alcohol, alcoholism, arsenic, broken people, date rape, douchebaggery, drama, heartbreak, house party, If only, infatuation, sexual predators, Tardsie's True-Ass Tales, what if?
I met a girl named Heather once at a party many years ago, back when I was single. High summer had come to Western Washington: long, pleasant days finally ushered into night by an extended twilight. Barbecuing weather. The perfect day for a house party.
Heather was a friend of a friend, and she was lovely. She was brainy and self-assured, funny in that easy way that wasn’t practiced, but was as much a natural component of her makeup as were her eyes, nose, lips or breasts. And she was cool, having mastered the delicate feat of managing to remain feminine while at the same time laughing at crude jokes and dropping the occasional F-Bomb.
I am not one of those guys for whom women go nuts at first sight. I guess I’ve been lucky in love, but all my serious relationships have been with women whom I’d known for a while before we started dating, ladies who were slow to recognize that they were already madly in love with me. Like arsenic, my appeal works stealthily over time, growing in secret until it overwhelms the system’s natural defenses, and the victim ultimately succumbs. But this time, maybe, I got lucky–Heather seemed as into me as I was her–an assessment, I hasten to add, made before alcohol clouded my judgement, rendering all such judgments moot.
We both made our individual rounds at the party, but it was never long before we’d find ourselves together again. Being tipsy only seemed to accentuate Heather’s wit and to embolden this already-bold girl. She was knocking the drinks back pretty fast, but so were a lot of people.
Heather grew increasingly hammered as the evening wore on. At 9:30 she was a funny drunk, flirtatious and playfully argumentative. But by the time 11:30 rolled around, she was a mess–an incoherent, apologetic, stumbling grotesquery. Where she had earlier been outgoing and vivacious, now she was quiet and uncertain, confused. Once, she slipped while descending a short, carpeted staircase, picking herself up at the bottom with a shaky little laugh that had nothing of mirth in it whatsoever.
Heather’s friends seemed to find this behavior funny, and when Heather shattered a beer bottle on the back patio a little after midnight, the ensuing beat of silence was followed closely by raucous laughter. “There goes Heather!” somebody said to more laughs.
“She’s like this every weekend,” my friend told me, explaining that, during the week, Heather worked a 9 to 5 job which helped to keep her behavior in check, but she really let loose on the weekends. She would spend her Friday and Saturday evenings bombed into incoherence. She suffered through Saturday and Sunday afternoons semi-comatose on her couch, the curtains drawn against the sun’s rays, and against the pain and nausea they brought.
As people made their goodbyes and the party thinned out, the predators began to circle around Heather, drawn to the scent of compromised vulnerability which was coming off her in waves. She was almost the last girl at the party.
One of the vultures, a guy I knew by face, was particularly determined. He’d moved into Heather’s orbit in the hour before the party wound down, halfheartedly attempting clumsy conversational overtures that often as not degenerated into innuendo, all the while moving steadily closer to Heather, his intentions naked on his face. Finally, he was behind her, rubbing her shoulders and murmuring banalities in her ear. He was nervous and twitchy; he smiled too much and he smiled wrong, as if worried some other predator might steal “his” kill out from under him.
Abruptly, Heather turned to me and said, “Take me home.” Her face was plaintive; her eyes huge and terrified.
“Okay,” I said, “I can do that.”
The creep’s fingers froze and slowly retracted from their perch on either side of Heather’s neck. His face wore a look of thwarted, impotent shock that made it clear he had misunderstood what Heather wanted of me. She wasn’t asking me to take her home so that I could have sex with her; she just wanted to go home.
Even with her diminished capacity, Heather must have been aware to some degree of the risks involved in placing her safety in the hands of a man she’d only that day met, and how quickly that situation could spiral beyond her control. Apparently, she thought her chances alone in a car with me were better than if she stayed here with her friends, enjoying the attentions of the creep. I flatter myself that Heather chose the way she did because the spark between us I had imagined earlier in the evening when we were both sober had been very real, and that the events of that years-ago evening are properly filed among life’s many great “if only” moments.
In the end, the thing that I’d wanted more than anything just six or seven hours earlier came to pass–I got to take Heather home. She gave me her phone number before she got out of the car, and said I should call her some time. I told her I would, wishing I could stop the lie even as it came tumbling from my lips.
William Miller said:
See Smak, At heart, you really are a gentleman.
Thanks, Bill–mum’s the word!
El Guapo said:
I admire your chivalrousness, though honestly, I’d expect no less. Despite there not being any follow up for you and Heather, it’s nice to know that for one night at least, she was safe, because of you.
And better to be the rat-killer of love than its pompatus.
Seriously, what the hell is a pompatus???
I believe it’s a platypus with a pompadour. They’re very lovable.
El Guapo said:
So Chris Izaak is half a pompatus?
Ha ha! Yeah, the other half is crooning falsetto. Remember: This world is only gonna break your heart.
I couldn’t get lucky at parties drunk OR sober.
That probably speaks more to you having high standards than anything else.
Yeah, I like guys to have both hair AND teeth, and to have showered sometime in the past 12-24 hours. That weeds out a vast majority of the guys who ever tried to hit on me.
Carrie Rubin said:
I’m working hard to raise sons who would hopefully respond as you did. Well done. Women and binge-drinking do not a good combination make. Women are smaller and have less of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. Puts them in a vulnerable situation. Kudos to you for not taking advantage of it. Actions always speak louder than words when it comes to character.
Speaking of words, love that you compared yourself to arsenic…
Speaking of words, love that you compared yourself to arsenic…
It’s pretty true, actually. And when I was thinking for a metaphor for something that builds up over time before taking full effect were negative.
I have been in similar circumstances, and I have never understood why guys would want to have sex with someone in such a state. It can’t be fun.
Agreed. Having sex with someone who was passed out was fairly tolerated when I went to school. I never understood that. I haven’t always done the right thing in every situation, but I’m happy to say I’ve never taken advantage of someone sexually.
That doll is scary, Smak. What a great story. I loved the ending and it sounds as if Heather got lucky because of you. This should be required reading for guys. Most women want a gentleman and you most certainly were. A collective thank you from the ladies. I bet all kinds of sweet karma has come your way because of this.
Is that creepy guy in the pic Steve Martin? Oh, and I like that song. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
Is that creepy guy in the pic Steve Martin?
That was my reaction exactly! Yes, I think it is. It looks like a home shot or something, like he was clowning around. Knowing it’s him makes it kind of cute.
Oh, and I like that song. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
Me too, and so do my kids. I talked to another parent who freaked out when he heard his kid listening to that song, because of the sexual connotations. Whatever. My kids think it’s about becoming fortunate.
and it sounds as if Heather got lucky because of you
What a perfectly sweet thing to say. I’m not being facetious when I say it warms my heart.
You know the funny thing? When I wrote this story, me driving her home is almost an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong–reading it with a fresh eye I can see how big a part of the story it is, but sometimes you can’t see the forest for all of the trees. In my eyes, the story I was telling was about the closest I’ve ever come to love at first sight (which I really don’t believe in) and about how this beautiful, wonderful girl fell apart in the space of an evening. And also the question of whether I’d led myself on earlier, or, if as I really do believe, she did like me.
It’s funny, though, because there’s so much more to our memories than we realize sometimes. I just hope I didn’t come across as tying to paint myself as a moral paragon, “I’m the kind of guy that drives drunk girls home.”
You’re a treasure, Smaktakula!!
And you’re a sweetheart. Thanks!
Nice story with a happy ending (at least for one night) for a hot mess Smak. I hope she dried out before the effects of pounding so much sauce started showing in her face. Some years back out here, a story made the news about a pretty young thing who got shit-hammered, two cops brought her home, and one of the cops allegedly helped himself to her. I think he may have returned to her apartment without his partner. In the sober light of day she had a vague recollection of what happened so she filed charges, but a judge ruled in the cop’s favor because she was too incapacitated to fully recall what actually happened.
I also hope she got her act together. I know she didn’t immediately. Although I never saw her again (this happened sometime around the turn of the century, and I moved back to California not too long afterward, or I almost certainly would have encountered her socially) I did hear an update about Heather (which, as you might suspect, is not her real name) about five years ago, and it wasn’t good. Alcohol & pills & cigarettes & lots of sad misadventures. Such a waste. I’m not so foolish as to believe I got the whole picture of her in the short time I was with her, but she seemed like such a unique and lovable person before she got plastered.
Great recounting of a story that could have gone terribly bad for the young lady in question.
I can see it all so clearly – the messed up woman, the creep (very creepy!), and you there to make sure she got home safely.
Alex Autin said:
Firstly, I have to say this is incredibly well written. Again, your writing skills amaze me.
Secondly, we’ve all known Heathers, and as sad as their lack of self control is, they are ultimately responsible for their own actions. I find it interesting how society sees the Heathers as victims, but rarely see the creeper, who equally lacks self control and is most likely equally as inebriated, as a victim of his own actions. Instead we see him as a predator. The notion that women lack the ability to police themselves, and when voluntarily consuming enough alcohol to comatose a French sailor instantly should be given some sort of free pass, is, to me, the very definition of sexism, especially since that free pass is not extended to men in the same condition.
Kudos to you for not participating.
That’s a good point, Alex. But you know, I DON’T see him as a victim, at least not in the same way. I don’t think a guy perpetrating a sexual assault is affected in nearly the same way as the victim (and I don’t for a minute think you were saying otherwise, mind you), and, unless he realizes that what he did was wrong (and I think that’s a big if), then there aren’t likely to be any repercussions at all.
Having said that, though, I need to meditate further on you point, because honestly, it’s an angle I haven’t thought about before.
There are a lot of layers here.. Lessons for us all. Well done sir.
So well-written, Smak. And I’ve known women who I wish would have run into you at parties. But they weren’t as lucky as Heather. I hope she realized it once she sobered up.