that is,” I reply. I edge myself closer to the toilet again, just in case.

“Man, how did we get so trashed?” Matt massages his temples.

I knew exactly how: a complete game of Cheers, Governor, followed by a few rounds of Civil War and Keep Drinking and Everybody Explodes – a game of our own creation. Then we shook all that liquor up with an hour or two of dancing.

“I shouldn’t have had the jungle juice,” Matt doubles over. It looks like he’s about to start throwing up again, but he steadies himself.

“I think that’s pretty fucking sound advice for any situation,” I laugh. “You know Tommy makes it with like, half Everclear, right? You’re lucky you aren’t in the E.R. right now.” A smile flickers across Matt’s face. His eyes are still shut tightly.

“I think I, we sh- ” he trails off, his head lolling to the side. I’m briefly concerned, until I hear Matt start to snore. He’s out cold.

My arms slip to my sides, and my head rests against the plexiglass shower door. I shiver, but my head hurts and I worry if I stand up to get warmer clothes, I’ll start heaving again. I decide to rest for a while right here.

As my stomach finally starts to settle down, I start reliving the highlights of the party in my head; dressing up, dancing to old music, drinking games with my closest friends. And of course there was Liz in her blue dress. The way she kept leaning in during our conversations, her face getting dangerously close to mine.

These thoughts make the current misery seem trivial. More than that, they make it seem fair, or justifiable. If every night out could be this fun, I would take the accompanying hangover with no complaints. If that’s the price paid for living in the moment, so be it.

A.H.W.

The Dawson Postulate

Theorem: The odds of you encountering any given person -most notably when walking around a corner, passing through a doorway, etc. – are in direct correlation with the amount of shit you are talking about them.

Dawson postulate

As you can see illustrated in Fig. 1, we can extrapolate that as the amount of shit-talking approaches its upper limit, the probability of encounter approaches one.

In my studies, I have found the Dawson postulate most often exemplified on cross-country track team work out runs.

The principle itself is named for Max Dawson – a snarky brown-noser who was often an object of ridicule for teammates. At 18, he was still a tattle-tail.

My teammates and I used to go on what we called, “Grievance Runs.” They’re about as cathartic as they sound. One person would simply state, “I have a grievance.” Once we were sure no one else was in ear-shot, someone else in the group would reply, “We are prepared to hear your grievance.”

Grievances could be something as vague as people who wear socks with sandals, or as oddly specific as people who wear long skirts but pull them up higher to make them more revealing. They can also be about a specific person. A large chunk of our grievances tended to center on the women’s track team. That was pretty much our only dating pool, since we spent most of our free time at practice.

The course we ran on involved many intersecting trails; we often turned a bend or crested a hill, only to find ourselves face-to-face with the subject of our grievance. And no matter who you were complaining about, rest assured if you ran into Max, he would run and tell. After more than a few laughably embarassing mishaps, we started to get careful.

As obnoxious as Max was, he taught an excellent lesson early on in my life, before it really mattered. When on the road, you never out-drive your headlights; when talking shit, never out-gossip your line of sight. Understanding that can be the key to saving friendships, marriages, and even careers.

A.H.W.