My head. That was the first thought that came to my mind as I opened my eyes. The sunlight pouring into the room was aimed straight at my face. I tried to cover it with my hand, but after a while it just made my arm feel all fuzzy, so I turned on my side. The bed felt strangely hard, and there was this weird smell in the air. I opened my eyes once again. A table leg. Interesting. That and the carpet covered with potato chips, beer cans and liquids of unknown origin tipped me off that perhaps this was not my bed. I did my best to sit up, trying to ignore the pain in my head. It wasn’t that bad. The table was tipped over and the carpet was a total mess, but aside from that, the room was relatively undamaged. The sun was pretty low over the horizon – it must’ve been early morning. I slowly turned my head to the right and saw two sleeping figures cuddling on the floor in front of the TV. The bearlike Ian lay flat on his back, his large gut pointing at the ceiling, his wide-framed glasses askew, bits of leftover food stuck in his beard. Embracing him was Freddie, who had his head on Ian’s chest, exposing one prominent ear. He had an empty beer can in one hand, while in the other he was clutching a Wii remote. My memory was still a bit hazy, but that little detail made me recall how they’d been playing something during my final waking moments, started arguing after one of them lost, and then a steamy make-out session commenced.
I stood up, swayed a bit and made my way towards the kitchen. I needed coffee. Badly. As I made my way through the narrow hallway, I tripped over something and almost fell down. It was a pale, thin, tattooed arm that extended from an unseen body in the bathroom. I took a peek inside and saw Brandi sprawled out on the floor in a black tank top and tattered jeans, her curly, platinum blonde hair forming a sort of halo around her skull. There was a small bruise on her forehead, another Wii remote lay by her side. Once again, the haze in my head cleared and I could see her triumphantly teasing Ian and Freddie after she’d beaten them at Mario Kart. Unfortunately for her, Freddie was a sore loser. I wondered whether it was the blow to the head with the controller or the booze that ultimately knocked her out.
After what felt like a long and arduous journey, I finally reached the kitchen. The morning sun blinded me once again. I held up my hand in front of my face. The space between the fingers was big enough for me to spot a shadowy silhouette standing in the light.
“Mornin’, Leo,” I heard a female voice say. As my eyes were very slowly getting used to the light, after a couple of seconds I was able to make out who was talking to me. Standing by the counter was Jess, her wavy black hair falling loose on her back as she smoked a cigarette. She was wearing the same white sundress she had on last night. She smiled at me. Her slanted gray eyes felt almost seductive as they fixed on me from beneath her straight bangs, the freckles on her pale face emphasized the how petite her nose was. Her full red lips made me recall that Ian and Freddie’s make-out wasn’t the only one that took place last night. “Here’s your coffee, crossword champion.”
“Ugh,” I grunted as I took the coffee mug she gave me. As I sipped on the disgusting black, muddy substance, my mind got steadily less fuzzy and the image of the woman standing before me became clearer and clearer. That dress wrapped quite tightly around her body, emphasizing certain curves Jess was particularly well endowed with. It took my brain nearly a minute to compute what she’d said to me. “Crossword champion?”
“Surprised? It’s the third month in a row that you’ve won,” she said as she rolled her eyes. “Martin went berserk. His face was so red I thought he was gonna explode.”
“Oh right, now I remember,” I said. I did remember. The party that had laid such waste among my friends was our monthly crossword get-together. “So I won again?”
“Yeah, though I’m not sure how legit that victory was. I mean, everyone was too wasted to tell the difference between real words and made-up ones. You convinced most of us. I say most of us. Martin flipped the table, grabbed Mia and went home.”
“Really? I can’t remember that.”
“Well, there you go,” she smiled at me and sent a hoop of smoke in my direction.
“By the way, why are you smoking in here? Didn’t I tell you you can’t do that here?”
“You told me last night it was OK if I smoked,” she raised an eyebrow.
“OK, rule #1: don’t listen to drunk me. He’s kind of an idiot. If the smoke detector goes off, the landlady’ll-”
“You turned it off yourself,” she said as she pointed to the smoke detector way up on the ceiling. “That was quite impressive, actually. I wouldn’t believe you were agile enough to do that if you told me. You don’t seem like the athletic type. Still, you looked pretty desperate to have it turned off.”
“I,” I started. I could feel my face get hotter and hotter. “Well, I guess that paid off then.”
“What do you mean?” she seemed genuinely puzzled.
“Um… I’m not making this up, right? I thought we… You know. Last night?”