Hard and Good Times

There are blind dates, and there are blind drunk dates. 

Our hero seems to have found an uncomfortable hybrid of the two.

Hard and Good Times by Matt Mattila

He sat alone in the room and thought about death again.

David could pretend he wasn't really alone. There was the girl he’d met two weeks ago. The forty-something plastic blonde who promised to blow him for forty bucks even. She had a hotel room. He had booze. He ran out of money. She ran out of blowjobs.

It didn't fit in the whiskey budget.  They could stay another night. He slipped a fifty through a hole under the bulletproof glass--one of the new ones, paper golden, the security ribbon almost a hologram if he let himself stare at it too much.

It has his last big bill. He was down to ones and fives in his wallet now. He didn't believe it, but he knew it was true. It was only the fifteenth of the month. He wouldn't get another check till the second.

He tried doing the math in his head, to see how long he had left. He used to be a cashier, so he should be good at this kind of thing. That cold systematic numbers-based logic. It was a good job that put him through bartending school. Bartending was a good monotonous job that let him flirt with drunk girls and sample high-end vodkas at least twice a night.

Maybe he sampled too much. Maybe that was why they let him go.

Maybe that’s what got him here, the ratty cot with stale sheets and bedbugs he felt crawl on him in his sleep, the box of Oregon wine half empty on its side, crushed under his left arm on the floor. He knew he wouldn't make it. He might as well just lay here and dissolve into the cot sheets. Maybe he’d split a last glass with the girl in the bathroom. She’d stopped puking a half-hour ago. He listened through the ringing in his ears (maybe the manager calling to say the cops were coming) for shallow breathing. Nothing.

Maybe she’d just passed out.

He had to check. He had to make sure.

The bathroom door was still open. The fan still rattled inside. No bloodstains, nothing on the carpet except stale booze and dried vomit specks and crumbs from whoever had the balls to stay here last.

David wished he had a wheelchair. He hated walking hungover. He stood up too fast. His legs sagged under him, weak, sacks of blood. One ankle nearly snapped. He almost slammed into the wall beside him. He dug in dirty nails and hung on till the world stopped spinning and his vision cleared.

Bricks in his skull. The heart he hadn't felt in three days raced and beat against his ribs. There were icicles in his chest and they were stabbing his lungs.

This was the part where he called her name. 

He swayed into the wall. The booze seeped out of his skin. A lifetime of hangovers fried his brain.

He couldn't remember her name. He couldn't remember how long she’d been laying here. He didn't recognize that hair color. He couldn't recall how he met her.

He opened his mouth to shout “Hey” and his stomach turned. The acid burned his throat. He coughed for his life. Maybe that could keep everything down. He coughed loud enough, maybe, to wake her up.

The hand slipped off the wall. He stopped himself from crashing into it. He could breathe now--shallow, wheezy, painful. He put one foot forward and dragged himself against rough old wall and gave himself road rash.

End of the wall. Cheap wood door-frame. The bathroom.

Flickering bulb cast piss yellow lights on the girl on the floor. The tile was cracked and let rotting wood seep through. The glass shower door cut into the opposite wall had cracked sideways, hair between sharp tracks.
She laid on the floor with her shirt half off of her chest and sagged dirty jeans half off her waist. Her arms laid by her sides, palm up. Long legs stubbled with black hair jutted out an inch from the door.

David clawed the door-frame to keep his balance. He avoided looking at the vomit caked under her face. Maybe she’d fallen. He never remembered a bang or a moaning from the floor. No retching. Just thick coughing.

There was nothing now. She might have been sleeping. She might have passed out. She might have passed out with something solid stuck in her windpipe.

His head almost felt good enough to actually stand. His scarred heart raced. He had to check.

He could only let himself live if he woke her up.

He let go of the wall. The fall was terrifying. He crashed to the floor, landed hard, didn’t bother trying to get back up. The world was still spinning. He crawled on his hands and knees toward her. The cracks in the tile scratched his palms.

Then beside her, avoiding the crust under her mouth. One  shaking hand to pretend to balance him, the other on her back, searching.

There’s something here.

It was faint. Maybe in his head. Maybe she’d been dead all day and the flies were waiting for their invitation. His pulse raced. His eyes sagged, blurry.

There was a heartbeat. Life. One last chance.

David made a fist. She should be dead. Every drunk who passed out like this deserved to die and rot on the floor.

He shoved his hand down on a bony back, a good shot straight at a floating rib.

She should have opened her eyes and howled.

Something inside the bitch moaned and mumbled and went back to snoring.

She was alive. His keys were in his pocket. His car was at home. Somewhere. A million miles away.

He crawled backwards and hoped he’d find it eventually. 

Matt Mattila's short fiction has been published in Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter and Commuterlit before he turned twenty. Moonlighting as a third-shift restaurant host, he spends his free time trying to come up with a pen name weirder than his real one. Find him on Facebook and Tumblr.