surround

January 13, 2010

He woke up at 1:03 a.m., or what he thought had to be around 1:03 a.m. — he had always been a very accurate estimator of time, often down to the minute, for as long as he could remember — in the bed of a very black-haired, very asleep, very naked woman he had never seen before.

Or had he seen her before? He remembered clearly the beginning of the night, a cluster of four, five, then six, seven friends, Bud Lights in hand, gathered around an aging wood table at a bar owned by a couple from Nebraska, the opposite side of the country, joking about their jobs, their girlfriends, about how life since college had been anything but a joke. The beers led to shots — that he knew, there was no other way it could have gone — but after that, black.

The naked woman was sleeping on her side with her back curved towards him. He didn’t try to look at her face yet. First, he needed to get his bearings, pull himself together, figure out where he was and how to feel about ending up there. Though it was the middle of the night, large, curtainless windows illuminated the bedroom with a soft almost light.

The first thing he noticed were two guitar cases leaning against each other, which, in turn, were leaning against a wall. Both cases were black. One was ragged, falling apart, weather-beaten; the other seemed pristine, perhaps brand-new, protective and sturdy. A nice contrast, he thought.

Another contrast. On the wall across from the bed in which he lay was mounted a 47-inch flat-screen television, the picture of NEW and TECHNOLOGY and EXPENSIVE, while the charmingly rickety, likely antique side table directly underneath the television showcased various oddities from another time: a mason jar full of marbles; a glass soap dish holding buttons; a Kodak Brownie 127 camera; an old library copy of “Wuthering Heights.”

A worn, deep blue loveseat made of leather sat against another wall of the bedroom, though it was barely distinguishable under the mass of tossed sweaters, jeans, tops, and women’s magazines. He briefly wondered when the last time was that the couch had actually been used as a couch.

An upright garment steamer stood starkly near a chest of drawers. This he recognized from his two-month stint at Men’s Wearhouse during a particularly exhausting summer during high school when he unsuccessfully attempted to save money for a Ford Mustang, THE car of choice of the cool kids in his hometown. Unfortunately, right up until the day he left for college, his mode of transportation remained a bicycle.

Hanging from the steamer was a long, black, beaded gown, and even in the relative darkness, he could see it was fancy, and that meant this woman sleeping next to him, ice-cold toes unconsciously brushing his bare leg, was fancy as well, too fancy for any occasion he would ever be attending again.

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