“I’m going to kiss one –just one—beautiful boy before I die,” my bestie informed me as we stumbled out of one of the many bars on Bourbon Street boasting “Big Ass Beers.”
I’d ventured forth from our hotel room six hours earlier with the intention of remaining sober, the voice of reason—something Ginn could never be in her newfound unfettered state. “Ginn, don’t,” I responded in a hiss of a whisper. “You’re married.”
“It’s a kiss, Imara, nothing more. It’s Mardi Gras for god’s sake…and the first vacation I’ve been allowed in five years. Besides, remind me again what your opinion of my husband has always been?” She slurred every single word.
“Narcissistic bastard,” I huffed out in a tequila-infused cloud.
“And how many affairs of his have I provided concrete proof of to you?” She whirled and tilted forward to such a degree that I really thought she might faceplant in the middle of the overcrowded street.
“Four,” I huffed out as she backed me into a corner of her skewed logic.
“Four?” The degree of slur to her question—I’d consumed three whole drinks less than her—made the questioning of my memory seem ludicrous.
I counted evidence, such as lewd text messages and the TMI photographs from the PI she’d hired, behind my eyes. “Okay, right, six.”
“Damned right!” she expounded; her black brows being drawn down into the furrow between them. “That we know of,” she added with fervor. After stumbling forward a few steps, she rounded on me again and demanded, “How many affairs have I had?”
“Zero…unless there are any you failed to provide details about?”
“Zeeeeeeeeeeeero,” she reiterated, her bright eyes shining with unabashed buzz, while somehow holding onto unadulterated sincerity. “Even so, you would deny me one innocent, leading-to-nowhere-else kiss?”
“Mmmm, perhaps not.” I began to rethink my former condemnation in earnest, muttering out my reply to her question in a hushed response.
“Live band, live band,” she admonished, her electric smile curling to life once more, any hint of a disagreement between us forgotten. She latched onto my hand, lacing our fingers and dragging me into an establishment dubbed The Famous Door.
“Maybe we should go back to the hotel? It’s getting kind of late…”
“Seriously, Imara? It’s ten til eleven on Fat Tuesday, and our last night,” she said, pleading bleeding into her voice.
“Exactly, Ginn. Are you going to be able to get up at the crack of dawn and then drive nine hours to Cave Horse?”
“That’s what Starbucks is for, Im. If you think I’m going to waste our last night in NOLA; well, you, simply, cannot be my bestie.”
“Alright, alright, but just a couple more hours, okay?”
“Should be just enough time to find that magical kiss,” Ginn sighed out, her body starting to meld and flow with the music drifting out of the bar and into Bourbon Street.
“Let’s do this,” I sighed in answer, surrendering to the enthusiasm seeping, dripping, puddling from the pores of the person who’d existed as my best friend for the last thirty years.
“Ginn, what time is it?” Those were the only words capable of crawling through my brain and down to exit roughly through my mouth in my current state. Hungover and miserable. That was the current state. I fumbled for the little knob on the beside lamp, but my fingers were too confused by the garbled signals my pounding head was broadcasting to be of any real use.
The hotel bed comforter was thicker than the one my bed at home boasted. It curled up over my chin and into my nose and mouth like an uninvited alien invader. The taste infiltrating my sinuses was thicker…black licorice and more-potent-than-normal alcohol. Absinthe. *Shit, we should’ve known better than that,* I told myself.
“Ginn!” I managed a bit more volume that time, though I paid dearly for the excess with the pain bouncing off the insides of my skull bones like a pinball. “Dammit, did that absinthe kill you?” I wished I could recall my words as I moved ever-so-slowly to the unmoving lump of blanket in her bed.
“Ginn, Ginn are you okay,” I only dared to breathe as I stumbled toward her mattress, curling my fingers around the comforter’s edge. I dared to dip my fingertips into the lump of comforter covering Ginn’s bed. It fell inward far too easily, and my brain screamed the information there was no body to oppose my invasion into the empty space. “No, no, no, no!” Each utterance built further into a scream. “Ginn, you’d better damn-well be hogging the bathroom again!” I keened, falling to the musty carpet of the hotel room before dragging my body to the bathroom door, thankfully closed. “Thank god,” I murmured in triplicate, before pounding on the door as hard as my hungover body would allow. “Ginn, how much longer are you gonna be? We have to get on the road. We should’ve left the hotel two hours ago.” I checked my iPhone to be sure. Yep, two full hours. “Ginn?” I didn’t hear the shower running. Didn’t hear the tap swishing water into the sink either. “Ginn, I hope you’re decent.” I turned the knob. The door wasn’t locked. There was no embarrassing moment with Ginn half wrapped in the too-small-to-contain-her hotel bath towel, emerging from the shower, no reassuring wink as Ginn turned from applying her eyeliner to let me know she’d “be ready soon. Don’t worry.” There was just nothing. Nothing but an empty bathroom without even the reassuring glaze of water droplets and fog obscuring the mirror to set my soul at ease.