Last year Brent had vertigo on New Years, so after we drove up to Lake Arrowhead, we basically rang in 2010 by eating Domino's Pizza while prone on the fireside couch of our rented cabin.
This year I had vertigo the week leading up to New Years, but mine was far more important and dramatic- or this is what I keep telling Brent since I didn't have that much sympathy for him last year- and so on New Year's Eve afternoon we decided to go to urgent care. While conducting various neurological tests, the doctor found a weird response in my feet, which she shrugged off at the time, sending me home with some nasal steroids. [The conversation on the ride home: "Like my nose needs to be bigger, RIGHT?"]
Brent and I picked up some pizza, because that's how we do, and we were just settling in to wait for the Snooki Ball to drop when the phone rang after 11 p.m. It was the urgent care doctor and she'd spoken to a neurologist and now they both agreed that I needed to go to an ER immediately because I possibly had a bleed in my brain.
But I'd been waiting for the Snooki Ball all week- it was the only televised part of New Year's that I was interested in seeing. So I just didn't want to leave the house. I don't usually want to leave the house anyway, but I especially didn't want to with Snooki about to ride down from the sky, our national orange angel in a glittering ball. But then Brent got all fucking serious and he was like, "If something ever happened to you, I couldn't live with it, blah blah blah" and next thing I knew we were off to the hospital and fighting with various police and security officers who didn't want to pull aside Rose Parade barricades unless I was having a baby.
I admit that I was presenting a pretttttty bad attitude to Brent about being in the ER because I thought the urgent care doctor was overreacting, a feeling which was exacerbated by the triage nurse, who fed my eye rolling by saying, "You're way too with-it to have a brain bleed," and then I was nodding, making myself even dizzier, saying, "Yeah. I am WAY too with-it." But still, Brent was insisting on waiting to see a doctor, so we parked it in the molded chairs.
The TV was being dominated by a heavy set black woman who kept doing the "Oh, Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy me" stuff, fanning herself, except she was reacting to how cold it was that night instead of the Memphis heat. She was particular about watching Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest, but it was hard to concentrate on the TV anyway because it was mounted to the ceiling, which was a bad angle for my vertigo, and also there was a little kid wrapped in a blanket next to me who was top-volume wailing from ear infection pain. For a second, he took a break from the wailing to say, tears wobbling in his eyes, "This is the very saddest night of my entire life," and I laughed at him. Which I felt bad about afterward. He had no idea why that was funny, and so he just stared at me like I was a ghost rattling my invisible chains in his face.
So what happened at the stroke of midnight? Well, another kid violently puked into a bag EXACTLY as Ryan Seacrest hit zero and Jenny McCarthy kissed the new executive she's dating!
I'm not one of those people who believes that god opens a window or there's a greater purpose to every challenge. But I do feel blessed that I let Brent convince me to stay in the ER an hour past when I was demanding to leave because if I'd walked out, I would have missed the threesome from a Bret Easton Ellis novel that came in as the first hospital drunks of the new year.
A young prep I can only describe as a ginger (once you're into casual bow tie wear, you demand something more descriptive than "redhead") staggered in through the automatic doors, bearing the weight of his unconscious, taller friend, the friend's button-down shirt and sport tie bedraggled. The ginger dumped his friend in the triage chair and then a girl came running in the doors after them. From the moment I saw her face, I was riveted. She had the most natural petulance in her features, her just slightly upturned nose speaking to me of childhood grosgrain ribbons and maybe a brief flirtation with ice skating lessons and real diamonds at an early age, and her thick, sandy blond hair was tossed over one side of her head. I became extremely nostalgic at that hair, remembering gazing at it on the cover of one of my Teen magazine prom issues in the very early nineties. She was wearing a light rabbit fur coat with a mini-mini skirt, tights and high heels.
She was dramatically annoyed from the moment of entrance, but what really sucked me in was that she immediately began huffing and repeatedly looking over at us in the waiting area to see how we all felt about her friend being such a gigantic New Year's buzzkill.
Meanwhile, the ginger was attempting to get the wallet out of his friend's trousers so the ER team could identify him and check him in, but the drunk friend needed to be propped up in order to stay in a sitting position. So the ginger went into a sort of wrestle stance with his friend, pinning him to the chair with all of his body weight, except it was then I realized that the ginger kid was extremely drunk too. He began fervently speaking in his friend's ear and grinding while fishing around his friend's pants, and I asked Brent, "Is this sexual? It looks sexual." Both were wearing Top-siders. The girl in the fur was still audibly huffing. The wallet finally was retrieved, and I heard a nurse announce a 1991 birthday. I thought, "These people are 9 years-old?" because whenever I hear of birthdays in the 90's, I think that means you're in fourth grade.
The butch triage nurse with a very round shaved head- who I fell in love with because she was just so "take charge" and that got Brent all bruised because he was like, "What? You don't think I'm take charge? I'm taking charge of you right now"- asked the ginger, "Is your friend usually this color?" because the friend had gone very Twilight. And the ginger gave her a sour look as if she'd just wiped her ass with his bow tie, a look that said, "Do your eyes not work? Obviously he normally has a sporty tan and a healthy rose to his cheeks. We boat." Ignoring his eye lasers, the nurse asked the ginger to step back so she could lift his friend onto the gurney, and the ginger interpreted this as some kind of additional insult, maybe to his own sportiness, and he wouldn't let go. An argument ensued until finally the butch nurse just simply out-butched the ginger with firm, controlled force. The friend was rolled into the ER.
The ginger stood there in front of the rows of the rest of us, like an actor on stage, and he began to fume visibly. He stared at the doors his friend had just passed through without blinking, freckled nostrils flaring. Wrecked bow-tie quivering, even. His hands curled into fists. From off to the side, the girl in the fur coat called, with the most perfect swath of bitchiness in her voice, "Oliver!" The ginger didn't turn to look at her, but I was thinking, who else in this room could possibly be "Oliver"? That's definitely Oliver. Again, she called, "Oliver!" The ginger didn't turn. "Oliver!" She imbued each syllable with annoyance, entitlement, impatience, secret shame, basically the four cornerstones of WASP emotionalism. After saying Oliver's name at least 7 times (the waiting area was completely quiet at this point), she exhaled a huff to end all huffs, seemingly for us onlookers, and stormed over to grab the ginger by the shoulder. He was Oliver.
But Oliver wouldn't look at her. It didn't seem like he was blaming her for anything, just that a low-level hatred simmered below their friendship when they were sober, but when they were drunk, it really blossomed. First he angrily ripped off his loosened bow tie. Then, never giving the girl the satisfaction of eye contact, of awareness that she was alive and in his world, he retreated to a chair where he called his dad on his cell phone and began to sob to him, swearing that they hadn't taken any Ecstasy. The girl, conscious that the public had seen her get embarrassingly rebuffed by Oliver, flung us an insecure yet still annoyed look- like she was annoyed with us too, for existing (chills!)- smoothed her hair, and then marched off to the side of the room to examine the contents of her purse violently.
Before we knew it, Oliver was suddenly undressing. His own drunkenness and indignation were literally steaming him up, and he was taking off his fine knit sweater and he was taking off the shirt underneath it and he was getting topless. Then he decided to put his undershirt back on, but he seemed disgusted with the rest of his clothes, so he got up, exited the glass automatic doors, and angrily threw them on the ground like he'd just found out something vulgar about them, like they came from J.C. Penneys.
"You're loving this," Brent said to me, since I'd transformed from depressed and inert to a child with Christmas morning in her eyes. Anyone who knows me a little knows that I'm fascinated by the prep lifestyle, by certain slopes of nose, by nicknames that are actual names but don't have that much to do with your actual given name. But Oliver and the girl were unreal, just straight out of a fiction that I couldn't ever turn in because it would be considered cartoonish. The irritation crackling between them and the rest of the world, along with each other, was electric.
The butch-nurse walked over and ordered Oliver to go pick up his clothes that he'd flung outside. He rose, swaying, glowering, revealing what he used to look like when his nana made him do a chore, and he stomped back outside to get his stuff.
Then I don't know where Oliver and the girl went after that. But without them, I wanted to go too. They had been my glittering ball. And when it dropped, there didn't seem to be any purpose to hanging around anymore. The wait-time in the ER had increased, since the drunk guy had needed to cut in front of everyone. And there would be more drunks with similar urgency- but none, I was sure, like the ones we'd just gotten (this isn't the east coast). I stood up from my chair, took Brent by the hand, and walked with him outside saying, "Oh Lordy Lordy Lordy" because it was truly cold. We came home, got under the faux-fur duvet, went to sleep, and I woke up the next morning, still alive in 2011.