Susan Buttenwieser's fiction has appeared in 3am and Nth Position. She teaches creative
writing in the youth program at Manhattan's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center.

Someone's Drunk Wife

posted Aug 20, 2005

Someone’s drunk wife is in an upstairs bedroom. She has been flirting with you for hours and now the party is over. Her husband is not here. You sit in a chair while your friend gets you pillows and sheets, spreads them out on the floor. Someone else has already passed out on the couch. “Are you sure you’ll be okay here?” he says. You are not so sure, but you are better off here in the living room, than upstairs with her.

You are at that in-between stage, too drunk to drive home, but not drunk enough to sleep with someone’s drunk wife. Even though there is a thick carpet on the floor, it is hard to find a comfortable position. First you lie on your back, but you feel stiff after only a few minutes. Then you try your left side, but that’s much worse. You get up and go to the bathroom. Upstairs, you can see light coming from under the door in her room.

You go outside to have a cigarette on the terrace. It is just starting to get light, the sky a washed out brown. Maybe you are not too drunk, maybe you could drive home.

Your friend who had the party has a nice house, big, with a pool in the backyard. You met him thirteen years ago, back when you were both struggling comedy writers in New York. Now he’s the head writer for a Must See TV show and you write spec scripts, take meetings and short-term writing jobs. Tonight was his fifth wedding anniversary. Their new baby is in the room next to where the drunken wife is. More rooms are filled with other sleeping party guests, also too drunk to drive home. If you’d just gone to sleep a little earlier, maybe you would be in an actual bed right now, instead of having to choose between the floor and adultery.

Everywhere in the house are photographs of your friend with his wife, and, since the baby was born, tasteful black and whites of the three of them have been added. Pictures of your friend with various celebrities cover the walls in his study. The only photos you have are on your refrigerator, your sister’s Christmas card from last year with your twin nieces sitting underneath a wreath and one of your friends passed out at some party. If you open the door
too quickly, they come flying off, and you have to search around on your hands and knees to find the magnets that hold them up.

Maybe you are drunk enough to sleep with someone’s drunk wife.

You have another cigarette and decide to try to drive home. It’s not that far after all. The light in her bedroom is off now anyway. You walk to your car and sit in it, but you’re having trouble getting the key in the ignition. “This is stupid,” you say out loud. You crawl into the back. You are never in this part of your car, you think, as you throw all the crap from the seat onto the floor. Then you lie down and curl up into the fetal position.

Tonight’s party had started hopefully enough. First you talked to a woman that you’d met about a month before at some other party. You were having a good time together when her boyfriend showed up. She didn’t seem that happy to see him either, but still, there he was. So you hung out with your friend for awhile, long enough to be introduced to an Emmy-winning TV producer who was trying to find a bathroom. Then a woman you’d seen around started talking with you and your friend. She was really cute and really drunk, and you were feeling optimistic. But when you went around to the front of the house and had a cigarette with her, she started getting weird, crying about her last boyfriend. You didn’t want to be anyone’s therapist, you just wanted to maybe go home with her, maybe get laid. Eventually her friend came and got her.

And then the drunk wife was all over you. She seemed to pounce on you the moment you returned to the back yard. She was really, really drunk and had lots of questions, wanting to find out all about you, your career, where you grew up, everything. She went to college with your friend and his wife, and through jokes and things, you found out that she was from out of town, staying here for the whole weekend. No one said why her husband wasn’t with her.

Eventually, everyone else either left or went to bed and you were still there, sitting around with your friend, another couple, and the drunk wife. The other couple started bickering about going home. The husband was about to pull out a bag of cocaine when his wife made him leave before it turned into that kind of an evening.

The drunk wife had a black, curly hair on the bottom of her chin that you noticed when she leaned her head back and laughed at something. You wondered if there were more black, curly hairs elsewhere on her body. Still, you’ve had worse. You were trying to remember if you’d met her before. And then you remembered. She was at your friend’s wedding with her husband. They seemed happy enough. Maybe she wasn’t flirting with you, though she kept touching your hand, your leg when she talked to you. Maybe she was just like that, overly
familiar and drunk with everyone.

When you all moved inside and sat around the kitchen and had that one last drink, she took your hand under the table and held onto it. And so you asked your friend if you could maybe stay over, maybe you shouldn’t drive home. You waited for the drunken wife to do something, deciding if she was pretty or not, if it was worth it or not.

But then she seemed to have forgotten all about it, just kept drinking glasses of water in an attempt to get rid of her hiccups and talking with your friend about someone from college who was getting divorced. And suddenly she was going up to bed and your friend was getting sheets out of a linen closet and you were sleeping on a floor.

You are starting to doze off. It is daylight now and the next door neighbors come out to get the Sunday paper, walk their dog. You wake up several hours later baking in the car and head up to the house. Everyone is awake, sprawled out in the lush backyard, eating breakfast. “Hey,” your friend winks at you. “We were wondering what happened to you.”

The drunk wife is sober now, swimming in the pool with your friend’s wife and the baby. Then she is talking with her husband on the phone. She passes around some pictures from their vacation and you are relieved. You would rather wake up hung over and alone in the back seat of your own car than with this woman. It would have been that too-drunk-to-have-sex sex, the kind where you can barely feel it when you come. And then what would you have done? Would you have passed out, woken up wrapped around her? Would she have cried?

The drunk wife gives you a little wave as she talks on the phone and you smile. You didn’t sleep with someone’s drunk wife. It had been a close call but everything is okay now.