a drunken “i love you”

“Let’s go on the balcony, it’s cool out there.” He took my hand as we walked toward the shuttered door, but I still had to pat the couch so that I didn’t stumble in my drunken state. The base was muted and the flashing lights ceased as I shut the door behind us. The air felt lighter than the denseness of partiers’ breath that filled the not-so-well air-conditioned apartment. It was Nathan’s roommate’s twenty-first birthday and everyone was drinking like there was no tomorrow.

Six months ago I’d been standing on this same balcony while another party went on inside, only that time I was sober wondering what the heck I was doing. I had walked into an unfamiliar and, at the time, unpleasant world that night. All the young drunk men looked threatening to me. The alcohol looked immoral and the whole gathering unprincipled. But I came anyways to wish Nathan a happy twenty-first birthday and, moreover, to get a better idea of who he was.

Moments ago, or maybe an hour ago, a friend from school had introduced me to his new girlfriend he’d been raving about for a week. She looked a little scared, and stood stalk still next to him. I tried to make a good impression, but I could hear that I was talking too loudly and apologized at least once for touching her arm too much. It wouldn’t matter how many times I said, “Don’t let this freak you out, Taylor is a really good guy”, the party was still going to change the way she looked at him just as it had with Nathan back in May.

Even through my drunkenness, I was stingingly aware that I had become one of those people I had been scared of, I realized as I looked out over the balcony. I smiled because it was amusing and disheartening at the same time and nothing was to be done about it. If the balcony railing was shorter, just by a few feet, with the way I was swaying, I would probably fall over. Another deeply despondent thought that was somehow amusing now. The balcony door creaked open, the shutters clanging as it shut.

“Hey, what’s up man?” Or something to that effect was said. Jack appeared on the other side of Nathan as if by teleportation. He was a skinny, average height guy with blonde hair. When I first met Jack , he had seemed confrontational. Now I understood, or maybe just rationalized, his blunt and crass behavior as a defense to the world.

“You know that guy Juan brought with him?” Nathan indicated he was unsure. “The monkey looking guy,” a typical crass comment from Jack. “Well he was hitting on Kelley,” Jack’s girlfriend, “but I told him to fuck off and we’re good now”. I think that’s how the conversation went. At that point I was feeling dizzy and sick.

“Why didn’t he hit on me?” I blurted out. Jack leaned forward, his dilated pupils framed by a furrowed brow, though only after leaning forward with a straight face for several seconds; again the type of odd, somewhat obnoxiously intimidating thing Jack did. “Do you want him to hit on you?” Although I didn’t look at Nathan, I could tell he was angry by his not speaking.

Alcohol makes your inhibitions fade. You say things and do things you would normally only think about doing. I did not believe this before that night, the second time I’d ever been drunk. Nathan had told me it would happen the first time, but I assumed it was more of a social clearance rather than a real effect of alcohol. I didn’t want the Monkey Guy to hit on me, I just wondered why he hadn’t. Was there something about Kelley guys liked that I didn’t have? Was I not short enough? Were my boobs not big enough? Was she just all around cuter than me?

Jack left and I could tell Nathan was annoyed. “Why do you want him to flirt with you?”

“I didn’t! I just want to know why he didn’t.” I was bent over, looking at the concrete balcony under my Nike’s at that point. I think he asked again and I gave the same explanation. He remained miffed. I couldn’t care much right then though because I was starting to feel really sick. “Nathan, I feel sick,” I said a few times. “You need to throw up”.

At Nathan’s birthday party in May, while I was still bewildered by the flashing lights and loud drunk men, he’d introduced me to his friends. I didn’t remember any of them or their names because I was still taking in the whole thing, thinking about what it said about Nathan. I did remember one guy, Mike. As he reached out to shake my hand, he had diverted, throwing up all over the couch next to me. What a bum. How irresponsible could you be? Why would you drink to that extent? Is what I had thought. Now, ironically, I was that person at Mike’s twenty-first birthday party.

I felt the burning at the back of my throat and leaned over the balcony. It was all liquid, pinkish I think. “There you go. Keep going,” Nathan said. Why was he being nice to me, even now, while I was sick and ugly and he was still annoyed with me for what he was always bothered by, my looseness. A string of spit hung from my mouth, but I couldn’t take my hands off the railing to get it off, so I just tried to spit harder. I was disgusted and disappointment in myself.

We talked for a minute, but I can’t remember about what. Throwing up maybe. Then about the Monkey Guy again. “But you don’t even like me,” is all I really remember from that conversation, something Nathan had said many times. “No, I love you.” He didn’t say anything. My drunk self wasn’t concerned. I did. I really did. He was so accepting and open and steady. I’d never felt so strongly for someone.

It was only midnight or so, but we decided to go to bed. I walked past the beer pong table, into the kitchen, loosing Nathan somewhere along the way. Jack and Mike were bantering next to the kitchen table. “Jessica!” one of them shouted. They were both standing very close to me, yelling something. I tried to step away toward Nathan’s room, but a chair blocked my way and the table was at my back. I could feel myself starting to cry, so I squished up my face and forced my way through.

After stumbling down the hall, I entered Nathan’s room. It was quieter and calmer, but he wasn’t there. I turned around and started crying. Mike walked in, “Hey, it’s okay.” How obviously had I been upset in the kitchen for him to have followed me? He started hugging me loosely. I tucked my arms into my sides, “Why are you hugging me? Where’s Nathan?” I could hear how childish I sounded, but it was all just spilling out.

“What’s going on here?” Nathan’s tall frame was blocking the light of his doorway.

“Nothing, man. I just saw she was upset.” He put his hands up as if he was a teenager, proving to the store clerk he hadn’t stolen anything, and backed out of the room.

“No, Nathan, I was looking for you and you weren’t here.” He looked furious. Shit. He’s never going to trust me. He’s going to think I’m some kind of whore forever. Nathan still looked mad. I think I tried to hug him. We got in bed and he took my socks off.

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