Looking Back

By G.B. Salinger

Texts from my ex.

Winter Break 2010

I stop working around eleven. I want to do something to wind down, and end up watching Tivoed episodes of the Colbert Report for about an hour. I return to my room to find three text messages on my cell phone.

Janice: (11:37) Hey! What are you up to?

(12:07) Would it be ok if I came over?

(12:12) Steeeeve!

I do want her to come over. It would be nice to have another body in the bed. But I’m immediately suspicious: Her texts leave the telltale marks of an inebriated mind, and I want to get up early the next day. Any response will probably guarantee a shitty day tomorrow.

Steve: (12:20) Hey, what’s up?

Janice: (12:24) Hey! I’m out with will$ bree. And bjay. What are you up to?

Quite drunk, yes. I settle in to bed, and hope she’ll be dissuaded by my lack of enthusiasm.

Steve: (12:24) About to go to bed

Janice: (12:27) Aw ok. Can I come over?

Aw ok??? Hint deflected I guess.

I sit in bed and try to decide if I should let her come over. It will be awkward tomorrow morning when I have to explain to my parents that we really aren’t a couple anymore. And besides, this will definitely throw my day off. On the other hand, my parents are pretty polite. And it’s the very start of winter break: a winter break I’m spending with my folks and a town full of people I don’t know anymore. In short, I really don’t have much hope of getting laid for the next month or so.

Steve: (12:31) Sure, but try to get here soon if you can. I was hoping to get up early tomorrow.

Hmm…second thoughts already.

Janice: (12:34) Me too. Okay. I’ll let you know when I’m outsid$

I settle in to read for a bit. I kill time, trying to avoid reexamining this decision. Anxious and groggy, I check the clock frequently – but receive no message. Where is this girl?

What can I say that won’t be too rude? Should I even worry about that?

Steve: (12:54) Hey, are you almost here? i really do need to go to bed

She’s definitely not on the “waking up early” bandwagon right now. This WILL fuck up my day. OK, abort! I should just ask her if she’s drunk, and if she is, tell her not to come over. Simple.

Janice: (12:56) Okay, we’re leaving noq

Drunk drunk drunk! And what the fuck? They haven’t left yet?

Janice: (12:56) Noew*

HAHAHA. But fuck! OK, I’ll just ask. Hopefully she’ll take the hint.

Steve: (12:58) Janice, i hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but are you drunk? If so, I’m not sure this is the best idea

Janice: (1:03) No I’m not. I’m fine

Well played sir. Um…that’s all I’ve got.

And now I’m pissed. This is definitely a bad idea. I should not go through with this, but I’m also pretty sure this would all become a “thing” if I’m any more direct about not wanting her here. Why do I care so much about making things?

Janice: (1:12) I’m already on my way

OK, not sure why that was helpful…I thought we already established this.

Steve: (1:13) Are you almost here?

Janice: (1:14) Yes, I’m stopping at 711 first

GHAAAAA!!! Who does that? Fuck, tomorrow is looking less and less promising.

OK, let’s just launch a full frontal assault.

Steve: (1:27) I really need to go to bed. I didn’t expect this to take so long. are you going to be here in the next five minutes?

Pretty direct. No way to get around that one.

Janice: (1:29) Yes

Oh, you always know what to say my drunken silver tongue. Well, it’s 1:34, and you are not here. That is a broken promise for sure. I guess I can just call the whole thing off and still seem totally reasonable.

Janice: (1:35) In here


I wait by the door in my pajama pants with my shirt off. The air is cold, and as I wait for her I can feel my anger build. I force myself to accept the situation. This is happening; there’s nothing to be done now but try to enjoy it. I did tell her she could come over knowing that she was drunk. I knew what I was getting myself into. I could have said no. I wrestle with these thoughts in the dark cold of my parent’s entryway.

Finally she appears around the corner. A white car speeds away – a car full of people I know well enough to feel somewhat embarrassed given the less than classy circumstances.

Janice: (1:36) *I’m here

I usher her inside. I try to muster pleasantries, but can’t find the words. She starts talking about her work, how she got in trouble for staffing some event incorrectly. I grunt in response. She can tell I’m annoyed, and says “go, go. Go to bed.” I can’t articulate my thoughts without sniping at her, so I refrain from speaking.

The way she slurs her words and fumbles with her clothing as she gets undressed confirms all my suspicions.

We get in bed together. I pull her close, she holds my hand and falls asleep quickly. After a few minutes I fall asleep as well.

I wake up extremely horny and in better spirits. I remind myself that she made an honest mistake; it’s not her fault for being here. I could have said no.

I start rubbing her body and kissing her neck. She doesn’t respond except to breathe a bit harder. After a few minutes of effort I give up.

Did she not want this after all? Maybe she just wanted to lie with me for the night. Maybe she has the same fears I do about leading the other on, getting too attached. Something about this thought is oddly comforting – maybe she really can hold this all in perspective. Maybe we actually see eye to eye on this whole thing.

I try kissing her again. I really want it. But still, she makes no motion to indicate she has noticed.
Then it dawns on me: She is completely passed out. She is not demurring out of some sense of measured restraint – she has absolutely no idea what’s going on whatsoever. I can’t fucking believe how drunk she’s let herself get!

All the COOP training I’ve sat through rushes into my head and I realize this situation is more than just a nuisance. I lean over her and do what I can to bring her to consciousness. I manage to rouse her enough to open her eyes and mutter some words, but she falls back to sleep almost immediately.

My anger returns, replacing any affection I had felt. I lay in bed, trying to sleep, but am constantly distracted by her loud, yawning gasps for breath. At least she’s probably not about to die.

Her body is taking up the better part of the bed, but I don’t feel comfortable pushing her over with the force it would take to move her. I lay there awkwardly, unable to sleep for about an hour.

As I stare at the ceiling, I weigh my options: I can kick her out of bed and just deal with whatever that turns into; I can get up myself and kill time until the morning; or I can just grit my teeth and do my best to sleep – I am pretty tired. While I’m working this all out she begins to snore, and to occasionally flail her arms about the bed. I jump up, unsure of my next step, but sure that I can’t sleep anywhere near this undulating mess of sweaty breathing.

I spend the next few hours killing time and wondering if I should just kick her out. I’m still a bit concerned about her level of intoxication, so I don’t want to leave her alone for too long.

I do my best to get some work done. I turn on the lights as I work. I do this to spite her: If the light disturbs her, it will bring me a sick pleasure – and if it doesn’t, it will confirm the legitimacy of my anger even further – which would also bring me a sick pleasure, of course.

At four she gets up and goes to the bathroom. When she returns, she goes back to sleep. I make a brief attempt to revive her again, and ask her to leave. I hold up her clothes to her, tapping her face, pulling the covers off. She mutters something without opening her eyes.

I just can’t bring myself to the level of aggression it would take to wake her up and shove her out the door. I’m gonna have to wait until six. An arbitrary number, but better than four? Hopefully she’ll sober up by then at least.

At six I do wake her up. She’s extremely disoriented, and seems genuinely surprised when I tell her what time it is. I’m fully dressed, and she asks why I’m already awake. I shush her, and tell her we’ll talk in the car.

She dresses in silence as I wait for her with an effected air of patience. Finally we leave the house, and drive off into the early dawn.

I wait for her to ask her questions, knowing that I can’t let her leave the car without explaining myself, but still not too eager to make my thoughts plain. Finally she asks: why are you already awake? I tell her simply “you were breathing very hard, and I couldn’t sleep.” After some time she asks why we’re leaving so early. I tell her that I need to get some sleep, and I don’t want my parents to be confused by her presence in the morning. More silence. I know this is a cruel thing to say. But it’s more or less the truth.

We drive on. I know she’s mad. I tell her that I’m sorry for my poor hospitality, but that I’m a little mad at her. I mean, she had shown up to my house late and drunk after I had asked her not to. Well, at least the drunk part.

What the fuck? Did I actually just use the phrase “poor hospitality.” Yes. I did. To this she bitingly responds: “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you lose sleep.” The inflection lays heavily on the “sorry.” That’s what makes it biting I guess.

I pull up next to her house and tell her we should get dinner with her sister.

She agrees, and gets out. I wait in the car as she looks for her keys. After a minute I get out and go to her. She’s still fumbling. She tells me I can go, but I’m unwilling to leave her until she finds them. I know this annoys her, but it’s freezing, and I suspect she’s still drunk. Finally she finds them. I hug her, and leave.

About three minutes from home she calls me again, saying I hadn’t told her what happened yet. Yes I did, I impatiently reply. I told you exactly what happened. She doesn’t believe me. There must have been more too it.

She’s really upset – am I ducking responsibility if I say I’m just the focal point of this tantrum? I explain again, exactly why I did what I did. She tells me I’m being an asshole, and responds with more biting sarcasm. She really knows where to place her inflection. She won’t accept my explanation – that I just wanted to sleep and I couldn’t with a drunk girl in my bed. I must be playing mind tricks to fuck with her. I must have a concealed desire to maliciously abuse her.

The conversation ends when I tell her I’ll call for dinner.

This upset is every bit as painful and horrible as I thought it might be.

I return home to my bed. I seethe as I finally fall asleep.

Janice: (10:49) I left my chapstick in your room 😦 sorry for coming over inebriated.
Why do I take drunk people’s upsets seriously? Why do I take anyone’s upsets seriously? They just change their meaning in a few hours anyway.
We go to dinner with her sister the next day. Everything is as fine as it ever was.

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