tfw is a mini personal essay series I’m try to do on Tuesdays to recount second-person experiences of feelings and experiences we all have. Or maybe I’m the only one who has them?
It is close to midnight. You and a friend have been out, drinking, and generally hanging out for a few hours. You walk up to a bar that is typically rowdy but seems fairly quiet from the outside. “We’ll just have one drink,” you both agree. You walk up the stairs, grab a drink, and slide into a booth. You chat.
The scene is like television static. There are people everywhere, moving, swaying, but none of them are near. Their voices are swollen and loud but there is no singular voice, only the moan of too many voices. There is a glass wall next to you. It muffles out so much. You imagine what people talk about when they chug a beer. You don’t really remember because chugging anything is now somewhat antiquated, a memory in the drunken fog of your young twentysomethings.
Then there is a splat. You and your friend’s conversation is broken and you see a female mop trip-walk forward, leaning toward a pool table in a shuffle. She bounces off a few men and makes her way to the corner of the bar, to the bathroom. Your exposed leg, which had casually dipped into the aisle The Mop just walked through, is a little wet. The splat is on you.
A waiter with crazy eyes walks to your table. “I’m sorry,” he starts. You and your friend seem confused and squint at him. “She must have had too much. We’ll get that cleaned up right away.”
It registers, his words a key into your ear, into your head, into your brain: that Mop just vomited and its runoff, its jumping mouth-spew, is licking your leg, dripping down your calf, into a sock.
You hear the scuttle of servers and cleaning tools assembling behind you. “That girl was messed up,” your friend says. She goes on to explain how The Mop looked. She didn’t see The Mop vomit but she did heard The Mop’s juices hit the floor.
You gulp. “I think I got some of it on my leg?” you reach for a napkin. Your friend winces and you wince and you reach across the table, grab a napkin from a stack, and—without looking—wipe up The Mop’s sludge from your leg. You keep your head high, above the tabletop, not connecting with what it looks like. If you look at it, the vomit will be real. If you look at it, you will probably vomit too.
“I think I need to go to the bathroom,” you say, tossing the napkins on the ground, for the cleanup crew behind you to grab. Your friend nods, you walk in the direction of The Mop and turn into a bathroom. You wash your hands, wet a paper towel, and wipe up your leg. You lift your leg into the sink and you give it a bar bath. You think about how gross the situation is but, like all gross situations, you’ve been The Mop before in your life. You wonder if anyone is going to help her or take her home or see if she needs anything or if she is going to ping pong around this bar until she falls into a corner to be cleaned up with her vomit. You wonder.
You make your way back to the table. The cleanup crew is gone. You sit back down and resume conversation to finish the rest of your drink but you cannot disconnect yourself from the film drying on your leg, the germ memory of The Mop’s discharge. You and your friend eventually leave. You catch a bus home. You walk into your apartment. You give your leg a proper scrub. You go to bed. You wonder if The Mop ever made it home or if she vomited on anyone else. You fall asleep. You wake up in the morning a little hungover and with the hairs on part of your leg gummed together, still glued from what The Mop left you.