Throw Up

Part I of something larger.

There’s vomit on the windshield. It’s also all over the back of Margie’s seat, and on Nick’s sleeve where only I can’t see it. I don’t want to see where Philip’s bile has landed on me. Philip can’t believe what he’s just done. He won’t stop telling his hands that he isn’t drunk.

“Oh my god,” he says again. “I can’t believe that just happened.”

“Should I pull over?” Nick asks. He holds the wheel as if he might make a sharp turn at any moment.

“Yes, pull over, hon’,” Margie says from the passenger seat. She touches her hand to his arm, and he noticeably relaxes as he eases off the highway into the next rest stop. He pulls into a spot between a minivan and a Prius, both with barking dogs in the back. It feels like we’ve stepped in the middle of a conversation.

I’m glad to climb out of the car when Nick steps out and lets his seat jerk forward with the push of a button. Margie lets Phil out on her side. He stumbles out, still apologizing. I catch Marg and Nick exchange a glance, similar to the one they exchanged when Phil arrived smelling like weed and speaking with the familiar inflection associated with his intoxication.

I walk quickly toward the concrete building where the men’s and women’s bathrooms stare at one another. The gaping doors yell obscenities in the form of powerful flushing toilets and hand dryers that blast long after the room has emptied. The smell of Philip’s vomit has me nauseated, and I stand in the stall, bracing myself against the wall, making a note to scrub the side of my arm in addition to my hands when I leave.

I hear Margie cough in the stall next to me.

“You all right, hon?” she says. Her feet shuffle against one another.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine, thanks.”

She’s quiet and is no longer peeing, so I know she’s debating whether to say something else to me.

“Is he drunk?” she asks.

“I guess.” I lean my head against the wall. “I could smell it on him when he got in the car.”

“Yeah,” she says. She sighs as though she’s been hiding her own observation since she made it.

I don’t say anything else to her, just sit there waiting for her to pull her jeans up and leave the bathroom. I want to ask her if we can turn the car around, if she’ll drop us off at the nearest bus station where we can take the next bus back to Boston. But we’re in the middle of Connecticut, exactly where, I’m not sure, on our way to her sister’s wedding. The last thing she wants to do – perhaps after cleaning up Philip’s vomit from the backseat of her boyfriend’s car – is drive the other direction from where her little sister is getting ready for one of the biggest days of her life.

“I’m going to go wait at the car,” Marg says. “Take your time.”

I’m glad to be left alone, but when I step out of the stall, Marg is still standing in the bathroom, staring at herself in the mirror.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asks. We make eye contact in the mirror.

“Well, aside from not wanting to climb back into that car with my own husband and being embarrassed beyond what I’d thought possible,” I say, breaking eye contact, “I think I’ll be all right.”

“There’s nothing for you to be embarrassed about,” she says. She feels for her words, trying to be polite without relieving me of responsibility at the same time. “Is he getting help?”

“Well, if he was, it wouldn’t appear to be working.”

She nods and pulls a piece of paper towel from the dispenser. “I’m going to wait in the car.”

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