NOW YOU KNOW TWO WAYS by Jessica Pishko
THE MUSIC IS VERY LOUD and the floor is very dirty. You know that the bathroom is the safest place in the club right now, akin to a bomb shelter, although there are no alarms no flashing lights. You feel like you ought to use a paper towel to open the door, but there aren’t any anyway, and you have had too many rum and diet cokes to care.
In the ladies’ room now, you would crouch in the corner of the stall near the toilet and cover the back of your neck with your hands, just like you were taught to protect yourself. Broken glass is less tough on the knuckles. Your efforts at self-preservation are foiled because you are distracted by faces in the mirror; betrayed by supposedly waterproof mascara and liquid eyeliner gone awry, making drama face signs beneath lights that cast an artificial veil. You know that you are one of them; crying, with a red nose, blurred makeup, bra straps showing and the pale flesh of stomach peering over the edge of tight jeans.
Like soldiers, you talk to each other as they wipe away black smudges with a wet paper towel and smooth back hair away from each other’s faces like your mother would when you were young and crying in that sweaty, breathy way that children cry.
You wish that you could share that there are two ways to go home, but your mouth opens and you say, “I know how you feel.”
You all have the same story – you have gotten yourself dressed up in what you thought you were supposed to wear, you drank alcohol to make the brunt more bearable, and then, at the end of the night, you find yourself face-to-face with dried vomit and a beer bottle left teetering on the edge of the toilet paper dispenser wishing that you were in your sweatpants watching Law & Order.
You think that there is only one way to go. It can be any man, it doesn’t matter: his best friend, your best friend’s ex (or not-quite-ex), the guy that always showed some interest in you but that you didn’t really like. There would be the rush of desire, kissing, fondling, sex. The sex might be aching for a moment or raw. Uncomfortable sleep in someone else’s itchy sheets, waking up with dried spit on someone’s pillow, crust in your eyes, and a desire to get home as soon as possible. You get dressed quickly and leaving before he wakes up – that is a safe way to go. He might not get up, but he might ask for your phone number with his eyes closed. That is the gentlemanly thing to do: ask for the number and write it on a piece of paper that would get lost with the cable bill.
Or else he wakes up too and wants morning sex, bad breath, sweaty skin, smelling of alcohol, the wounds from the night before are not quite healed. It feels good to be held so you do it anyways, since soon you will be on the street, trying to catch a cab that will fly you home quickly. The quicker you get home, the quicker you will shower and change into sweats and begin the morning, as if you had woken up in your own bed after all, and the night before had never happened.
JESSICA PISHKO was raised in Plano, Texas. She attended Rice University as an undergrad, where she received a B.A. in English and French. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 2002 and moved to New York, where she currently lives in the East Village with her dog, Sammy, and fiance, who prefers to remain anonymous. Jessica worked at a couple of “big law” firms in New York, quit, became a yoga teacher, kept writing. She is enrolled in the M.F.A. program at Columbia for fiction writing. Her stories have been published on anderbo.com.