Jesus. I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath.
Okay, okay, I told myself, just think for a second. I looked around me for any distinguishing details that might clarify what, exactly, had happened since the last thing I remembered, which was me and Dexter at the phone booth. There was a window to my left, along the sill of which there was what appeared to be a series of snow globes. A chair across the room was covered with clothes, and there was a bunch of CDs stacked in piles beside the door. Finally, at the end of the bed, in a pile, were my sandals, the sweater I’d been wearing around my waist, and my money and ID. Had I put them there? No way. Even drunk, I would have folded them. I mean, please.
Suddenly I heard someone laugh, and then a few guitar chords, playing softly.
“You gave me a potato,” someone sang, as there was another snort of laughter, “ but I wanted a kumquat… I asked you for lovin’… You said -hey, wait, is that my cottage cheese?”
“I’m hungry,” someone protested. “And the only other thing in here is relish.”
“Then eat the relish,” another voice said. “The cottage cheese is off limits. ”
“What’s your problem, man?”
“House rules, John Miller. You don’t buy food, you don’t eat. Period.”
A refrigerator door slammed, there was a second of silence, and then the guitar started up again. “He’s such a baby,” someone said. “Okay. So where were we?”
“Kumquat.” This time I recognized the voice. It was Dexter.
“Kumquat,” the other voice repeated. “So…”
“I asked you for lovin’,” Dexter sang. “You said, do what?”
I pushed off the blankets that were covering me, got out of the bed, then put on my shoes. For some reason, this made me feel better, more in control. Then I stuck my ID back in my pocket, slipped on my sweater, and sat down to think.
First off: the time. No clock, but I could see what looked like a tangled phone cord poking out from under the bed, half buried under a couple of shirts. This place was a mess. I dialed the time and temperature number, listened to the five-day forecast, and then found out it was, at the tone, 12:22 A.M. Beep.
It was really bothering me that the bed wasn’t made. But it wasn’t my problem. I needed to get home.
I dialed Jess’s number and bit my pinky nail, awaiting the inevitable wrath.
“Remy Starr. I am so going to kick your fucking ass.”
“Hey, okay, but listen-”
“Where the hell are you?” She was wide awake now, managing to sound totally pissed and keep her voice down at the same time. Jess was multitalented. “Do you know that Chloe has been on me for the entire night about you? She said she dropped you at Bendo for one beer at eight-thirty, for God’s sake.”
“Well, see, I ended up staying a little bit longer.”
“Clearly. And I ended up driving there to look for you, hearing that you were not only drunk but also in a fight and, to top it off, had left with some guy and completely disappeared. What the hell are you thinking, Remy?”
“I understand that you’re mad, okay? But right now I just need to-”
“Do you think I enjoy repeated phone calls from Chloe telling how if you’re dead or something it’s my fault because, obviously, I was supposed to have some kind of psychic connection that would enable me to know I was supposed to pick you up without the benefit of a phone call?”
This time, I was quiet.
“Well?” she snapped.
“Look,” I said, whispering. “I screwed up. Big time. But right now I’m at this guy’s house and I need out and please can you just help me?”
“Tell me where you are.”
I did. “Jess, I really-”
Click. Okay, well, now we could both be pissed at me. But at least I was getting home.
I walked to the door and leaned against it. The guitar music was still going, and I could hear Dexter singing that line about the potato and kumquat, again and again, as if waiting for inspiration to strike. I inched the door open a little more, then peered through the crack. I could see right into the house’s kitchen, where there was a beat-up Formica table with a bunch of mismatched chairs, a fridge covered with pictures, and a brown-and-green-striped couch pulled up against the back window. Dexter and the guy I recognized as Ted, the guitarist, were sitting at the table, a couple of cans of beer between them. The dog I’d met earlier, Monkey, was asleep on the couch.
“Maybe kumquat isn’t the right word,” Dexter said, leaning back in his chair-a wooden one painted yellow-exactly the way your teachers in school always told you not to, balancing on the back legs. “Maybe we need another kind of fruit.”
Ted picked at the guitar’s strings. “Such as?”
“Well, I don’t know.” Dexter sighed, pulling both hands through his hair. It was so curly this just added volume, springing loose as he let his arms drop. “What about pomegranate?”
Ted cocked his head to the side, then strummed another chord. “You gave me potato but I wanted a nectarine…”
They looked at each other. “Terrible,” Dexter decided.
I shut the door back, wincing as it made a tiny click. It would have been bad enough to face Dexter after what had-or hadn’t-happened. But the thought of there being someone else there was enough to make a full-on window escape necessary.
I crawled up on the bed and pushed the snow globes-God, who over the age of ten collected snow globes?-aside, then undid the latch. It stuck at first, but I put some shoulder in it and up it went, rattling slightly. Not much space, but enough.
One arm through, about to start wriggling, I had a small but noticeable pang of guilt. I mean, he had gotten me to a safe place. And, judging by the taste in my mouth and past experience, it was highly likely that I had puked at some point. Since I didn’t remember getting there, he must have had to drag me. Or carry me. Oh, the shame.
I dropped back down on the bed. I had to do something decent here. But Jess was on her way and I didn’t have many options. I looked around me: not enough time to straighten up the room, even though my fast cleaning skills were legendary. If I left a note, that was an open invitation to get back in touch with me, and honestly I wasn’t sure I wanted that. There was nothing else to do but make the bed. Which I did, quickly and thoroughly, with hospital corners and the pillow trick that was my trade secret. Even at the Four Seasons they couldn’t do better.