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Twice more in the night, I wake. Once it is to cold water as my foot inadvertantly slides on the bathtub wall and hits the dial. Disgusted, I turn off the water and roll over under my now partially soaked blanket to try and sleep.
The second time, I'm not sure what wakes me at first. I listen for a moment in the silence and then hear it again, a wheezing, choking cough, and I'm on my feet and in the main room before I realize that I'm moving. Even before I reach the couch I can smell the vomit, and the woman is still in the darkness even as I hear her gurgle and gasp. I grab her by the shoulders, cringing at the liquid warmth covering her and the stench, and pull her onto her side, head hanging over the edge, and her airway abruptly clears with a horrible sucking noise. She vomits again, unresisting in my hands, and I struggle to keep my own stomach down in response.
"Bzuh?" Shaye demands, jolting awake on the bed.
"Help me get her to the bathroom," I snap.
"What is that smell?" she demands.
"She's drowning, damnit, help me get her to the bathroom!" Even as I say this, we both can hear her struggle for air.
Shaye is suddenly there, helping me try to pull her to her feet, but she is unresponsive and limp. "She's out cold!"
"No shit," I say. "Fireman's carry, quickly before she can puke again."
"Gross." Shaye mutters, but she takes my hands and we manage a halfway decent carry. The woman weighs almost nothing, her head lolling against my shoulder, and she reaks of liquor even over the vomit. Her boot buckles catch at my arms, and I swear at her as we try to navigate the bathroom door. Both of us can't fit at once, so Shaye ends up carrying her to the toilet by herself, and I'm only a moment behind her. I pull the woman's hair clear of her face and we hold her upright as she vomits helplessly, occasionally choking. At last, she seems to finish, and I end up with my back to the tub holding her upright.
Through it all, she doesn't wake.
She fits comfortably in my arms, but the reek keeps turning my stomach. Shaye leaves us then, first washing up at the sink, then stalking out into the other room. The light flickers on.
"Damn it all! My shoes!" shrieks Shaye, and I sigh, looking down at the woman in my arms. We cleaned her face, but I don't think there is anything that will rescue her shirts. One of her necklaces has broken, scattering crystalline beads down her clothing and onto the floor. Her skirt has hiked up on one side, revealing quite a bit of fishnet and thigh. Absently, I pull it back down and straighten her leg into a more comfortable position.
Shaye stalks into the bathroom, throwing a pair of sneakers into the sink. "Ruined," she says.
I shrug. "I owe you shoes."
"Damn right you do." She sulks as she rinses them, her back to me, but I can see the anger in the line of her shoulders even if her expression is nuetral in the mirror. "We'll have to call room service," she finally says. "It's a mess out there."
"Yeah," I reply, and I don't have the words for anything else.
"You're a fool, you know that?" Shaye snaps suddenly.
"I'm sorry," I say, but I know it isn't enough. Sorry never is.
She's gone again in a moment, although I can hear her on the phone and then moving around the room. In time, I hear a knock at the door, and Shaye answers it. All that really matters though is that the woman in my arms is alive. I think of the sort of death drowning in your own vomit would be, and I shiver.
The woman responds to the slight movement, finally showing some sign of consciousness as she turns her face to me and sighs. One leg curls up towards her and her hand curls around mine. Trusting, so trusting in sleep.
I stare at the plumbing under the sink and wait for the dawn to save me.


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June 2009

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