Nerve Classics: The Little Death

The girl I brought home didn't wake up in the morning.

by Joe Dornich

Perhaps it's the bourbon, but lately, we've been feeling nostalgic. With writing this good, can you blame us? "The Little Death" originally ran in 2008.

She still isn't awake. For ten minutes now my attempts to wake Katie have progressed from a gentle nudge to a violent assault that would likely get me arrested in most states. She's still breathing, so she isn't dead. Thank God.

While her body lies prone in my bed, I frantically search the room for my phone, although I have no idea whom to call. Is it too soon for 911? How long can you wait before it's considered gross negligence? If I call the paramedics, they'll call the police, who will call Katie's parents, who will undoubtedly get a lawyer. The remainder of my college fund will be used to cover the legal fees.

One minute you're bringing a girl back to your apartment, undressing each other as you fumble with the lock, and the next minute you'll never be a doctor.

"Katie. C'mon, wake up!"

I roll Katie over to check her pupils, for no other reason than I've seen this done a thousand times on television.

This causes the bed sheet to slip from her body, and I stop everything to take just a moment and stare at her breasts. They're bigger or fuller somehow than what I can remember from last night, and either way they look great.

And I need more help than I realize.

 

"What you need is a Genocide."

This is Wayne helping, but really he's product testing. It's the night before, and I'm at the Flamingo Shuffle, or, if you go by the dying pink-neon sign over the bar, THE FLAMING SHU. As Wayne pours grenadine into a shaker, he tells me how he's changed the drink menu. Not necessarily the drinks themselves, but their names. He believes that giving regular drinks macabre-sounding names will improve liquor sales with us college students. As he adds white rum and triple sec, he explains how kids want to be on the ground floor of something fresh, something exciting. He says it's even better if it has an edge.

"People define themselves by the choices they make. Every purchase, every action is their way of telling the world, 'This is me, this is who I am.'" Wayne uses armchair psychology to make sense of life, but then again we all do. He's just picking up where Irish Car Bombs left off.

Wayne pours everything over ice and hands me my drink. A Genocide is dark red and tastes a little like mouthwash. I'm on my third when Katie comes up to refill her drink.

She's tall with the thin body and elongated limbs often associated with European models. Her brutally blonde hair hangs just below her cheek, framing the sad and severe look on her face. She wears a thin black sundress, and matching stilettos that are more dagger than shoe.

She walks towards my seat at the bar, her shoes stabbing the floor.

"Give me an African Famine," she tells Wayne.

For the last eight nights I've sat here and watched Katie. As I'd sip drinks, Katie would pick up guys like socks on a cluttered floor. By last call she'd have her latest, and out they'd stumble, arm in arm into the night.

I watched all of this. Eight different nights. Eight different guys. I smile at her, "Hey. How's it going?"

She stares just long enough to give me a once over, then returns to her drink.

I watched all of this. Eight different nights. Eight different guys.

An African Famine turns out to be a dirty martini garnished with four plump olives. Wayne is not without an appreciation for irony.

"Fine," she says to the martini. "I'm going outside for a cigarette. You smoke?"

"No."

"You should."

I find her outside sitting on a stool with her legs crossed, one shoe dangling from her foot, her lips tinting a cigarette. She looks at her fingernails, first with her fingers curled into her palm, then with them spread wide.

"So, who's that guy you were talking to?" I ask.

"I'm not fucking him."

"Okay."

"So, what about you?" she says.

"Well, I'm not fucking him either."

Katie purses her lips and checks her watch. "We don't have a lot of time," she says.

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