What the hell am I doing here?

A hangover is a reminder of the cost of stupidity. It's more than a headache, it's a full-body cataclysm. Induced synesthesia. Stepping barefoot on a cornflake is too bright. Sun in the eyes is like sticking your head in a jet engine blast. Sensory input lacks coordination.

It takes a while to figure out what you're seeing. So when I opened my eyes and saw her single eye glaring over the horizon of a fluffed pillow I couldn't figure out how half of a living person managed to get itself into my bed.

Then she slid an arm across me and half her smile said, "Wake up, sleepy head."

The buzzer in my head must have been loud enough for her to hear. That was the ratings bureau downgrading my life from PG-13 (occasional language, nudity), to NC-17 (strong sexual content, adult situations).

I tried to say, "Oh shit," at least four times, but all that came out of my mouth was a sort of flame gargle. As there was no moisture left anywhere in my body, I had become a living bag of cement. It hurts being gray.

"I told you not to drink so much. You wouldn't have this problem if you had left the vodka bottle alone," is what she said when I pulled myself out of bed, swung my feet onto the floor, put my elbows on my knees, and dropped my forehead into my hands. I needed to be in a cave. I needed an IV drip and fifteen aspirin. I needed to remember who this woman was. In the meantime I would act like I knew her.

She said, "I told you weed wasn't like it was when you were in school. It's much more potent now."

What was she talking about?

On the floor was a glass device. At one time it had been purple and green, but now it was so stained brown-yellow from use, it seemed like a piece from a downed alien craft with a couple hundred-thousand light-years on it. I had a vague remembrance of having smoked something.

All I could remember was why I stopped smoking dope after that time in Jamaica. There was never any "fun" in the equation. I just disappeared for a while, fluttering around in the dream world until I came back to the screams. I'd open my eyes to reality to see a room full of people, wild eyed, some holding baseball bats, all flinching, palms out toward me as if to fend off blows or effluent, always saying something like, "He's opened his eyes again. Watch out."

And I'd say, "What's up, you cool cats?"

And one of them would say, "Don't believe him. That's what he said last time. Where's Donna with the fucking handcuffs?"

Nobody would tell me what I did during those blackouts other than I was a maniac. And now here I was in some sort of bedroom with nobody but a naked girl in bed beside me and I had obviously partaken in an herbal ritual that had erased my short-term memory. I still couldn't remember anything about her other than whatever it was that brought me into this room with her seemed like a damned good idea at the time. At least she wasn't flinching and brandishing her leg razor when I opened my eyes.

"Are you okay?" is what I said through my fingers.

She stretched and groaned happily like a cat waking in a sunbeam. "Am I ever..."

You would think my life would have some human decency. If I had just had sex with this woman, the least that could happen is I remember it before I was eviscerated by my family. I turned my head as far as the pain would allow. Besides the bong on the stained carpet there were our clothes, some keys and loose change, and little else.

Absolutely nothing birth-control oriented.

This time when I tried to say, "Oh shit," it worked.

"What?" she said to me, smiling.

How do you tell someone you just slept with you don't remember their name? How do you ask them what communicable diseases they have that you now need to know about? How do you tell them that when you said, vasectomy, you were meaning you had only "thought" about getting one but fear of sharp objects next to your soft parts prevented you?

"Wow, you're still wasted," she said.

I didn't believe her but my body did. I tried to stand up but gravity shifted rapidly to the left and pulled my shoulders into the wall which somehow became the floor.

She lept out of bed and rushed to my side. Her trying to lift me was futile. She wouldn't have the strength to pull 200 pounds of me off the floor, so between the two of us we settled for my sitting with my back against the bed.

Her hair glowed in the morning light. Her skin shone tan and white with lines from a bathing suit that enveloped her breasts like an architect's curve. Now I knew her name. She was Aphrodite.

I heard myself say, "Oh god, you're beautiful. But when my wife finds out I spent the night in a hotel having sex with you, I'm in big shit."

She just smiled and sighed.

"We did have sex, didn't we?" I asked.

She opened her eyes wide and nodded fast like a kid who's just been asked if she wants ice cream.

I watched the tan lines get up and go into the bathroom. Water hissed into the sink. She came back with a wet cloth, a glass, and a couple of aspirin.

"Do you think your wife will kill you?"

"Oh, I'm dead. Really dead," I said. Then I swallowed the aspirin and the water. "She doesn't like me having sex with other women. Especially beautiful ones. Oh she hates that. She really does."

"You think I'm beautiful?" she asked, kneeling beside me. She stroked my face and I tried to stand up. We didn't need to continue the sinning any longer. I would sober up. Find my clothes and I was outta there.

"Yes," I said, fighting off the dizzyness as I searched for my boxers. "You're absolutely the most gorgeous woman I've ever seen."

I couldn't resist the tug. When she got onto the bed and yanked I didn't have enough strength to keep standing. I fell to my back next to her.

"Do you think you could make love to me? Right now?"

"You wanna get me killed," I said. "I gotta go. Really. I don't know what made me do this. I'm not like this, usually. I've never done this before. I'm sorry. I gotta go home."

"Your wife won't find out," she said, kissing me. She started running her hands over my chest, tickling my stomach with kisses. "And she doesn't care you're here with me. I promise."

Maybe it was the oxygen. Finally getting some. Maybe it was the familiarity with the way she moved her tongue. You sleep with someone for a couple of years, you get to know them by feel.

My wife said, "I am so glad I married you."

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