it’s easy to betray myself.

I can’t remember the trip back to my apartment.

Suddenly I’m just dragging my bike up three flights of stairs. We can’t leave our bikes in the basement anymore, because someone broke in to our building and stole Nate’s wheel.
I’m cursing this mystery criminal as my ankles are scraped by pedals and handlebars hit my ears.

And next I’m on the couch in my room, wrapped in a blanket. Stella curls up at my feet. I know I should feel guilty. Or sad. Maybe somewhat heartbroken. But really, I feel better than I have in a long time. I mean, I feel awesome. Amazing. Wow.

I’m lying there for a while. Maybe an hour. I don’t know.

But eventually Cheryl comes home.

“Oh, Amanda…I was waiting for you to come back. How did it go?”

I shrug my shoulders. I can’t really talk.

She’s drunk, so everything seems big to her. “Did you have a fight? Was he fucked up? Did you sort it out?”

I shake my head. “He wasn’t there.”

“Then why were you there for so long?”

I sigh. “I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to see him. I was hoping he would come home.“ I don’t add that I felt like a loser the entire time I was sitting on his futon. A pathetic ex-girlfriend incapable of letting go.

And of course I don’t mention copping some Oxy-Contin.

My head is so pleasantly hazy, I can’t even remember why I went to his apartment. I don’t really care. I can think about all of this tomorrow.

She doesn’t need to hear about my evening. Instead she details the party.

Andy met some girl, but the he passed out on the porch before he could get her number.

Thom was mad that the girl talked to Andy in the first place, because HE had his eye on her. He swooped toward the end of the night and offered to take her out for breakfast.

Cheryl thought she saw Fred, but it was really just a tall woman with very long black hair. Fred has impressive flowing locks.

Then she went to Flash Taco to get some nachos but the line was too long and–

She stops to get some water from the kitchen.

When she returns a minute later, I’m nodding off. “Awww, little girl…you’ve had a long night. I’ll let you get some sleep.” I receive a peck on the cheek before she disappears.

I’m relieved that I don’t have to actively participate in conversation. Any one close to me can recognize my impaired state just by hearing me talk. It wasn’t always that way. I could disguise the effects of six, eight, ten drinks with minimal effort.

When I was a small child, I had a charming lisp. Well, at least it was charming and cute until I entered elementary school. Then it was an impairment. An issue. A handicap. I spent the next three years holed up in with a speech therapist for two hours a week. Each time I moved of another school–and trust me, I attended a wide assortment of educational institutions before fourth grade–I hoped that the speech therapy would end. But within a week, my new teacher would call me up to her desk for a private conversation. Once again, Tuesday afternoons were spent reciting endless lists of “s” and “th” words.

“If you feel like you can’t pronounce a word properly, try singing it first.”

My efforts rewarded me with an extensive collection of scratch-n-sniff stickers and a clear, non-lisping speech pattern. High school theatre. Debate team. A fairly solid speech at my high school graduation. All performed with impeccable diction.

And then last summer. The overdose. The “incident.” I opened my eyes and said, “I am tho thirthy.”

I guess mistakes can damage one’s brain. It’s a scary idea to consider. Drugs, alcohol, helmet-less bicycle accidents. Insufficient sleep. Too much caffeine. Cigarettes. All of these things destroy living cells every day. Chip. Chip. Chip.

So now, as soon as I pass the third drink mark, the lisp comes out. I am learning to silently appreciate the companionship of my friends. My presence should be enough. No one requires my opinions.

Sleepiness. Pills. A second cup of coffee. All invite my bumbling little girl mouth to emerge.

If I had decided to truly share my evening with Cheryl, to explain the painful silence of Ryan’s apartment and my fear of being caught there. The agony of being a stranger in a place I once belonged. And my pathetic hope that he would appear and remember that he missed me…my consonants would betray me.

“I wath tho thad.”


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