Tory Mae graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature at Wheaton College in 2015, where her full-length play entitled Can-Swiss was performed in the annual New Plays Festival. She is currently working a collection of short stories, as well as a novel that is set to be completed later this year.
The Whiskey Won’t Keep You Warm
“Ma! Where’s the damn mustard?” I shouted while rummaging through the kitchen.
“Dear, check the cabinet to the left of the fridge.”
My hands found a familiar, aged-looking bottle shoved in the back. How old was the thing? I shrugged and slathered it on my ham sandwich.
“As I was saying, I was trying to work with this band the other day, and...”
I took a bite out of my sandwich, felt a gag coming on, and spit the bile-tasting bite into the sink.
“Oh for fuck’s sake! How old is this damn mustard?”
“Jack, I’d prefer it if you didn’t swear,” my mother said, picking up her glass of wine from the table.
I grabbed the bile-mustard and checked for a date. 10-3-81.
“MA! The damn mustard is TEN years old!”
“Oh, dear, oh you know how busy I am,” she said, walking over to pat my shoulder.
“Busy with your drinking and cooking…” I muttered.
“What was that, dear?”
She finished her wine and put the glass on the counter.
If you’re gonna do it right, at least drink some whiskey. That’s how all the best did it. The beverage of alcoholics, I thought.
Taking one look at the repulsive thing I had attempted to eat, I grunted and tossed it in the garbage. The mustard followed suit. I’d bring her some more next time I was up.
“I’ve gotta go anyway. Big show in Boston in two hours.”
“But won’t you make some food for the road? I don’t want you to go hungry.”
Tempting offer. Truly.
“Nah, I think I’m set.” I kissed her leathery cheek. “Always good to see you, Ma.”
“Come back soon! I know your father has been busy with the bank, but it would be nice if you spent time with the both of us. Maybe take a day off work. I’ll cook you up a nice dinner,” she said, placing her empty wine glass in the sink.
“Okay Ma, I’ll see what I can do,” I said, pushing open the screen door and walking out.
“Bye bye now.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw her sneak the glass back out of the sink and grab the wine bottle from the cabinet. I shook my head as I walked down the path to my Chevy. Crazy old woman.
The familiar ringing ran through my head during the brief silence. Everything moved in slow motion. A crowd: paused in anticipation. A band: pausing for anticipation. Not one person let out a hint of breath during those four seconds. And then they hit it. Nailed it. They hit that note and everyone let out the oxygen they’d held in for those four seconds, bobbing their heads along with the orgasm-inducing music. Eargasm, as I’ve heard. Those were the moments I lived for. This was why I still did this, and why I would never give it up. The moments the energy filling the room culminated to an all-time high, melding together as one, giving the people a reason to keep coming back for more. The music and people as one being.
Once the band finished their last song, everyone stood in place, waiting, chanting. I flipped on the lights - there would be no encore tonight. The crowd groaned and chattered to one another about what they had witnessed. From behind the soundboard I watched the teenagers begin to file out. I longed to be back with them, in my rebel-punk days. Each show provided refuge from the bitter real world. Nothing else beyond those four walls mattered. Those teenagers had better soak up everything while they can. The real world waited for no one.
I watched as one kid hung back by a pole before walking over to the merch table. The band had posted themselves behind the table with their multitude of T-shirts and CDs to make some more gas money for the rest of their tour, and maybe a small profit if they could manage. By the looks of it, that kid wanted more than a shirt. Parts of his hair were matted down onto his reddened face and he was clutching his ticket and a pen to his chest. A huge smile appeared on his face when the band’s drummer motioned him forward, and he bowed his head a little as he walked up. He handed the band the ticket and pen and rubbed his neck while each member signed. How long had it been since I met a band I loved for the first time? All the musicians I listen to are either dead or stopped playing music a decade ago. Christ.
Once the last attendee left the venue, the band and their crew filed onto the stage to break down the kit and speakers, and began to load up the van outside.
I flipped my mic on. “Killer show tonight guys,” I said, voice raspy over the somewhat blown speakers.
Some nods and ‘thank you’s’ were thrown in my direction from on stage as I flipped the mic back off.
I collected the money from Jeff at the door and Luis the bartender, gave them their share, pocketed mine, and paid off the bands. The night’s turnout made for a good sum for each band. We shook hands as I wished them safe travels on their tour. Good guys. All in a night’s work. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed outside.
“Ah Christ,” I mumbled to myself and I looked at my watch and walked into the bitter Boston night. “I’ve gotta wake up in six fuckin’ hours. No rest for the weary.”
Damn family obligations. Didn’t they know that I didn’t work one of those cookie-cutter nine to five jobs? Why would anyone in their right minds want to be holed up in an office for eight hours every Monday through Friday for the rest of their lives? I unlocked my car and let out one long sigh before starting it up.
It took me less than ten minutes to drive to my apartment in Brighton; nighttime was the only convenient time to drive in the city. I hung my keys on the nail I’d hammered to the wall and checked the time: 11:15. Goddammit. I grabbed a bottle of whiskey and sat at the kitchen table. I poured myself a glass on the rocks and looked at the bottle, wondering if this was where my name came from. I swirled it around, watching the ice cubes dance through the golden nectar. Ma would name me after a fuckin’ bottle of whiskey. She’d keep the name’s origin a secret from Pop and he’d agree with her thinking it was a delightful name and then I’d be named after a fuckin’ bottle of whiskey. I was surprised she didn’t name me Cork or Merlot or Zin. If I’d have been a girl I’d bet she would’ve named me Sherry. Or Rosé. Not Rose, but Rosé. Right as I lifted the glass to my lips my pants began to vibrate. Goddammit. I put the glass down and pulled out my phone.
“What do you want, Cheryl? It’s almost midnight! Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten that I need to leave in six damn hours.”
I sighed, leaned back, and threw my feet up onto the chair next to me.
“Something’s happened, Jack. You need to come up to Concord, now.”
I looked at my untouched glass. “Now?”
“Ma’s in the hospital.”
My feet fell back onto the floor.
“Shit. I’ll be there in an hour.”
I hung up the phone and looked back at the glass.
With some effort, I poured the glass back into the bottle, trying to salvage as much as possible. One golden bead slipped down the side of the bottle. So much for taking my liquid sleeping pill and passing out, I thought. I grabbed my keys which I could have sworn were still swinging on the hook. There was no need to put my coat back on, I wasn’t in long enough to take it off.
It had been three months since Pop had returned from the war. The lines around his eyes grew with each year he spent on the front. He cheeks were hollowed, and his temper was shorter than the time it took to drop the bomb on Nagasaki. Pictures of the Japanese city were strewn about the desk. Pop took the pictures after his helicopter landed – his was the first to do so after the bomb. He stood at his desk, staring at them as Ma cooked him up the nice dinner she promised. One picture was shifted a tad; the desk was a shade darker where the picture used to be. He narrowed his eyes. There wasn’t a living being in a single picture. The trees were stripped of their leaves. Buildings were crumbled to the ground. Windowpanes were shattered and cars were left abandoned. Were they real? Or were they something from a horror film? Pop figured there wasn’t much difference.
Ma was finishing up in the kitchen. She had decided she would make him a nice Spam dinner – Pop ate it often in the war, so she thought he would enjoy having it again after a few months. She pulled out two China plates from the glass cabinet, sliced out the Spam, and plopped two slices onto each plate alongside some almost-smooth mashed potatoes and creamed corn.
“Dear, dinner is all set!” Ma called out.
She picked up the plates with a smile and Pop made his way to the table. She saw him walk from the desk and shook her head. Pop had been back for three months. She didn’t understand the ongoing obsession with the pictures. Perhaps she ought to put them back in the drawer, she thought.
“Your favorite, dear,” she said, placing his plate in front of him.
The moment it touched the table, he scowled.
“Goddammit!” he yelled, and flung the plate at the wall. “All I eat for two fuckin’ years is Spam, I don’t want any more goddamn Spam,” he muttered.
“Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear…” she muttered to herself as she picked up the porcelain pieces.
She rushed into the kitchen carrying the remains of the dinner, leaving Pop at the table, fuming. Who would have thought after three months he wouldn’t want Spam? Why did he eat it for two years if it wasn’t his favorite? She paced the room, waiting for the pie to finish. One minute left. Cherry pie was truly his favorite. It would cheer him up. She hoped it would cheer him up. How could it not? All she wanted was to make Pop a nice dinner and make him happy. It was her duty to keep him happy.
Ma removed the pie from the oven, waving it with a towel. The aroma filled the room, and filled Ma with happiness. Pop would love it. She cut out two large chunks and put them on separate plates. Another thought popped into her head, and so she grabbed a carton of vanilla ice cream from the freezer. She plopped two large scoops on each plate and smiled. He’d love it. She hummed while carrying the two plates out to the table. Catering to Pop’s sweet tooth would fix everything.
“This will make you happy, dear,” she said, placing Pop’s plate in front of him. “I made cherry pie, your favorite.”
Pop took one bite and scrunched up his face. The look of anger flushed his face again and his cheeks grew red.
“GODDAMMIT!” he shouted, and flung the plate, leaving a matching stain on the wall next to the Spam.
The color drained from Ma’s face. She took a careful bite of the pie, testing it, but stopped as her teeth wrapped around something hard. The cherries. They had pits.
“Goddammit,” Pop said, slower. Ma looked at Pop’s front tooth. It was chipped.
I passed by the now vacant farm stand next to the ice rink, a sign that I would be at Concord Hospital in a two or three minutes. Maybe sooner, no one would ever know if I ran a red light at this hour. My phone lit up in the cup holder: Cheryl.
“Christ,” I muttered.
I looked at the clock. It read 1:04. God forbid I make a wrong turn at one in the morning and am not there at the exact second I say I will be. She could wait five minutes, it couldn’t be that urgent. I passed under the bridge and my phone lit up again. Christ, it’s not like I was dead.
The familiar brick building loomed before me. I pulled into the empty parking lot, parked next to my sister’s Subaru, and went inside. There was no one else in the lobby except Cheryl.
“There you are!” she said, jumping out of her seat. “What took you so long?!”
“I don’t live next door, Cher. And I took a wrong turn on the way. It’s one in the goddamn morning, give me a break,” I said, rubbing my face.
“Aren’t you not supposed to swear in a hospital?”
“That’s a church, Cher. Where are your kids?”
She put her hands on her hips.
“It’s one in the morning on a school night. Jimmy’s got a football game tomorrow and Allie has a test in her AP class in the morning. They’re both fast asleep,” she said.
I rolled my eyes.
“Might wanna double-check on that one,” I muttered.
“What was that?”
“You left them home alone? At one in the morning?”
The corner of my mouth turned up a little. My words flew right over her head. It was too late to discuss the reality of my sister’s kids’ behavior. Well, Jimmy’s behavior. Knowing Allie, she was fast asleep by ten. The corner of my mouth turned back down; she still shouldn’t have left them home alone. It wasn’t like she had a husband to watch them. She revoked that privilege when she divorced the poor guy.
“Allie’s going to be in college before we know it, I think she’s responsible enough to handle being home alone with her brother.”
“What if we’re here all night?”
“Who are you to judge what I do with my kids?”
Who would want kids and that responsibility, anyway? That option never appealed to me. I sighed. There was a slight chance that maybe she had a point.
“Have you seen Ma yet?”
“No.” Cheryl looked at her watch. “I was waiting for you. She’s in room 208.”
The walk to the elevator was familiar; the last time I’d been here was for Pop. Those weren’t the best memories. Then again, when did anyone ever make good memories in a hospital? I paused. Other than giving birth, I supposed. It was ironic how the greatest joy in a person’s life happened in the same place that could cause people the most pain. Why weren’t there separate birthing hospitals? They didn’t have to be called hospitals. Birthing stations. Life buildings. Life-spitals.
We walked down the hallway and I couldn’t help but cringe. I rubbed my hand on the back of my neck as I looked around. The hospital’s smell was too sterile and the walls were too white. The hallway stretched out. I felt dizzy. Well, at least there were more than enough hospital beds if I passed out. Our footsteps echoed on the linoleum.
I furrowed my eyebrows and looked at Cheryl.
“What even happened to her?”
“She took a nasty fall in her bathroom today. There’s a gnarly cut on her leg and she hit her head. They think she was hopped up on Vicodin and a bit drunk, but no official reports have come in yet.”
I stopped mid-step and faced Cheryl.
“They don’t even know yet? Oh for Christ’s sake you made me drive up here, after midnight, when it could’ve waited until morning when I was going to be up anyway?!” I said in a tone that I thought might not be appropriate for a hospital.
“Take up some responsibility for once in your life, Jack. She’s your mother!”
“It’s one in the morning!”
“It’s her birthday!”
My head fell and I threw my hands up in defeat. No rest for the fuckin’ weary.
“Where is the damn waiter with our food? It’s been a half a friggin’ hour!”
“It’s Friendly’s, Pop. What else would you expect?”
“Pop, the swearing...the kids…” Cheryl said.
“Oh they’ll have to hear it someday. What’s the difference in a couple years?”
Allie was eleven. Jimmy was nine. Maybe Jimmy hadn’t, but odds were Allie had heard the word ‘damn’ before.
I pulled out my new Cingular mobile phone and checked the time. Pop was right, it had been almost a half an hour since we ordered. If Allie hadn’t wanted to come here for her birthday I never would have suggested Friendly’s. Besides, with the divorce finalized two short weeks ago, no one could stand to disappoint her. Despite Cheryl’s ex being on the road six days out of the week for work, he was still the kids’ father. It didn’t make the divorce any easier.
Ma leaned across the table to Allie and whispered, “So, dear, I heard about this new dance move all the kids are doing these days. Grinding? Have you tried it? I hear it’s fun,” she said, chuckling.
“Aw, Gram!” Allie exclaimed, her face growing red.
“What’s grinding?” Jimmy asked.
Christ, Ma. Hearing ‘damn’ was one thing, but grinding? Did kids even grind in middle school?
“You’d especially love it, dear.” she chucked again. “The guys get very…”
“Ma!” I exclaimed.
“Don’t worry about it kids, you’ll learn about it when you’re older,” Cheryl said. “Although I wish not,” she added.
I drummed my fingers on the table and looked around for our waiter. Fuckin’ Friendly’s. I checked my mobile phone again. Maybe if I pretended I had a call I could get out of this until our food arrived. I began to stand up.
“That reminds me, dear. I got this mobile cellular device that all you children have been going on about. Put your number in so I can keep in touch and sext and call you.”
“You mean text, Ma.”
Room 208. Ma was a crazy old woman but I loved her anyway. I had to. How could you not love the woman who brought you into this crazy world? I braced myself for the worst as Cheryl opened the door.
The room was dark and Ma was fast asleep. I could just make out a deep purple and red bruise over her left eye, and there were a couple stitches above her eyebrow, tarnishing her extra pale skin. Her leg was under the sheets, but I could only imagine what the gash looked like. I yawned.
“She’s not even awake, Cheryl,” I whispered. “Christ.”
“She’s our mother, Jack! You never see her. Do you realize how much she wishes you would visit her? To just take some time out of your weekend every so often to have dinner? Especially these past few years with Pop gone. I think you owe it to her to be here right now.”
For Christ’s sake. Of course she’d berate me on that. It’s not like she was always the favored one. Why should I be the one to put in the extra effort?
I groaned. “I’ll be back in an hour or two.”
“Fine. But if she wakes up and I call you, you better get your ass back here.”
I left as Cheryl tucked our mother in.
The thought of my untouched post-work drink entered my mind as I made my way to the lobby. My tongue ached for the sweet nectar from the gods. I approached the receptionist in the lobby where we had entered. She was slender, my guess was mid-thirties.
“You guys got a bar here?”
The receptionist rolled her eyes.
“This is a hospital, sir. What do you think?” The receptionist paused before standing up and walking around her desk. “Get out onto the main road and take a left,” she said, pointing to the left. “Penuche’s will be all the way down at the corner of Pleasant and South Main. Don’t come back here stumbling or I’m kicking you out.”
“Thanks miss. You’re a doll.” I winked at her.
She shook her head and went back to her computer.
I walked out onto the main road and took a left. My breath fogged in the night and I shoved my hands in my pockets. After ten minutes I was wondering if the damn place even existed. I’d bet that receptionist sent me off on a chase just to get me out of there. Did she have no sympathy? If a man’s visiting a hospital he’s gonna want a drink. Another ten minutes went by and I spotted Penuche’s. It looked like a small place. I’d have missed the place if I wasn’t so desperate. I looked around: not a car or person in sight. Man, Concord did not know how to have a good time.
As I opened the door I was greeted with a familiar smell. The place was empty save for an older man at the far end of the bar, his cane leaning against his leg, and the bartender staring into her phone. There was an empty stage in the back; maybe I’d come back on a weekend. I looked back to the bartender. She looked young, way too young to be serving a man like myself. I looked her up and down, smiled, and sat down.
“I’ll have a whiskey on the rocks, please.” I paused. "Make that two."
The bartender looked up from her phone. “Two? That’s ambitious.”
“I’m feeling ambitious tonight.”
She set two glasses with ice on the bar top.
“What’s the occasion?” she asked, pouring a bottle of my namesake into the glasses.
“Family incident. Just came from the hospital. You know how it goes,” I said.
I emptied the first glass.
“Oh, I know how it goes.”
She grabbed the first glass to set it under the counter and as she bent down I stared at her chest. A smile began to break out on my face for the first time since I’d driven up here.
“So why would such a young doll like you be working here, serving men like me?” I asked, eyes still fixated on her chest.
“I just graduated five months ago from Keene. It pays the bills for now.”
I emptied the second drink.
She placed a glass with more of my namesake on the bar top.
“You’re a doll.”
I took a sip and leaned forward.
“A word of advice,” I began, “a girl as pretty as you had better watch out at a place like this, or old men like me are gonna try to get to bed with you.”
She laughed a pure laugh. She seemed so damn innocent. I almost felt bad.
“I’ve had a few of those, I know how it goes.”
“Have you slept with any men like me?”
“Now why would I divulge that info to you?”
I took a sip.
“If you’ll excuse me for a moment,” she said.
I lifted my glass to her.
“Do what you need to do.”
The bartender smiled at me and went into the back. The whiskey was hitting me harder than it should have. Perhaps it had something to do with my lack of sleep and lack of substantial food for ten hours. I’d damn the alcohol if we weren’t in love.
I took a sip.
My mind wandered to the bartender and I felt my pulse accelerate. My pants tightened a bit and I thought about the last time I had a lay with a catch like her. It was a few years back, when my hair was a little longer, with a bartender at a venue I used to book at. Maybe I had a thing for bartenders.
I finished my drink.
The bartender returned, cheeks looking a little redder. She looked at my glass and smiled.
“You know what I like,” I said, and pushed my glass her way.
She put another glass on the counter and filled it up.
Looking me in the eyes, she said, “You know, you’ve got about the nicest blue eyes I’ve ever seen in a man.” She paused. “You remind me of someone.”
“Oh I do, do I? Well why don’t you tell me your name and we can get to know each other a bit more,” I said, leaning forward again.
She chuckled. “You’re drunk.”
“Hey, whatever works.”
I opened my mouth to say something else and felt my already tight pants vibrate. I pulled my phone out: Cheryl. My pants loosened a tad.
“Ah Christ…” I muttered. “I’ve gotta get back or else my sister will have a fit,” I said. “Maybe I'll catch you around here again. I’m sure I’ll be back.”
The bartender straightened up. “Maybe you will. Hope everything goes well,” she said with a smile.
I winked at her, emptied my drink, threw a little extra money her way, and stumbled out into the night.
I looked down at my plate. My love for Italian food had decreased since these frequent visits began; Ma and Olive Garden would be forever connected in my brain. I picked up the breaded chicken breast with my fork and plopped in back onto the plate, sending marinara sauce onto my glass. Christ.
"So, Jimmy, why don't you tell Gram what happened yesterday?" Cheryl asked.
Jimmy gave his mother a blank stare.
"What happened?" he asked.
Cheryl raised an eyebrow. "The game? Your first homecoming game?"
"Oh yeah!" Jimmy exclaimed. He turned to Ma. "So yesterday was my first homecoming game, right? And we were real nervous, you know. It was against our rivals in Manchester, and they'd kicked our asses last time we played them. So we were in the third quarter, fourth down, and guess who scored his first high school touchdown?!"
"Well now Jimmy that's great to hear," Ma said, patting his hand. "I'm very proud of you."
"Thanks!" he said, puffing out his chest.
"No need to inflate his ego," Allie said under her breath.
We sat in in a rare moment's silence as everyone ate their dinners. I surveyed the room, noting all the elderly with their children and grandchildren and wondered why I still agreed to these gatherings. A family didn't need to gather this often.
"Now Cheryl, dear, where did you say John was again?"
Cheryl furrowed her eyebrows. She opened her mouth, but then closed it.
"Mom, John and I got divorced. Five years ago."
"Oh right, right, I know.” Ma paused for a moment. “I was just testing you, of course," Ma said, laughing a little.
More silence. Only a little more awkward this time.
"Oh, the sausages are great!" Ma said, miscellaneous meat bits falling from her mouth. "I just love sausages."
I leaned over and whispered to Cheryl, "She loves the sausages, huh?"
"Oh hush," she whispered back.
Ma made grunts of pleasure with each bite. My laughter caught in my throat and I almost choked trying to hold it back. I wondered if she was served enough sausage in that home she was in, or perhaps this was a rare indulgence?
"Mmm, I just have to take these sausages back. I could share them with my friends."
My eyes began to water and I choked again. Cheryl elbowed me in the side.
"Check, please?" she asked the waiter as he walked by.
"So soon?" I asked. I was beginning to enjoy myself.
Cheryl glared at me, giving me that stern ‘I know you’re younger than me but you don’t have to act like it’ look.
We finished our dinner in silence, save for the occasional grunt from Ma. For Christ's sake, she had to have been doing it on purpose by now. She had to.
The waiter came over with the bill. "Did everyone enjoy their meal?"
Heads nodded across the table.
"I must say, I loved the sausages." Ma cleared her throat. "They were delicious! I enjoyed it all but the sausages were great."
"Would you like a box for your food?"
"Yes, please. But just the sausages. I only want the sausages in my box."
I choked and tears began to form in the corners of my eyes.
"You're such a child."
The brightness of the hospital stung as I tip toed past the front desk. My eyes watered a little as I squinted them. I wandered up and down the hallways trying to find Ma's room. Where the fuck was it? Why had the hospital designers made the place so confusing? Everything looked the same. White walls, white floors, bright lights making all the walls and floors whiter. I leaned against the wall to catch my breath. The pale walls spread out before me, seeming endless. Why were hospital walls so white? For fuck's sake, they had to change that. It was like they wanted people to feel sick. I closed my eyes.
After my head paused its spinning, I pushed myself off the wall, fell into the other wall across from me, pushed off that one, and started to walk again. I rounded the corner and stumbled upon the elevators.
"Second floor, right. Right," I said to myself.
I pressed the button to go up. It didn't light. Christ. I pressed it again. And again. Third time's the charm. The doors opened and I got in and the doors closed and we were going up and Christ, what was that smell? A wretched smell filled up the confined space, sucking up all the remaining oxygen. It smelled of alcohol and sweat.
The smell made its way into my stomach and threatened to empty it. The tiny lights on the ceiling danced and danced and danced with each other, dancing this upbeat waltz, but in a minor key. They loomed above me. They danced faster and faster until they all became a blur and I lost focus on the waltz.
The doors opened and I burst out and retched into the garbage can next to the elevator. Not once, but twice did a putrid, amber liquid project itself from my mouth, an unpleasant waterfall that no one wished to observe.
I stood up and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. Maybe that would put an end to the dancing lights. It was the type of dance you didn't want captivating your attention, but it did anyway. One that you couldn’t help but stare at. Like a car wreck.
Room 208. My hand slipped from the door knob, but I got it the second try. Easy enough. I wiped my forehead with my forearm.
The lights were off. The lights were off and Ma was fast asleep. I groaned.
My sister began to stir. As she opened her eyes her nose wrinkled.
"God, what's that smell?"
"What gives?" I asked.
"Did you not get my text?"
I seemed to recall a faint buzzing as I stumbled down the street, thinking back on it.
"Must've not gotten it," I slurred.
"Jack, you're drunk..."
"Whether I may or may not be intoxicated does not concern you," I said, straightening up. "Now, why is Ma not awake?"
"She woke up for about five minutes, seemed responsive. She asked what time it was and where she was, but fell back asleep. The drugs must still be in her system."
"You could've texted me."
"I was having a wonderful conversation with a bartender, you know."
"Of course you were. How old was this one?”
“Irrelevant to the matter at hand.”
“You can’t help yourself, can you?"
I yawned. "Well she better wake up soon."
"She'll wake up when she wakes up."
I lowered myself onto the chair in the corner. It was more comfortable than it looked. Cheryl said something to me, something along the lines of me needing something that included the words “what her” maybe, but my brain couldn't process it in time before sleep took over.