by Rachel Creager Ireland

So there was this one time when she was in high school, she was partying in a dorm room with some college guys, who were giving her and her girlfriends some kind of greenish mixed drinks they called bullfrogs. They were generous with the liquor, not at all concerned that the girls would drink it all. At some point she found herself alone in the room. Everyone had gone off to another dorm room, but she hadn’t left with them, probably too queasy to move. Finally she dragged herself off the bed and up the hall looking for her friends, but halfway there she barfed all over the floor. It was right by the lounge, where a college girl was watching TV on a couch, and the college girl said, “That’s gross! Are you gonna clean that up?” and she said, “Yeah, I will. I’ll clean it up.” And not because you yelled at me. The other girl obviously didn’t believe her, but they both knew there was no point in arguing. You don’t know me, girl with acne watching TV in your dorm on Saturday night. Just because I’m a teenager wearing too much make-up and jewelry and barfing drunk with some boys whose names I already don’t remember, doesn’t mean I’m the kind of person who would leave my own barf stinking on the floor. She went back down the hall to the room she’d come from. Naturally there were no cleaning rags on hand; the best she could find was a bath towel hanging on a rack above a sink. She hated to use what might be the guy’s only bath towel, but wouldn’t it be worse to leave barf all over the floor? So she took it up the hall to the lounge, and wiped up everything she could find, taking extra care because she was so drunk she was sure to do a sloppy job. She went back down to the room and rinsed the towel in the sink, and because her mother had taught her that you never wipe a spill with just a dry towel, you always go back over it with a damp one to get all the sticky residue, she took the towel up the hall again and wiped the floor so thoroughly that Nerdy Girl finally said, “That’s good, thank you.” Then she went down to the room and hung the towel back on the rack by the sink, feeling slightly regretful that she’d used a good bath towel to wipe barf off the floor.

This was not the last of her partying days. She continued through high school, college, and well into her twenties, after she’d fallen in love and married.  She didn’t clean up her act until she had children, two beautiful, brilliant daughters, at which time she was surprised to notice that she didn’t really miss partying at all. Long after the children were old enough to sleep on their own, she would lie down between them at bedtime, their heads one on each of her arms, until they fell asleep. Listening to their breath, she would entertain herself by thinking about old times, giggling silently to herself when she imagined that guy—the one in the dorm, feeding mixed drinks to underage girls in his room, yeah that shithead—waking up hungover, blearily stumbling to the sink, reaching out for his only towel and finding it clammy and—she can only hope–still stinking of barf and alcohol.

Wined Towel