“Get in bed with Agnes,” Oliver tells me. He has appeared out of nowhere, sometime between when I fall asleep at 5 a.m. and when I wake up some 4 hours later. “Here,” he says, “Take off your shoes.” He’s the alcoholic mother I never had.
Oliver ushers me towards some stranger’s very white bed, where Agnes is currently buried somewhere deep.
“Rush en bark tuff tuft.”
The noise comes from the sheets.
“What?” Oliver asks, leaning towards her.
“Brack tree fee miss grit.”
“Bunch of rubbish,” he says, and then covers me with a cotton duvet before disappearing out the door and into the hallway where all the noise and cigarette smoke is being imported in from the living room.
I wake up to white walls and the same muttering ginger. I have no idea what time it is or what time the party finished. It’s finally warm in the apartment and I begin to sweat a bit under my multiple winter layers, which should come as no surprise being as I am dressed for the dead of winter and not bedtime. Oh God, how I want to change my clothes, how badly do I want a glass of water and a prescription strength Tylenol, how horribly I just want to barf.
Someone turns the shower on.
I walk out of the bedroom and assess the damage: empty bottles, heaps of shoes, two boys sleeping on the tiny sofa, neither or whom are Oliver, my now-negligent caretaker. I head back into the bedroom where I fold my body into the crevice of the loveseat again.
The shower shuts off and I watch as a girl wrapped in a white towel passes sideways down the hallway. Laura James. Laura Jean. What’s her fucking name?
Oh! Now I remember where I am.
It’s Laura J-Name’s bed I stole and whose apartment I’ve been abandoned in. She looks different with her wet hair and her face scrubbed of makeup, her cheeks no longer glimmering like the surface of the moon as they did last night.
I hide out in her bedroom pretending to sleep until I hear boys talking on the other side of the wall. “You guys,” she says. “I have to leave. I have to go somewhere.” This is my cue to figure out what the hell I’m doing. I round the corner and apologize for making her sleep on her own couch between two grown men. “Aw, it’s alright,” she says, putting on a pair of shoes culled from the heaping pile near the front door.
My phone doesn’t work in Europe so I borrow one of the boy’s, the brother of the ginger still sleeping in Laura J-Name’s bed. The other boy with the glasses is trying to wake her up.
“Agnes! Agnes, get up! Agnes, we have to go!”
Oliver is nowhere to be found and my time is running out. I’m supposed to meet Joanna today and she lives closer to here than to Oliver’s Wood Cabin. Oddly enough, the fact that I got stranded on this side of town is working in my favor, at least for now. Although it means I won’t get to take a shower, change my clothes, or brush my teeth until 4:45 this afternoon, ten minute before I get right back on the tube and head to the airport for the my (month-old) flight to the Maldives.
Joanna tells me to meet her outside some train station promptly in thirty minutes. “Ish.” I am brilliantly insecure without full access to cell phones, telephones, WiFi, GPS. I export half of the information that would ordinarily need to be stored in my brain to some Google web query. I don’t remember – and hardly need to remember – the telephone numbers of people I have met after 1999. I am like an empty vessel for an endless onslaught of useless information, absorbing everything like an already too-wet sponge. Later, when Joanna is running just five minutes behind (part in parcel with the “ish” addendum), I stand stranded at the tube station, thinking about worst case scenarios – the one of highest concern being that I will not being able to find Oliver or the house I’ve left all of my stuff at. Where the hell is Oliver?
“Agnes, we’re leaving.”
My sleeping buddy appears out of nowhere. “What? What? Why didn’t you wake me up twenty minutes ago?”
“No, you didn’t!” she yells accusatorially, as though all of last night and all of this morning has merely been part of a giant ruse to keep her passed out in bed all day. Agnes is still rubbing sleep out of her eyes while Laura is standing next to an open door.
“You guys, I have to go,” Laura pleads.
“I can’t find my phone. Where is my phone?” Ginger Agnes is tracking the apartment like a dog on the hunt. “Who took my phone?”
“It’s on silent. Everyone shut up!”
Everyone stands at attention, Laura looking eager and preoccupied.
“Shhhhh! You guys. SHUT UP.”