Coming of Age Sad Creative Nonfiction

This is all my fault.

She did not try very hard. The bottle she had in her hand was vodka and very expensive (first mistake); she tried to sit between Robert and Kerwin (second); she felt upset when one of them picked it up – that very overpriced booze – to see what it was she was drinking.

“Don’t touch my fucking drink!”

Number three.

Everyone heard that one. I heard it from the other room and slowly moved away from a girl I was chatting up to see the damage. Kerwin and Robert heard it more than most. I saw Robert put the bottle down and they both got up from where they were sitting on the old carpet, looked away from the woman, and left her on her own in front of many confused and occasionally amused faces. The only reason why I blame myself is that it was in a house I shared with at least four other teachers on my staff (soon to be three). We all talked about it when it was happening: the scream; the bottle; the unwanted girl who sat for too long by herself before running out of the house with the bottle swinging in her hand, like a mace.

Strange thing: she would soon end up at my school, but that would come later. None of the girls I worked with, nor did any of the guys. No one really called her a friend and it was never made clear why she was with us.

Did I feel sorry for her?

No, not then; not even sure about how I feel about things now. I have to admit that I thought what she did was some part of a plan to get Robert and Kerwin’s attention (I’ve done worse for the ones I liked). But there was no way that would work. I worked with them and knew their girlfriends and eventual fiancées. No, no, it would not work.

It was something I should have taken care of.

No, I did not see her until much later, as I said.

Sorry…but there is more to this.

We were all expats; all in the same boat, meaning living in Tokyo as ESL teachers. That was why I thought things with her, Robert and Kerwin would get better. I thought that time would pass and then the all-important healing would begin.

Well, no.

She showed up at our school, at staff meetings and retreats, then at the annual staff party. That was always between New Year’s Day and Christmas and entire teams of teachers we never knew would be in the lobbies and halls of the hotels it was held in. I really wish that I could forget the last one. Bet she does, too.

Sorry, that was when I was sure that time had fixed nothing. Robert and Kerwin were there. And then she appeared, with another drink in her hand. Not a bottle, but she was holding that glass like it held her life. It was full and close to a spill.

Sometimes it is as if life is moving in slow motion.

When I saw her step to them, all smiles and big, wide eyes, I felt like I watching a film set at the wrong speed. This only changed when the drink left her hand and travelled to its target.

Was it intentional? Not really clear now; not important then, at least to the ones who hadn’t been at the party. And I cannot remember who got the worst of it. Robert and Kerwin were just talking to each other, not a glass of anything between them. Strange how I can’t remember who did what now, or who was hit first. One of them was covered in most of the pink mush and ended up walking slowly to an exit; the other one, now a boiling set of eyes and face of rage that everyone both heard and understood, stared with hooded eyes and ruined her forever:

“Goddamn fucking drunk!”

It really was all over for her after that, although she did not seem to know it. If did; still amazing to me how quickly these things can spread. No one was laughing (as I heard it), but they all took the bait. She was now “The Drunk” or “The Drunk Girl”. You’d think things would be forgiven after a party for the end of the year celebration, especially in a place with plenty of public drunkenness. But it did not go away. I even received emails from other offices that warned me about “the drunk one” who would be filling in for missing staff on certain days. And I am not totally sure about this, but I think she knew nothing about it. It was clear to me that she was in a good mood that could not be faked. She had shown up early in the morning and taken the elevator with me before we spoke to each other.

“Hi, um…I’m starting here today.”

“Oh, yes. You are?”

And so on. Like I said, there was no sign that she knew what her unofficial title was;a very small mercy.

I said I worked with her, right? More than that: I was the manager now. So I guess that means what happened next really was my fault, right? I feel that way.

What happened was I put her in the Voice Room, the place where students can just come in and talk, no matter what level of English ability they have. It was the last session of the day and I wanted to give her a break (she’d be leaving for another school the next day). It was a Friday, too, meaning that it wouldn’t be too busy. Most of the clients just wanted to go home. Thought she’d be better off talking to total strangers; that she’d be okay.

What do I know?

We had students in that room who knew Robert and Kerwin. They had talked to them, and many of the other staff. They knew what they knew. Only thing they did not know was which particular drunk girl it was that had put on such a show for two of their most popular teachers and other staff. No, they did not have the name. She had that, at least. I’m sure of that. It was when she was done that I heard about it.

Our loudest student was in there (interestingly, also a teacher in her daily life). She walked up to our front desk to complain that the new girl had no sense of humour. I thought this was a strange thing to be bothered about, so I asked her to explain things to me.

“I told her about what happened at your party. Drunk girl and the drink. She just made a face. Not a word. We had to do all the work.”

I almost ran to the Voice Room. It was my responsibility to see her before she was gone, anyway, but no, she was already gone and I was wasting my time hunting for her. In that harsh neon light of our break room, I saw that all of her things were gone. Not a word…

That did make me nervous, but that’s not why I’m talking about this now. The real reason is I am not sure who to blame for this. Robert or Kerwin might be… Or maybe her.

I said before that she did not try very hard. It would have been so much easier if she had just tried. If anyone can figure this out, let me know. It would help out a lot.

September 28, 2022 15:15

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Michał Przywara
20:39 Sep 30, 2022

You really get that exclusion atmosphere here. We're dealing with adults, but a lot of it would fit in with middle school cliques too. What she perceived as harmless fun was turned around on her, behind her back. No doubt she had some suspicions, maybe people acted oddly around her - and then the incident is thrust in her face. Probably felt like a massive betrayal. Like, did everyone know? Can anyone be trusted? On the other hand, her behaviour wasn't entirely harmless. It seems it was irritating at the worst, but people don't like bein...


Kendall Defoe
21:02 Sep 30, 2022

You really did get it. She was someone who did disrupt the lives of others and her own and it was something that she never recovered from. Thank you for the message.


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