Martha didn’t want to open her eyes, because she was 98% sure she was going to see The Actual Devil standing over her, laughing and cackling. Naturally, the room would be filled with fire, all sorts of unspeakable hell-beasts, and young white men wearing rakish hats. And a giant banner that read, “WELCOME, MARTHA, YOU DID IT, YOU DRANK YOURSELF TO DEATH AND YOU DIED AND YOU’RE IN HELL, HA-HA-HA-HA.”
It would have to be an exceptionally giant banner, Martha thought, but she went on to suppose that Hell-folks would have a lot of free time to make such a thing. Making it was probably the punishment for those who wrote insulting comments about other people’s crafts online. “So, you thought that nice mid-60s grandma’s Unicorn Rainbow Bridge quilt was a FAIL, did you? WELL SEW THIS BANNER, SEW IT WITH YOUR OWN HATEFUL SINEWS, HA-HA-HA-HA.”
Martha was about to try to calculate how many times a day The Actual Devil said the phrase “HA-HA-HA-HA” when the throbbing in her hea d became so intense that her eyes popped open of their own free will, creepy-baby-doll style. Martha swore she could hear a “CREAK” as her eyes did this, but ultimately pinned it up to the sound of her ancient apartment building shifting and settling. A thing it did approximately 9000 times a day during Chicago’s particularly hateful local brand of winter, but never louder than at just this moment.
A SHORT LIST OF EVERYTHING ELSE IN MARTHA’S APARTMENT THAT WAS NEVER LOUDER THAN AT JUST THIS MOMENT:
- Her radiator
- Her dripping sink
- A car horn honking in Batavia that Martha could hear from 41.5 miles away
- An astronaut sneezing on the ISS
- A cartoon mouse flossing its teeth
- Every sound that had ever been made, and that will ever be made
- Martha herself, power-vomiting into her toilet
Martha was surprised by this turn of events. It seemed like a split-second ago she was lying in her bed, thinking about the nature of Hell, but also about how everyone and everything everywhere should put a goddamn sock in it. Then her eyes popped open without consulting her, like a couple of jerks, and then she closed them to show them both who’s boss.
And then, *skip*, there she was in her bathroom, so violently and vociferously ill that a person honking their horn in Batavia might stop, look up, and wonder if a woman 41.5 miles away needed immediate medical attention.
As the cool linoleum tile on her floor attempted to regulate her raging body temperature, Martha wondered how she, a woman of grown adult status, allowed herself to get so thoroughly and completely hosed. How did she not drink twenty waters and a fistful of gummy vitamins before she passed out? How did she not consume her Emergency Drunk Sandwich in her last stumbling seconds of consciousness?
And why in the ever-loving fuck did she go Fireball shot-for-Fireball shot with that purple-haired twentysomething lady who looked like a cartoon mouse (Albeit a damn adorable cartoon mouse, via DeviantArt) at Spyners? Why was she at Spyners? And why was she singing karaoke? And out of all the karaoke songs in the world, why did she try to convince Adorable Cartoon Mouse Lady they should sing “Telephone” together?
Why did Last Night Martha think any, ANY of this was a good idea?
If Last Night Martha knew the answers to any of these questions, she was not telling Martha. Martha decided Last Night Martha was kind of a jerkwad.
Martha squeezed her creepy baby doll eyes shut, and tried to think.
Martha sat on her couch, staring down at her plate, which now contained a few measly Emergency Drunk Sandwich crumbs. For the second time this morning, she wasn’t entirely sure how she got there. She began to wonder if her splitting headache wasn’t merely a Fireball-branded malady, but rather the opening band for a hot new act called “Martha’s Aneurysm”.
If she had any idea where her phone was, she’d look up the symptoms of an aneurysm, and then call an ambulance or a hearse. She began to swat at her coffee table in the hopes that if she waved her arms around long enough, it would just magically appear.
Although it could hardly classify as “magic”, she did manage to knock over a glass of water, which led to her attempting to clean up the spill with last weekend’s Reader, and hiding under last weekend’s Reader was her phone. “Ta-da,” she thought to herself.
She picked up her phone, looked at it, and then dropped it back on the table and threw the now-damp newspaper back over it. With the exception of the newspaper being damp, she realized that Last Night Martha went through a similar series of actions eight or so hours ago. She took a deep breath, and felt a little empathy for Last Night Martha.
On her phone’s lock screen was the date. February 15th, 2015. Also on her phone’s lock screen was an email notification from Laura. Laura, whom she had not had any contact with in a year and a half.
Laura who changed their relationship status to “It’s Complicated” on Facebook a full month before she decided she and Martha needed to talk.
Laura, who had, to the best of her knowledge, replaced her with a Burlington pottery teacher and was doing just fine without her, thanks. And the feeling was more than mutual, no thank YOU.
Laura, who Martha had done her damnedest to purge from her life and her memories, and replace with awesome adventures, a new life a thousand miles away, and quite a few new ladies, no, seriously, thank you very much AND GOOD DAY.
Laura. Who decided to send Martha an email yesterday that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” with two emoji hearts bookending it. Laura who had apparently moved to goddamn STEPFORD, because Martha knew she didn’t give a single solitary hoot about Valentine’s Day and would sooner set her phone on fire before toggling the emoji keyboard.
The events of the last eight or so hours began to come back to her. Martha was bopping around her apartment, having an Absolutely Nothing To Do With Valentine’s Day Saturday Night Diet Coke And Not Talking To People Party.
(That’s when you drink seventeen Diet Cokes, shuffle your entire music library, and only listen to about five seconds of each song before skipping ahead to the next one, because for some reason or another, you just can’t deal. Also, you don’t talk to anyone, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.)
Then she got the Laura email notification. Then she dropped her phone like it was on fire, and threw a newspaper over it. Then she closed her eyes in anticipation of crying.
Drinks at a nice bar.
Drinks at a merely okay bar.
“COME ON PURP-MOUSEY-MOUSE WE’RE BOTH TOTALLY CUTE AND WE BOTH LIKE FIREBALL YOU BE GAGA AND I’LL BE BEY-BEY HA-HA-HA-HA WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOUR UBER’S HERE? DON’T YOU READ MOTHER JONES UBER’S THE ACTUAL DEVIL”
Martha sank back down on the couch, and stared at the now-not-as-damp newspaper protecting her from her phone. She felt her eyes wanting to close. She knew she could close them, squeeze them shut, and skip to brunch, skip to a movie, skip to another bar, skip to next week, next month, next year.
Or she could just look at her phone.
She looked at her phone, and read the email. The subject, indeed, was “(emoji heart) HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY (emoji heart)” The body of the email went on to explain the following to Martha and approximately 500 other people from Laura’s hacked address book:
“Valentinerz Deys are the romance time of year, good Online DoctOR cheap perssctiption RX fro romance medicing pills, INEXPLENSIVE.”
Martha proceeded to set a land speed record for screen-capping an email and sending it to every person she knew, including her dad, who proceeded to break the land speed record for a father sending his daughter seven crying/laughing face emojis interspersed with seven dancing red dress dancing lady emojis.
Martha collapsed on her couch, giggling. Her phone, sensing her good mood, buzzed along with her. She looked at it, wiping the joy-tears from her face.
It was a text from “JENNI (MOUSE)”:
“Figured we should both sober up, Bey-Bey. Wanna get brunch at Nightwood and figure out a plan for world domination? 1pm?”
Martha looked at the time. 10:30am.
Far, far too long to wait.
Martha smiled, fixed her hair, and squeezed her smiling eyes shut.