by Stephen Loiaconi
People sometimes ask me why I don’t dance.
Leaning over the sink, splashing numbingly frigid water in my face, something reddish I just coughed up drying on the shoulder of my rented tux as I wait for the world to stop carouseling around my head, I think, “This is why.”
The last thing I remember—before the rush through the maze of tables, chairs and strangers while gagging with my hand over my mouth—was being part of a gyrating mass of people singing along to a terrible song I only recognized because the guy I rode up here with insisted, for the entire six-hour drive from Manhattan, on shuffling through a playlist of music from a late 90s teen drama that I never watched, but I gather featured an inordinate amount of scenes set at high school dances.
Now I’m alone in this strange, small, wood-paneled bathroom with a crushing headache and too much vodka burning through my stomach. Scattered along the walls are small, framed comic strips about golf with charmingly unfunny punchlines. My cabin’s not far, but I don’t have the strength for the walk yet.
Down the hall, over a hundred people are celebrating a high school friend’s wedding loudly and boisterously. They’re into that post-dinner, post-cake period where there’s not much else to do but drink and dance.
I hate weddings. I like free food and an open bar as much as the next guy, but I don’t hide envy well.
The bathroom door swings open, striking the wall before slamming shut.
“You alright?” my friend Roy asks. His image blurs in the mirror.
“I just threw up in a sink in a resort lobby men’s room,” I say. “I’m doing great.”
Attempting a slight chuckle makes me cough and heave. Cold air blows down from an open window too high above for us to close. The storm outside getting worse. My mind drifts to where it’s been drifting all night.
“I don’t know what I’m doing here,” I say.
“Not gonna lie.” He steps up next to me. “That was far from your most graceful exit.”
“No, I mean, like, I’m pushing 30, I’m alone, I don’t have any prospects for not being alone, and I’m still treading water in the dead-end job I took straight out of college.” I stare down my own reflection in the mirror. “You ever get the feeling you made a wrong turn at Albuquerque?”
“I’ve never been to Albuquerque.”
“No, it’s–like, when Bugs Bunny used to get in trouble in the cartoons, he would say,” I attempt an impression that somehow winds up feeling vaguely racist, “‘I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.’”
“Never seen it.”.
“Get some goddamn culture,” I snap back, harsher than is warranted.
Roy gives me a long look that I hope isn’t pity.
I sigh and try to stand upright, but it’s not happening. I nod toward the door. “You should go back out there. Have fun. Hit on Janet’s cousin.”
“Her boyfriend is, like, seven feet tall and sitting right next to her,” he says. I shrug in response. He leaves the room.
Thunder crashes in the sky. The rumble echoes faintly through the lobby. Beneath that, I hear the distant sounds of laughter and power ballads from the dance floor. I close my eyes. When I open them, Roy’s back with a large glass of water for me to drink.
Pausing between gulps, I say, “I should probably apologize to Mark and Janet.”
“For the vomiting?” Roy tries to help me balance the glass in my shaking hand. “You might want to apologize to the custodial staff, but I don’t think the lovebirds noticed anything.”
“No,” I say. Inevitably, the glass falls. “That videographer. He was going around asking people for a personal message to the couple. What I said was, ‘Mark, I always thought you could do better,’ and I walked away. I don’t think she’s gonna find it funny.”
Roy watches water pool around my feet. Glass shards swim across the floor.
“It was a joke. With the—” I’m searching for words in a haze of booze. “It was funny because—I don’t know.”
“I’m going back out there now. If you need me, well, I’ll be out there, so—”
“I’ll manage.” He seems understandably skeptical, but he starts for the door. Staring into the open drain of the sink, I say, “You know that scene in the movie where the guy stands in the rain and the camera looks down on him and it’s like this whole big rebirth baptism revelation thing? I think I need one of those.”
He stops in the doorway and looks me over. Reeking of cheap liquor, my shirt stained with sweat, my shoes soaked, parts of my jacket crusted with vomit, barely able to stand on two feet. “I’m not gonna disagree with that,” he says.
He walks out, but as the door swings shut behind him, he adds, “Sometimes, that guy standing out in the rain, all he gets is rained on.”
I close my eyes and some amount of time passes. I take a deep breath. I think I’m ready. I feel undeservedly confident as I step out of the bathroom. The world spins slower now, more Ferris wheel than tilt-a-whirl. I lean against walls and tables as I make my way into the dining room. The rest of the groomsmen and the bridesmaids are the only people left there, gathered around a small table in the darkened bar. They all watch me. Roy waves. I wave back, fighting a growing need to collapse and fall on something. I rest my hand on a coffee-stained tablecloth to steady myself, then turn to the exit. I open the door. A wet wind batters my face. I see the darkened row of cabins across the putting green. I count slowly in my head, trying to figure out which is mine.
I stumble outside and look toward the sky.
Steve Loiaconi is a journalist and a graduate of George Mason University's MFA program. His fiction previously appeared in Griffel, True Chili, the Good Life Review, East by Northeast, River River, and the New Plains Review. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and son.