I

You never should have agreed to let Milo stay at your apartment. You knew it when you were saying yes, you knew it when you were letting him sleep in your bed, you knew it when you were spooning him, but you couldn’t help yourself. You want to be around him all the time. You want to protect him all the time. You want to fuck him all the time.
II

You wake up to the sound of your phone vibrating against a hard surface. Your eyes are glued shut. Your head throbs with your heartbeat. Your mouth is dry and tastes like bile. You groan. Reaching blindly, you search for your phone with a heavy hand and knock it from the nightstand onto the floor, where it continues to vibrate too loudly despite the sound being muffled by plush carpet. It takes a moment for you to remember that the floor of your apartment isn’t carpeted. It takes a moment for you to realize that you’re not in your own bed, but a hotel bed, and you’re naked, and you don’t know how you got here. The realization triggers the same twisting sensation in your stomach that Milo has described to you many times as a symptom of his anxiety, as a physical manifestation of his unease, but this isn’t the first time - or even the second or third time - something like this has happened to you.

Mumbling expletives under your breath, you slowly push yourself up into a sitting position, gritting your teeth through the searing pain in your temples that accompanies even the slightest of movements. You rub the sleep from your eyes and force them open, inhaling sharply, squinting in the gray morning light creeping in through the curtains. Where the fuck are you? You peel the white bedclothes away from your sticky body and walk unsteadily to the window to look out. Downtown. Why the fuck are you downtown?

After you get your bearings, you retreat back into the cracked darkness of the room and retrieve your phone from the floor - which is littered with your clothes - to check the messages. In addition to a missed call and a few worried text messages from Milo, you have a missed call, an angry voicemail, and a series of threatening text messages from your drummer. It’s Wednesday and you’re missing band practice - again. Sitting on the edge of the bed, you decide to ignore your drummer and compose a response for Milo. You figure he’ll relay the message and you care more about putting his mind at ease than you do about defusing someone else’s bad mood anyway. I’m sorry, you type. I crashed at a friend’s. I won’t be at practice, but I’ll be home soon. You don’t have to worry. You’re lying to him, but you’ve been lying to him, haven’t you?

Tossing your phone aside into the sea of tangled sheets, you move to gather your clothes. When you’re searching for your tee shirt, you notice a piece of hotel paper on the nightstand: a note from whoever brought you here last night. It reads more like a telegram from the 1900s.
Hey, you—

Sorry to go. Got a flight to catch. Room is paid for. Left you a clean shirt and cab fare. Had fun. Be back in town soon. Call me.

—Guy You Picked Up At The Bar (971) 608-2016
You set the note down and discover that he left you a clean shirt because yours is a biohazard - covered in vomit and sealed in a plastic bag by the side of the bed - and he left you cab fare because your favorite jacket and the wallet you tucked in its only pocket without holes are missing. Great.
III

You look at yourself in the bathroom mirror. You can’t remember having sex with him any more than you can remember him bringing you to the hotel - or what he looks like, or which bar you picked him up at, or if that’s even true - but your swollen lips and purpling skin are enough to tell you that the night you spent with Guy You Picked Up At The Bar was nothing like the afternoon you spent with Berry Seltzer Girl. Your whole body aches in such a way that you can’t discern whether he fucked you or you fucked him, but he must have been physically stronger than you - or at least, more aggressive - to leave the marks he left. Your brow furrowed, you lift your hand up to run your fingers over the trail of bruises along your neck and collarbone, over the fragmented, red-violet handprints on your hips. In the past, you wouldn’t have minded carrying them as trophies, but this time it feels like sacred ground has been desecrated, like the faceless guy took the sweet memory of Milo’s soft hands and lips and marred it with his roughness. You hate that he did that. You hate that you let him do it.

Suddenly nauseated, you lean over the sink and stick your finger down your throat, hoping for vomit but only producing dry heaves. With bitter-tasting saliva dripping down your chin, you resign yourself to the fact that this is a feeling of disgust that can’t be remedied by puking, and you get into the shower, making the water as hot as your skin can bear before sinking to the floor and sitting under it, defeated. You hug your legs to your chest, squeeze your eyes shut, and rest your forehead on your knees, letting the water drench your hair and run in searing torrents down your back. Teetering on the edge of breaking down, you focus on breathing, inhaling through your nose for eight seconds, exhaling through your mouth for eight seconds, exhausting what little resistance you have left to prevent the dam inside you from breaking, to prevent it from letting all of the things you’ve fought so desperately to keep in spill out.

“It’s okay,” you say. “You’re okay.” Are you?

You make the mistake of opening your burning eyes to blurred vision, and after the first tear escapes, it becomes impossible to keep the others in. Your body convulses with violent sobs and you reluctantly surrender to them, allowing yourself to cry for the first time since the warm, summer night you slept with Milo - since the night you realized how fucking wrong you are about everything and decided to deal with it by not dealing with it, saturating your liver with alcohol and sticking your dick in every person willing to take it in a futile attempt to make your feelings go away, to get over it, to get over him. A lot of good that’s done you.

You’re lying when you tell yourself you don’t know why you didn’t start going to class, and going to work, and living your life with a few drinks in you until your senior year of college. Though your burgeoning alcoholism is nothing new, you exacerbated the problem by having sex with your best friend and coming to the terrible realization that you’re in love him. You’ve been in love with him, and it chills you to your core - not only because you know that it can never be, or because you know that no combination of substances and time will be able to change the way you feel regardless, but because the feeling lives in a part of you that is in no shape to keep anything alive - a part of you that has been dilapidated and uninhabitable your entire life. Simply put: you aren’t ready for this. You could never be ready for this.
IV

It’s nearly check out time when you, at long last, drag yourself out of the shower with reddened skin and reddened eyes. You dress in dirty underwear, socks, and jeans, but the guy’s shirt - a fancy pastel button-down you would never, ever choose to wear on any other day - smells clean, and while you don’t find the unfamiliar scent of his cologne or laundry detergent comforting, it does help to settle your stomach. Knowing that keeping it will only make you feel worse than you already do, you decide to leave the money he left for you for housekeeping and raid the mini bar instead, slipping two bottles of vodka into the front pockets of your jeans just as easily as you slip your feet into your boots. Before leaving the room, you crumple the guy’s note and throw it in the garbage with your vomit-covered tee shirt; as much as you appreciate his kindness, assuming he wasn’t an opportunistic thief or rapist, you never want to see him again.

You make your way out of the hotel with your head down, avoiding eye contact with staff and other guests as you navigate the labyrinthine halls and stairwells to the lobby and out the main doors. You step onto the sidewalk, grateful for the gloomy winter day, and fish in your back pocket for a pack of cigarettes and a lighter that are - thankfully - still there. You light a cigarette and take a few drags while you take in your surroundings, shivering, willing yourself to pull your shit together; you don’t do this. You don’t cry over anything. You don’t cry over anyone, not even your terminally unavailable, terminally uninterested best friend. You don’t fucking cry, period. When you’re confident that your bullshit can sustain you for long enough to make a call, you take out your phone and scroll through your contact list until you find the one person you know won’t ask questions.

“Hey,” you say when she answers, your voice so hoarse and your tone so uncharacteristically humble that it prompts her to ask if you’re okay. So much for that. You don’t know what to tell her. No? You clear your throat. “Yeah, I’m good, but I, um… need a favor. Are you busy? Could you come pick me up in a Lyft or something? I’m like, miles away from my apartment and I lost my wallet and I’m so fucking hungover this morning that I think if I have to walk that far, I’ll exsanguinate all over the sidewalk. Like, bleed out of my eyes and shit. I wouldn’t ask, but… I don’t know. I need help, I guess. I need your help.”

She asks for an address and her compassion makes your chest hurt.

“I’m downtown, outside the Marriott. Thanks,” you say, hanging up before the lump in your throat can betray how not okay you are.

Your body and mind are far from recovered from the events of the previous night, but already you find yourself craving the taste of the liquor in your pocket and the temporary relief it will bring, like antiseptic on a wound that needs to be cauterized, a hole in your heart. Your hands trembling, you light another cigarette, then another, while you wait for Nora and decide to blame your red eyes on smoking in excess if she asks about them. What’s one more lie to save face?
V

Why would anyone ask for this?