We were going out drinking. Period. It had been one helluva week. Loud music, stiff drinks and grain-fed cowboys were the only things that would take the stress away.
We headed out to a relatively new bar in Cut-n-Shoot, Texas (more on that, later). My friend, Heath, and I were sure to turn some heads and have some fun - young, blonde, loud, happy. Perfect recipe for a Friday night.
The place was large, the music loud and the boys were...everywhere.
Now, typically as single parents, Heath and I didn't venture out often. And neither one of us was really what you would call a 'drinker'. Not even weekend warriors, most of the time. Me - I was more of the two drink sipper, the ride-that-buzz-all-the-way-through-the-night drinker. Heath? The Binder. Straight binge drinking, but only about once every 4-6 months at best. Naturally, I was to be our driver. That meant drinks came first then I slowly sobered up over the next three and half hours.
We were having a blast. There's nothing like an easy atmosphere to allow someone to act out even without the actual booze. Finally, the night came to a close. Last call sounded, the bartenders reeled in the not-so-empty bottles and glasses.
We laughed all the way to the car, Heath slightly swaying.
"How many did you have?" Heath only drank rum and cokes. With a twist of lime.
"Like seven...I think."
"Wow." That's all I could manage. Seven drinks of anything other than water or soda would've put me in a coma.
The night was clear; the drive was long. It would take over an hour down back country roads to get home. I was good with it. All I needed was the radio up.
About a quarter mile down the road, I notice Heath seemed to be having a bit of trouble. She was fidgeting and making uncomfortable noises.
"You, okay?" I ventured.
"Um...yeah." She didn't sound too convincing.
I turned the radio to my CD. I found a song I liked. I tapped the steering wheel and muttered the words.
A couple more miles down the road and Heath looked fairly miserable. "Hey, T. I think you're gonna have to pull over."
Enough said. Two-lane blacktop, clear bright sky, grassy shoulder. Zip. Done. My car was over and in park faster than she could blink. One thing I was not ever going to let happen if I could prevent it: vomit in my car. Not even a drop.
Heath stumbled from the car after a scary battle with the seatbelt. She stood, her back to me, slightly swaying in the moonlight. I didn't want to watch. And I didn't want to hear. I turned up the song on the CD and sang along as Celine Dion belted about love.
At the end of the song, I glanced over to make sure my friend was okay. She was down on one knee, leaning heavily on the hand that braced against the ground. Okay. She was still doing okay.
Next song, volume up, I sang along serenading my friend as she lost the contents of her stomach. Another glance revealed that now she was upright on both knees, looking all the world as though she were paying homage to the tree line.
Another song, another glance. This time, Heath was bent on all fours. Ooo...this could get bad, I thought. But I didn't want to go rushing out there half-cocked. If she was anything like me, this was the absolute LAST thing you wanted anyone to actually witness you doing.
I waited another beat or two, staring out at the clear night ahead of us. No cars passed. The road was ours. I turned to call out to my friend. She was gone.
Nowhere. No where in sight. My heartbeat rose, my panic followed. I forced my way out of the car and ran to the ditch. There she lay, spread eagle in the grass, staring at the sky. She blinked. Good. I helped her up and put her back in her seat.
I began to drive, not saying a word. We still had an hour to go and if she needed to just lay there, I certainly wasn't going to disturb her. I put the music on and lowered the volume to a soft croon. We drove in silence for the next several minutes.
"I'm so sorry, T. I'm about to pass out. Are you okay to get us home?"
"Oh yeah. I got this."
"Okay, 'cause I'm going. Right now." Heath laid her head back and her breathing slowed, her eyes closed.
Five seconds later, her head popped up and she began chatting away about all the men we'd met in the club. How cute this one was, how hot and into her that one had been...then she branched out in to all kinds of topics. Heath began to yabber away, barely taking enough breath to fuel the blather coming out of her mouth. I didn't even get a word in edgewise the whole way home.
Back at our apartments, I saw her to her place and made sure she got in bed before heading to my own small apartment across the complex.
The next afternoon, Heath called.
"Hey, how are you feeling?" I asked.
"Ugh. Could be better, but not too bad. Just a little sluggish today."
"Yeah, we had quite a night." I was smiling into the phone.
"Hey, listen - I'm so sorry about that ride home."
"Oh, it happens, girl. No worries."
"I just can't believe I passed out on you like that."
I sat in surprised silence for a moment or two. "Passed out? You never shut the hell up."