As far as “It’s in the vault” stories go, I feel like this was an instant classic. Enjoy.
I’m outside Gary’s apartment and it’s cold. There’s vomit on the ground beneath the light pole and I’m stumbling toward the door.
In the moment, I can’t help but think I’m in a dream. I channel Inception and realize I can’t remember how I got to where I am now, but I’m too cold for it to be a dream. It feels too real.
I’m acutely aware that I was at a party earlier tonight. It was our office Christmas Party. We drank so much that one of my editors smacked me in the face and I didn’t feel it like we were sophomores that split a bottle of tequila.
I remember getting a ride to Gary’s from our chief photographer because my original designated driver bailed early, but as to how I ended up in his front yard, I have no clue.
I barrel to the door and ring the doorbell twice. Gary has to know what happened and he must be in his house, although deep down I wonder what day it is and I begin to doubt I’m in reality again. I can almost imagine waking up in a moment.
No one comes to the door so I turn and walk to my car, eyeing the pile of vomit and wondering where it could have come from. There’s something solid in it and I hadn’t eaten in hours so it must not be mine.
I get into my car, content to sleep in the front seat until morning, but after a quick nap I realize I’m shivering. In a fit, I decide I’m going to freeze to death if I spend the night in the car. I have no keys to turn the heat on, much less to crank my car to drive home.
Maybe I’m too drunk to drive anyway. Oh well, fuck it. Where’s my phone? How the hell did I lose everything? I have to get my car cranked before I freeze to death.
I open my console to find something to crank my car with.
Aside: At this point, I am drunk enough to begin jamming things into my ignition, potentially wrecking my car. I distinctly remember using a playing card. What’s more concerning is not this blatant disregard for my car’s functionality, but the fact that – had I actually got my car to start – I would have attempted to pilot it home.
I eventually gave up and decided that Gary must have been sound asleep when I rang the doorbell earlier, so I decide his rude awakening must happen if I’m going to survive the night. I ring twice more and wait.
Now there’s only one way out: Walking home.
Looking at Google Maps now it says it’s an eight-mile walk if you take the highway, but it felt like my only choice.
I walked across a churchyard and made it about a fifth of a mile when I realized I had forgotten my wallet. I doubled back, stuffed my wallet into my back pocket along with a five-dollar bill I unearthed when I was looking through my console.
I might need this.
I take back off down the familiar path, still wearing a belt made of faux pine garland. I convinced myself it would keep me warmer.
A half-mile from Gary’s apartment is a Jameson Inn. Now I have an idea.
I walk into the hotel like I own the place, just as I have dozens of times before. Sometimes I need Internet access, sometimes I need to use the bathroom and rarely I am actually staying at the hotel, but each time I walk with purpose. People don’t ask questions.
I ask if I can use the phone and the woman near the desk gives me a one-question interrogation: “Do you have a room here?”
Easy: “Yes ma’am.”
She hands me the phone and I dial my version of 911. The phone rings several times and I hear Richard’s voicemail.
“Hey Richard, I’m at the Jameson Inn. I got locked out so I’m walking home to Rosewood so if you get this I’ll probably be on Highway 70.” In true no-big-deal fashion, I close with: “Take it easy.”
I’m not concerned he didn’t pick up, since I feel like it’s probably about 1:15 a.m. and work has been wearing him out a lot lately.
I walk up toward the Highway 70 on-ramp and suddenly it dawns on me: I have friends much closer to me than my home out in the county. In fact, the designated driver who bailed on me lives just about a mile away.
With my new destination locked in, I decide to just enjoy my walk.
It’s a quick journey to the apartment, but I remember that the couple I’m about to awaken is hitting the road for Northern Virginia in just less than five hours. I decide to knock softly because the time alone with my thoughts has left me yearning for one thing: to see my ex-girlfriend across town.
We had parted on bad terms and it was Christmas Eve. She’s only 3.5 miles away at the apartment we used to share downtown and I know she’s in town because she worked at the pub tonight. Hell, the pub may even still be open since it’s probably about 1:30 a.m.
Aside: Yes, I thought I was walking at the speed of driving somehow.
Another interesting concept was that I had walked this stretch of road before. With Richard. To his house…because he lives just about 0.3 miles from the apartment I just knocked at. I could have just gone there and found my way home that way, but I was too caught up in saving Christmas and my relationship to let logic get in my way at this point.
So I take off again, snaking through neighborhoods to stay off the main roads until I come to a gas station where I decide I should pop in and let my ex know I’m on my way.
I ask to use the phone, but the clerk says he’ll get in trouble if he let’s me for free. I remember the fiver in my pocket and get four dollars and four quarters for the pay phone outside.
Yes, a pay phone! My first one since…uh…a trip to Florida in 2002, maybe? Anyway, I manage to dial her cell (I marvel at my drunken ability to remember phone numbers) but it goes to voicemail.
No worries. It’s a strange number and it’s late. Plus she may still be at the pub.
I keep walking uneventfully until I come to the road where the pub is. I walk past and see it’s closed.
They must have closed early tonight.
It’s just a few blocks to her apartment where I buzz the buzzer. No answer, but this is my last shot, so I buzz again.
Aside: At this point I’m just four miles from home down a country road running by cow pastures.
She comes across the buzzer and asks who it is. All it takes is to tell her who I am and I’m buzzed up, no worries.
I figure she’s excited to see me, but it turns out she’s been sleeping.
I come up and ask if I can spend the night. She reluctantly agrees while I start telling her all of the things I’ve seen and done on my trip. How far I walked…how cold it was…how I thought the pub might still be open.
To her credit, she humored me for 15 minutes before turning toward me, nearly cursing, saying “Ty, go to sleep I have to be up in an hour.”
It was 6 a.m.
I lay puzzled for a bit but eventually go to sleep. In the morning I borrowed her phone to call Richard to my aid and beckon him to take me back to the party house to retrieve my phone and keys, but he’s just glad I’m alive.
Apparently (and this is according to him) he saw the voicemail and listened to it after I left it. He went to the Jameson Inn and asked about me, then drove up and down Highway 70, slowing down beside a stopped police car pulled to the side of the road with no car in sight. He called the police station and the jail and was about to begin the morning by looking through ditches for me. Editor’s note: See comment below for more detail.
He took me to the party house, where the hostess said nothing of mine had been found, so I asked to go back to Gary’s.
Gary’s door was open, so I knocked and entered. He seemed surprised to see me, but not in a “Holy shit where on earth were you?” way.
I asked if he knew where my effects were. He said he knew where my keys were, but had no idea about my phone. He had received a text message from one of my drivers indicating that my keys were in his mailbox.
Aside: I was a little irate at this initially, but then realized I would have never made it home driving the way I had been.
I asked what had happened and he had no idea what I was talking about. He explained that after he and I were dropped off, we both came in and he cooked two chicken breasts while we talked for half an hour.
At once I remembered. The chicken had been delicious, but later I rushed outside to refund it. Now I understood where the pile had come from.
But why had Gary left me out there? It turns out he opened the door to check on me five minutes later, but couldn’t find me. He assumed Richard or my ex-girlfriend had picked me up and went to bed.
Also, Richard played the voicemail I left for him. The time of the call? 4:41 a.m.
Conclusion: I still have no idea what happened to me between leaving Gary to upchuck and when my Inception dream began, but we decided that I must have passed out in my car for multiple hours. Gary didn’t see me, fell asleep himself and slept through the doorbells. I then proceeded to lose my mind and walk five miles across town.