I remember that day all too well. Nick and I had been fighting off and on for weeks prior to ‘the incident’. He had his cheap-thrill bimbo, whatever you wanted to call her. I was tired of his other women being thrown in my face so frequently. I told him I was out, I was gone. He told me that was fine, he had other women more than willing to do what he wanted, to be there when he wanted them there, and to leave when he told them to, who never got upset no matter where or with whom he spent the night. He told me, told me, I should just go running to John and hop into bed with him, that that would just be the perfect ending to our relationship, told me to hurry up and just get it over with already.
Well, John and I had been friends for awhile. I wouldn’t even have known him if not for Nick. Plus, Nick knew all too well John had always had a thing for me. John had always made it clear he would be there waiting for me whenever things went South with Nick and me.
Nick stormed out one door. I blew out another door. Each of us heading our own way, away from the other. You know John had to be the first one I ran into that night when I hit the bar scene seeking surcease from my misery.
I am a recovering alcoholic. I’d been clean and sober then for going on ten years. But, Nick was my soul, and I was lost. I was dead inside. I hated myself. I hated my life. Without him, nothing could ever be real or good again. I saw no hope. I did see that bottle of tequila though. John, being the dear friend he was, was not about to let me go chasing the worm all alone that night. Apparently, we really hit it hard. Really hard. We went out clubbing, dancing, way too much, way too close, grinding and clinging on dance floor after dance floor. We were seen kissing, by way too many people, kissing and groping one another. There was more than one bottle drunk that night between us, and they weren’t all tequila either. I have no clue what he gave me to swallow, or what we smoked. I just know some fool took pictures. Way more than one fool at that.
Of course, as per my usual, we ended up at my place after all was said and done. On the guest room bed. Michael, my room-mate, came in the next afternoon, since the door was shut tight. We never closed the bedroom doors unless we were trying to keep someone out. John and I were tangled up in a heap, both of us fully clothed, under the blankets. But, the smell of –everything—was all over that room, all over us. Bars. Smoke. Alcohol. I could smell a woman all over John. And all I knew for sure was that woman was not me. Even drunk, even stoned, there was no way I would betray Nick. I knew that.
Michael saw John and me in bed together, under the covers. He never knew we were fully clothed. I hit the shower instantly. I stayed in there for a long time, a very long time. So long Michael took it as an admission of guilt. The pictures of John and me all over each other made it everywhere. Oh yeah for the technological revolution, with its camera phones and email access, instant messaging. They came from so many people, too many sources. People who had supposedly been my friends too. Nick was more than furious with me. John didn’t fare much better, because he immediately awoke that afternoon and began to brag about how fantastic I was in bed and how I had more than lived up to all his fantasies and dreams. Nick gave him more than one bloody lip in the weeks that followed.
Usually when Nick and I fought, we ended up talking a few days later, if not the next day. This time, there was no reconciliation. After he came in screaming over the pictures and the blitz of hatred those had inspired, we were done, he assured me. If we happened upon one another, as we often ran in the same circles regardless due to our work, his face went corpse white, his eyes glazing over with anger and hatred. He couldn’t spit on me if I were on fire, not to save my life.
My best friend and savior Michael turned on me, barely speaking to me. His boyfriend Padraic leered and pandered to me, trying to convince me I should bed him next. I couldn’t stand to be in my own home anymore most of the time. I ended up spending more and more time at my studio, trying to work on my sculptures, sleeping on the floor when things got too tough to try to keep standing. Nick was my muse. Without him, I was lost.
Fast forward, through all my hurt and pain and shame and degradation, to Nick, engaged to some stupid heiress type. Michael insisted on taking me to Nick’s engagement party, to help me get over Nick at last, he claimed as he dragged me along, kicking and complaining the whole way. John was there, a man I hadn’t talked to since he had ruined my life. On his arm was this fluffy little vixen with hair done up like a poodle. Mandy? Mindy? I never remembered her name. I knew she was a drinker and a drugger and a partier. I knew she and John had been an on again-off-again thing for nearly a year. She and John came together, arm in arm, stoned or drunk or both. Who knew? I didn’t care.
Nick and Jenny. The happy couple. If he were so happy, why did he keep staring at me like that, with that smoldering hunger way back in his eyes? I hadn’t thought Nick and John were still talking. I didn’t understand why John and that girl of his had shown up to this little soiree. It was almost funny when John started in on Nick about me. John loved to rub in the fact that he had slept with me. Until Mindy/Mandy spoke up, chirping that John had never slept with me. She reminded John, and told the rest of her rapt audience, that he had called her and had her come over to my place after I had passed out on the couch when we got home that night. After she and John had had sex, she had helped him put me in the guest bed before she had gone home to whatever man she’d been dating and sleeping with at the time. She even told everyone that they hadn’t undressed me because John was afraid I would hate him the next morning if I were disrobed in any way.
Jaws dropped. The room, which had been buzzing softly, full of about a hundred of Nick and Jenny’s best friends, went dead silent. Even the fly on the wall shut up, and fell off the wall. I was crying. I could have kissed that little sleaze for her god-awful flapping mouth. Nick’s look of utter horror just about broke my heart. John actually had to sit down so crippled was he by the discovery of his failure to bed me. I wasn’t the only one crying. Michael stood behind me, his arms wrapped around me, whispering apologies into the back of my head. Mindy/Mandy kept jabbering on, giving all sorts of details and explanations and who knew what else, because everyone had stopped listening to her. All eyes were on Nick …and me.
Nick actually took Jenny’s hand off his arm and took a step away from her. She tried to restrain him, but he shook her off with a coldness that shocked her into silent submission. He took one step towards John, who now sat with his head in his hands, bent over sobbing brokenly. I couldn’t see Nick’s face as he stood there gawking at the man who was once his best friend since childhood. The man who had devastated my life and taken away the one true love of my life and my soul. Nick shook his head once as if to clear it before walking right over to me. Michael released me before Nick reached me, pushing me forward somewhat so that I might meet Nick part-way. Nick didn’t pause, didn’t say a word. He scooped me up in his arms, his lips finding mine. I couldn’t move at first, then I responded to him, hesitantly, then more vividly. I kissed him back, the way he was kissing me, as if my life depended upon it. My arms encircled his neck. He carried me out of the room, out of the building. We were soon in the limo that had been reserved for Jenny and him. He slid me into the back seat as the driver opened the door at our approach. Nick took a second to tell the driver where to take us. Then he was there beside me, holding me tight against him, cuddling me on his lap as if I were a small child.
I don’t remember a word he said that entire ride. All I know is tears kept falling. Mine. His. Mingling together. Striking my cheek, pooling together and staining the blouse I was wearing. We were together again. Reunited. Nothing else mattered to me. Not in the least.