The vodka that burnt Wilson's throat cost $6.99 for 42 ounces and came in a plastic bottle.
It tasted like nail polish remover.
He drank it like a college student, swallowing it quickly, barely wincing as the aftertaste set his hair on end.
Wilson wanted to be numb, and the vodka he was certain could double as carpet cleaner was doing the trick quite nicely. After five shots, taste disappeared, making the process of ingesting the vodka that much easier. The liquid fire now slid easily past his anesthetized taste buds and into his system. As the tenth shot made its way past his lips, the night dissolved into an amalgam of thoughts and shapes, of colors and textures that would leave no imprints; no trace of the night would be left in a mind that was so insistent on forgetting.
An impatient tingle tugged at Wilson, urging him to do something. The hotel room around Wilson mimicked a merry-go-round as he realized his need to go to the bathroom. The nondescript wall paper twirled up and down and round and round, leaving Wilson to cling to the walls, using his hands as a guide. The cheap polyurethane door frame of the bathroom entrance appeared under his fingertips. Half-closed eyes that refused to focus on stationary objects spied the toilet. Wilson's fingers fumbled with his belt in what was eventually a futile endeavor. Finally, he unzipped his slacks and unbuttoned his boxers, making sure not to harm anything on the way out. Wilson steadied himself on the wall with one hand while a mixture that was 10 waste and 90 vodka poured from him.
A knock sounded at the door while Wilson carefully slid himself back into his boxers.
"Who's there?" He called, trying to make the words come out even and casual.
"Wilson, let me in." A low voice snapped back; the tone was of someone used to giving orders, a voice that wasn't questioned or second-guessed. Wilson thought he knew the voice, but from where?
When no reply came from Wilson, the presence on the other side of the door sighed. A card was inserted into the lock of the door, and a multi-toned click signaled that the door was unlocked.
Beep beep. Beep beep. Wilson mimicked in his mind, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. The smile deepened the slight laugh lines around his mouth—My pretty mouth. Wilson abandoned the beeping door to examine his mouth. He traced the outline of his lips with his hand and then his tongue. His fingertips generated heat, which his tongue absorbed. His lips were left cool against the air of the hotel.
i The hotel/i Wilson noted that he was, in fact, not alone in his room—and that whomever had joined him had not yet tried to find him. His hand slipped gingerly from the wall and he swayed for a moment, gauging his ability to walk. i Must have had more than I thought/i observed Wilson as his footing was lost. The body that was supposed to support him was liquid; everything flowed in slow motion, unsteady, unreliable, about to crash. Even through the haze of alcohol, reflex moved Wilson's arms to his face to brace for the impending impact.
……Which never came. As Wilson's liquid self plunged toward grey tile that had once been a cheerful white, a pair of arms grasped the dead weight of his torso. Wilson relaxed into this force, this being that was saving him from the harsh embrace of the ground. But something was wrong; he was still falling, but slower. Impact came, and it was flesh that supported his head and absorbed the full force of his weight.
"Goddamn it, Wilson!" That same voice from behind the door gasped. It was different this time; the voice was thick, layered in pain. He was roughly shoved from the embrace of his cushion, landing on his back. The room still moved, so Wilson lay as still as he could and hoped he could get off the ride soon. It was beginning to make him sick. The bile in his throat rose threateningly, but that same pair of arms grasped him once more, this time pushing him into a sitting position.
"Close your eyes, Jimmy," the voice said coldly. The paradoxical command aimed at Wilson was meant to help him, but the voice that delivered it was apathetic. Unconcerned. The actions undercut the words, and Wilson knew this, even in his drunken state. He focused on the origin of the words, the cold tone that stole the laughter from Wilson's inebriated mind, leaving him embarrassed.
The lips that doused Wilson in cold reality were thin. The bottom was bleeding slightly; a small trail made its way down a stubbled chin.
"You're hurt," The voice that emanated from Wilson wasn't his; it was thick, slurred. Sad. An uncoordinated hand reached up to touch the river of red coming from the lip. It made contact with the face like sandpaper and slowly brushed away the blood. Without thinking, the fingers moved to his own mouth. The tang of salt hit his tongue as his gaze traveled upward.
A blue brighter than anything he'd ever seen entranced him; it was the sky and a Crayola crayon and the sea on a stormy day; the blue surrounded him and he immersed himself in its calm, cool depths. His lips moved with a will of their own until again salt broke through to his own mouth. His tongue ran over his own lip, then into the open mouth of the other.
Cool met hot and transferred its heat until the mouths moving in and out and around each other were the same temperature. Wilson pressed against the body near his, thinking of his good fortune.
Shortly after he stopped for air, Wilson lost consciousness.