I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time with Brittney this week. Days are school, evenings are often spent ignoring my responsibilities to hang with her. Tuesday evening we “snuck out” of school early at 5:00 so that we could go buy groceries for our inaugural weekly dinner cooking. Wednesday … why was I there again? Oh, we made tacos just on the spur-of-the-moment. Of course that eventually entailed drinking beer, which led to vodka. I was really tempted to stay the night and I’m sure Brittney wanted me to, or at least not leave as early as I did (10), but I had stuff back at school that I HAD to do. She wasn’t pleased to see me go.
Normally I don’t drink on weeknights and I paid the penalty the next day. I went over Thursday because Brittney had had a shitty day plus we needed to figure out what she’d be wearing for Saturday’s “Winter Wonderland” party that Courtney was hosting. We had drinks again, but this time Brittney invited over her favorite student Anna, who brought her hookah. That changed the dynamic. Anna reminds Brittney of her younger self so they were clicking in an almost sisterly way, listening to their reggaeton music, and talking about students in their class, etc. I felt a little excluded, but whatever. I was still pretty tired from the night before so I was holding back on the booze; trying to drink just enough to be fun, but not so much that it would compound my fatigue the next day. Brittney was going strong and having fun though.
We headed out to find coals for the hookah or something. Brittney let me drive. The tires on her car were seriously low. When I’d arrived that evening I’d noticed and told myself that I should air them up before I left. Brittney needled me a bit about my driving, even though she was getting us lost on the way to the head shop. As we pulled into the shop’s parking lot, we heard a distinct pop. We bought our stuff and came back out. I could tell the tire was dead flat and that we should fix it then and there. Brittney still wanted to get booze plus she needed to pee. I told her that she and Anna should walk to the nearby RaceTrac while I fixed the tire. She said it was driveable and since it was her car, that’s what we did.
By the time we got to RaceTrac, the tire had come off the rim so there was no hope of a quick fix. That’s when my mood officially soured. Brittney wasn’t dressed properly so she stayed in the car with the heater and her phone and the beer while I struggled with the tire. Her tools were all messed up and cheap. I was pissed because I was having to deal with the problem she’d been ignored for who knows how long, tired and cold, while she was in the car texting and drinking. Eventually we had to enlist the help of three other drivers to assemble the necessary tools to get the tire replaced. It must have taken us at least an hour to get the spare on. Brittney was good at approaching these strangers and getting them to help. She thanked them all as they left, even offering to share some of the beer with them.
We drove back. I knew I was in a grumpy mood and so did the girls. Brittney told me to “loosen up.” I was aware that I was being a grump, but I couldn’t let go of the fact that Brittney had thanked everyone EXCEPT me. It annoyed me that her main focus was on maintaining her buzz and enjoyment. While walking through the parking lot to her apartment I made a clumsy joke as I attempted to get back in the mood of the evening. Brittney snapped at me and that exhausted the last of my patience. When she told me to use the keys to open the gate, I told her I would if she would tell me thank you for working on the car. She replied with something like, “Fuck that, just open the gate!” I replied, “Okay, I’ll remember this,” to which she responded, “Yeah, I’ll remember this too.” I don’t know if she was replying in kind to my budding anger, or just drunkenly echoing my words. In either case I knew my fun was over for the night.
I left a few minutes after we got inside. There was no way I’d be able to get back on their wavelength. I don’t know what Anna thought of the whole thing, but I didn’t concern myself with her too much. I hadn’t brought her into our evening. Brittney tried calling and texting after I left but I really wasn’t in the mood to talk to her. Despite being very fatigued, I wasn’t able to sleep well that night. The after-effects of drinking plus my mood kept me from resting. I couldn’t figure out if my emotions were warranted, or based on fatigue and booze and were out-of-line.
Her first text Friday morning was to thank me for my help, but I was no longer interested in hearing it. It’s easy to do the right thing when you’re sober, but your real personality shows when you’re drunk. Eventually she dragged out of me the condensed version of my side of the previous evening. She didn’t get defensive or anything, which surprised me. She sincerely apologized and although normally I hate telling people how they’ve hurt my feelings, I really did feel better after I’d gotten it off my chest. We didn’t talk about it any further. Although I still wanted to make sure I’d explained myself clearly, I was also pretty self-conscious about having this sort of conversation. And after Brittney’s humble apology, I couldn’t in good conscience push the matter any further.
Our planned cooking had been pushed back to that Friday night. I was still pretty exhausted and when I got to Brittney’s place it appeared that she was pretty tired too, but we stuck with our plan. I think we both would’ve liked to have taken the evening off, but I think we both felt that we needed to patch over the misunderstanding from the night before. So we didn’t have as much fun as we might’ve normally had. Brittney barely touched her beer at all, which was atypical. We messed up the recipe a time or two, but overall the food came out nicely. It took us a long time to finish because we weren’t at our best.
When it came time to eat I was all, “I’m more tired than hungry.” As delicious as the food was, my appetite was significantly dulled. I asked Brittney if I could stay over tonight because I was sincerely exhausted. She declined. As tired as she was, she wanted to sleep naked that night. That comment managed to kick my hibernating imagination into high gear. She said, “I know you, but I don’t know you THAT well.” Ha ha. Yeah, I wouldn’t trust myself either.
Things got weird for her after I left. She soon discovered that her wallet was missing. After searching her apartment, she even drove back to school to see if it was there. Not there. She came back home and cracked open the vodka and smoked a bowl of hookah to calm herself. But she didn’t open the window so the fire alarm went off. She climbed a chair to try and turn it off, but between her short height and the booze, she fell and hurt her ribs.
So Saturday morning after she’d told me all this, I offered her any help I could provide. She asked for “a ladder and company.” Done. I fixed up her fire alarm. Apparently she’d even hit the doorbell box on the way down. It would’ve been funny if she wasn’t hurting as much as she was. Mostly I think she just needed someone to commiserate with and listen to her plight. Between the blown tire and the missing wallet and her injury, things weren’t too pleasant currently.
We sat and had tea and talked. We even got onto the topic of her drug-abusing parents. She’d skirted the topic before but now she was willing to share. I offered what anecdotes I could about my dad’s drug problems, but it was like comparing an anthill with a mountain. I marveled aloud at how she could have endured all of their shit and still come out as wholesome and healthy as she seemed to be. I would expect someone with that history to come out with visible flaws or defense mechanisms: anger, insecurity, fear, evasiveness, etc. But she’s always been 100% candid and open and gracious. I still don’t understand how she could’ve kept those traits intact.
Anyways, while I cherished the fact that she was sharing with me, the atmosphere was getting a bit heavy so we decided to head out to get some painkillers from the store. As we got into my truck, we noticed a familiar looking black leather wallet in the back. Ha ha. Apparently it’d been in there from when we went to buy mixers on Thursday. Wow. Brittney was relieved to have it back and that discovery turned the day’s mood around. I wish we’d discovered it the night before so that we could’ve avoided the injury, but this was the next best thing.
I left Brittney on that good note so that I could go get prepared for the evening’s party. I grabbed some last minute costume items and ran down to the hotel to check-in and try things on, etc. A few hours before the party Brittney began texting me about how she was undecided about the party. She wanted to go, but still had no idea about what to wear and she didn’t want to disappoint me or something like that. Part of me thought she was looking for an excuse to not attend, but I know she’s not oblique like that. And she was also hurt, so I tried to be considerate and told her that whatever she was comfortable with (physically and socially), I would be in support of. Eventually she decided to go through with it.
She wore a cute little wintry outfit. (I still don’t get why she won’t let me take any pictures of her :T, but whatever.) I was in my white and blue jacket/dress shirt combo. Despite the big RSVP list, the turnout was closer to 15 people, I’d say. I was worried that I’d be a poor mediator to introduce Brittney to my friends and I think I lived up to that promptly. She did well at mingling on her own but didn’t seem to click with hardly anyone. I wasn’t quite sure how directly I should try to get her introduced to people. If she’d been my girlfriend it would’ve been mandatory business, but as she was just there as my co-worker, the stakes were much lower. Trying to balance my own desire to shmooze while keeping an eye on how Brittney was faring proved to be ineffective at both. She did click with at least one other girl there and I made damned sure to introduce her to Mark and Katherine, who she liked, thank goodness. I had suspected it might be hard for her to fit in amongst this circle of nerds, but I wasn’t aware of how clique-y we were until tonight.
When we ducked out to go get cigarettes, Brittney remarked how she’d never been rebuffed by nerds before. It prompted me to observe that even I remain on the fringes of these social bubbles and I’ve known these people for years. But for someone like me who isn’t social, I don’t mind not being involved. Just being included is enough for me. For someone as universally amiable like her, this was odd. When we got back, the party had been kicked out of the room due to noise complaints and now we were loitering in the lobby. That really killed the fun. Brittney had the idea that we could offer our room as an alternative. I wasn’t too keen on the idea since I wanted to remain in control of when I quit for the night, but Courtney was teary-eyed over the turn of events so we made the offer. She declined and the group set up camp in the main lobby while Kevin began smuggling our booze and snacks downstairs.
If this were an anime con, I’d be okay with loitering and drinking in a public area. But we were all either in costume or nicely dressed and although everyone was trying to make the best of it, I wasn’t feeling it. Maybe that makes me a jerk for wanting to bail on the situation. It looked to me like Brittney wasn’t too thrilled about hanging out in the atrium lobby either. After she said goodbye to her one new friend, we went back up to the room and crashed.