My body and mind both ached from the emotional hurricane that I had gone through the last few days. I stepped carefully over broken glass from shattered bottles and grimaced at stains on the carpets – whether it was from beer or vomit, I couldn’t yet tell. The whole apartment reeked with a stench that made me gag, especially as I walked past the kitchen full of dirty dishes and more beer bottles. I held my nose and peeked into the bathroom even though the lights were off. Seeing nothing and no one unusual, I continued down the hall slowly, almost scared as to what I might find either in mine or Harry’s room.
“Haz?” I called softly, balancing on my toes before I looked into his room. I stabilized myself with the wall and pulled myself forward, craning my neck around his doorframe and peeking into his room. The sheets were everywhere and an assortment of his clothes were mixed into the mess. I took a cautious step into the room but froze as I heard a squish beneath my feet. I could smell it before I even looked down at it: a small pile of colorful vomit. I swallowed back a gag and stepped back out of the room, balancing again on one foot as I slipped off my messy shoe. I took the other shoe off and laid them both down in the hall before carefully stretching my legs across the hallway into my room.
“Haz?” I called again, watchfully scanning the floor to make sure I didn’t step in any more vomit, especially now since my feet were bare. When I had a little bit of open floor to stand on, I stood up straight and looked around my room. The bed was bare, causing me to panic slightly before I remembered that I had taken my spread and pillow to the studio. A few of my clothes were thrown about, which I didn’t remember doing, and mixed with the overall stench of the apartment was a heavy scent of my perfume. I frowned and made my way to my makeup dresser where I found my favorite perfume bottle, nearly empty.
Confused, I spun slowly and observed the space. That was when I noticed a limp foot sticking out of the opposite side of my bed. I gasped and rushed over to the body.
“Harry?” I shook him and flipped him onto his back on the floor. He was tangled up in an old blanket and only had on his boxers aside from that. I gagged again as his body odor, mixed with beer, rose up and burned into my nostrils. I grimaced and tried to slide Harry away from the puddle of vomit-mixed saliva that accumulated under his mouth where he had been laying.
“Harry?” I nearly shouted at him, shaking him harder and slapping his pale cheeks roughly. I pulled one of his eyes open and let the light from the window shine into his pupil, but it didn’t dilate. I stuck my finger beneath his nostrils and held my breath, trying to feel or hear his own breathing. Not sensing any, I panicked and slammed my fist into his chest. “Harry! Come on Harry-“ I straddled his hips and forced all of my weight onto his stomach. I put the bottom of my hands just below his ribcage and shoved downward as hard as I could, over and over. I bounced on his stomach and slapped his face some more, unsure of what else to do. Of course I had learned about the Heimlich Maneuver and all of that, but now that I actually needed to attempt to do it correctly, my mind went blank.
I remembered a few times where this happened before. Some party. Some house. Strangers. Dancing. Drinking. Harry blacked out a few times. I was drunk and giggled and pumped his stomach playfully until he vomited, in which case he sat up again, fully conscious, picked up another drink and began to fill his stomach again with more alcohol. It was almost like a roller coaster for us - the drinking and blacking out. Somehow, we trained ourselves to black out and recover for more, like when you go over a huge drop on a roller coaster and black out, but then come back just in time for the next drop. Harry was much better about coming back for that second drop than I was, though. We hadn’t done it in so long that when I found him in my room on this day, I was worried he might have already been dead.
“Harry!” I cried, a mixture of angry and fearful tears rushing to my eyes. I scrambled around for my phone. I pushed the home button repeatedly until the screen lit up. I swiped the bottom and tried to type in my lock code, but it was wrong. I growled and tried it again, but my shaky fingers wouldn’t let me hit the numbers I needed to. Finally, on the fourth time, my phone unlocked. I dialed 911 as fast as I could and returned to Harry’s side.
“Come- ON-“ I grunted as I used my hand and all of my body weight to press down on his stomach once more.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“Hello, I-“ I started to explain the situation, but before I could say more, Harry gasped, shoved me backward away from him, and rolled onto his stomach to vomit. I squealed and rushed back to his side, hugging his heaving sides more tightly than I ever had.
“Hello? What is the emergency?” I heard through the phone.
“No emergency anymore-“ I gasped, snatching my phone up from the ground where I dropped it and pressing my other ear to Harry’s bare back, sighing with relief when I heard his heart beating frantically in his body. “No emergency. I’m sorry. We’re fine.” I threw my phone across the room and pressed my body against Harry’s back as he hunched over on the floor. I tried to close my eyes and relax my breathing but I was entirely too excited for that. “Are you okay?” I breathed while rubbing my hand up his sweaty arm. His body was suddenly hot and shaky. I watched the greasy curls on the back of his head sway as he nodded slowly. “You’re okay,” I confirmed, kissing the sweaty skin on his back. “Thank God, you’re okay.”
It took me five minutes to get Harry to his feet and untangled from the blanket. He smelled even worse when the blanket was away from him and nothing could hold back the body odor radiating from his pale and sick-looking body. He balanced himself using my shoulders as I helped him shuffle down the hallway to the bathroom where he peed and then sunk down into the hot bath I prepared for him. We didn’t have bubbles for a bubble bath, but I added half of a bottle of my vanilla body wash to the water so that even if he didn’t scrub himself, hopefully he would still clean up a little bit. I walked to the kitchen, again avoiding shattered beer bottles and splotches of God-knows-what on the floor. I retrieved Harry and myself a bottle of water from the fridge and returned to the bathroom where I stripped down and climbed in the warm water opposite Harry. I let my legs hover over his in the water as I studied the bags under his eyes and waited for him to look at me. But he didn’t.
After about ten minutes, I ran my hands slowly up his legs, giggling softly at all of the hair between my fingers. Harry surprised me by repeating the action but he still didn’t raise his eyes to meet mine. He wrapped his feet around my lower back and slowly ran his toes over my skin beneath the water, but then it stopped. He removed his hands from my legs and cupped some water between his fingers before lifting the water to his face and letting it run down his stubbly cheeks and chin.
“How can you sit there and act like nothing is wrong?” He finally whispered.
I laid back against the bathtub wall and allowed my body to sink a bit further into the water. I looked at my hands beneath the surface of the bubbly water. I didn’t know what to say. When I looked back up at Harry, a tear was running down his face again.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for all of this,” he said, raising his hand and motioning toward the mess outside of the bathroom.
I gulped and decided to ignore the mess, focusing on his health instead. “Did you just choke or something?” I asked, referencing when I came in and found him unconscious on the floor of my room.
Harry sniffed, shrugged, and wiped more water on his face. “I don’t know. I was hung over from a few nights back but managed to force myself to drink more. There was a guy on the street smelling marijuana and some other kind of pills and I bought it from him the day after you left, so in my second drunken stupor I think I just took the pills with the beer and they messed me up. I can’t stop hurling…” Harry said, running his hand over his sore stomach.
“What were the pills?” I asked.
Harry shook his head. “I don’t even know.”
I didn’t bother fussing at Harry. I knew he was probably already rebuking himself in his head for doing what he did.
He sighed. “I’m sorry for all of this,” he said again.
I ran my hand over his leg comfortingly. “It’s oka-“
“It’s not.” Harry’s eyes finally met my own. They were bright like the green ocean of a dreamy island but full of regret. “It’s not okay. I was an idiot when I was younger and I messed up your life by telling you that you smelled bad and taking your virginity in the same night-“
“There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t wonder who you could have been if you never met me and just went on with your life. You could have conquered the world…” He sniffled and laid his head back on the edge of the bathtub. “Then I wonder where I would be without you. What would I be doing? Who would I be working? Would I live in such an awesome apartment? Would I have such a great job?”
I wondered why Harry always seemed to tell me this when we were in the bathtub. I couldn’t help but think about the last time we were laying in here together, wrapped up in each other’s arms. The time Harry thought I was asleep and scorned himself for not having the courage to tell me these things when I was awake… and yet here we were. I was beating myself up, trying to think of words to tell him, to comfort him, to stop thinking about what could have been. I wanted to hurl myself off a cliff when I could only think of two words to say. They barely escaped my trembling lips. “Check, please?”
Harry sat up and blinked at me, frowning just the slightest. I took a breath and opened my mouth to speak, but couldn’t. I ran my hands over the surface of the water and waited for the bubbles to magically spell out something for me to say, but to my disappointment, that didn’t happen. I took another breath and started to say whatever words my mind would form. “I don’t want to think about what could have been or might have happened to the two of us. For me, thinking about not having you in my life is one of the most terrifying thoughts in the whole world. When I think about you not being there, I see myself being bullied for all eternity by Therese. I see myself eating lunch in the bathroom at school every day. I see myself being a loner in college. I mean, when our friends were getting drunk at parties, you and I were eating popcorn and playing UNO together in our dorm. Without you I see myself overdosing from pills when my mom died. I see… gosh I don’t even know what else I see. I don’t want to see my life without you.”
Right when I thought it was starting to sink in, Harry frowned and shook his head. “Without me, I see you raising the perfect family that you want, not some baby with Louis.”
My face fell and looked back down at the fading bubbles. Some baby? I felt like I was right back to my friends not caring.
Harry sighed and covered his face with his hands. He sat forward and raised my chin up to look in my face. “You know I didn’t mean that, Scotty, I’m so sorry.”
I turned my head away from him and pulled at the wet ends of some of my hair. “I’m not pregnant. The test was botched.”
The water sloshed around my body as Harry sat back against the bathtub wall again and ran his fingers through his hair. He puffed out his cheeks and slowly let out air through his lips. “You…” He started, looking at me. “What- I mean, I just…” He cracked a small, relieved grin and ran his hands up and down my shins quickly. “Oh goodness.” He stared off at the ceiling for a minute and his face fell. He bit his lip nervously and looked my way. “Scotlan, I’m so sorry for being mad, Anna just scared me and I should have stood up for you because I know you would never cheat. What she said was completely-“
I squeezed my eyes shut and slapped the water. “Please, please, please Harry, stop. Please. It’s okay. Please, let’s just not talk about it. It’s over and done with and that’s all that matters.” I tucked my legs underneath my body and slid toward him in the bath, forcing the water to splash back and forth. Harry caught my waist and pulled me closer to him between his legs. I dug my fingers into his hair just above his neck and stared straight into his eyes.
“Do you know how important you are to me?”
Harry’s eyes softened and flickered away from my face.
“I’m serious Harry, do you?”
Until moments ago, I never fully realized just how much Harry blamed himself for my entire life. Who I was. What decisions I made. I loved him, but I didn’t want him to feel like I was upset with my life, and more importantly I didn’t want him to think that he was responsible for anything bad that happened.
When he didn’t say anything, I continued. “I love who I am and where I am in life and that’s all because of you,” I told him, tilting my head to try and meet his eyes. “I love you and I mean it. I don’t regret a single day of my life.”
Harry continued to nibble on his lip between his teeth until he heard “I love you.” His ears perked up, the color returned to his face, and the green in his eyes shifted from appearing remorseful to dancing again.
“I love you too, Scotlan,” He said quietly and looked away. I could tell that he didn’t feel worthy of being the one to say that to me. He still had the events of the last few days running through his mind despite my plea for him to forget it and I could tell he still felt guilty for my life, but those were feelings that wouldn’t change with a simple “I love you.” I remembered right then that it was something we had to work on together, like I told Harry a little while ago when we first decided to try dating. I watched him for a moment, still propped on my knees between his thighs, and finally leaned toward him to place a delicate kiss on his cheek. He smiled faintly and brushed some of my damp hair over my shoulder.
“You know something?” I whispered.
“Hmm?” Harry hummed.
I stepped out of the bath and wrapped a towel around my body. Harry took his towel from my hands and wrapped it around his lower body. I flipped my hair up into a bun and folded my arms over my chest. “I might love you more if you help me clean up this mess,” I said, trying to change the subject.
Harry chuckled and pulled me into a hug. He still didn’t smell the greatest, but the vanilla body was definitely helped. “I’m not that messy. Since when did you become such a-“
I threw open the door to the bathroom, revealing the kitchen and hallway.
Harry’s face fell and his eyes widened. “-clean queen…” He finished his sentence and stepped gingerly into the hall. He inhaled sharply through his teeth as he looked around at the bottles in the living room and finally turned to face me. “I didn’t know it was this bad. I was blinded with…” I raised my eyebrows as he shook his head. “… I don’t know. I was a mess,” he admitted.
“Let’s get some clothes on and we can start cleaning,” I said, taking Harry’s outstretched hand as I stepped over a bottle on the floor in the hall. “I need to get my things from the studio later too.”
“I’ll clean up the glass first,” Harry offered, but I stopped in front of my room and shook my head.
“You’ll clean up the vomit first.”
“Vomit?” Harry asked, his eyes widening as he turned to walk into his room. “What vom-“ Splat. Bare feet. Right in a nice puddle of puke.
“That vomit,” I replied, grimacing as I chuckled and Harry danced his way around the rest of the puddle. I grabbed some underwear from my drawer and put them on. I clutched my makeup dresser for balance and spotted my perfume, remembering that 99% of it was gone. I picked up the bottle and walked to the door.
“Um, Harry?” I asked, holding up the bottle for him to see. He poked his head around his doorframe and continued to pull up his boxers as he looked to see what was in my hand. When he saw the bottle, he gulped and pouted apologetically.
“You were just gone and I was so used to smelling it… It just felt weird not smelling it, you know? So I sprayed a little around the room…” He explained bashfully. I grinned. He was caught.
“A little??” I repeated, shaking the bottle.
Harry laughed and disappeared into his room. “I’ll buy you more! I promise!”
It took Harry and I a full two days to really get the house clean again. And don’t just mean a little clean… I mean clean. Shining floors, shampooed carpets, fresh laundry, spotless dishes… everything. It probably wouldn’t have taken us that long had Harry not been forced to stop so often the first day because he was still a bit hung over. He drank more water and black coffee than I thought was humanly possible, trying to wash out whatever drugs or alcohol he had left in his system by peeing every five minutes. He refused to eat anything because it seemed to come right back up no matter what it was.
I felt bad, and as much as I wanted to cuddle him in my arms, I was also slightly vexed at him. My stomach churned more and more with each beer bottle that I helped Harry pick up off of the floors and tables and the beer stench was enough to keep me gagging for hours. Even after we sprayed the apartment with freshener and bought candles and wax melts of all different aromas, I could still faintly smell the beer. The odor lingered in the air like it was going to take human form and choke us in the middle of the night. I didn’t say anything, though. I knew that once Harry officially sobered up and realized all that he had done, he was mentally beating himself up. I could see it in the way his face contorted with the sound of broken glass being swept across the floor and in the way the veins in his neck pulsed when the bottles clanked together in the garbage bag.
I didn’t want him to struggle and felt bad watching him suffer. I wanted to help him. I had to help him and he had to help me. No one else in the world could understand the two of us better than we understood each other. We would make this work.
We had to.
We had to try.