Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc in France, is a truly amazing little town. I found myself there this summer for 5 days with my friend from college, Karen, and her friend from high school, Courtney. I hiked, drank, cooked and had a good time up until the last night.
I was working on a Whiskey Sour and Courtney was putting the finishing move on a Screaming Orgasm when Karen and our mutual friend Dave walked into our hostel/pub Gite le Vegabond from outside on the patio. The bar was empty except for us and the bartender. Dave told us that another local upscale bar was having a grand “reopening under new management” party, and that he was going and we all should too. He left to go get changed and we discussed how late we wanted to be out, as we were all getting on trains the next day. They were going home and I was going to Paris to meet my family.
Karen surprised me when she said she was going to Europe at the same time as me this summer. She suggested that we should meet up at some point, and we agreed we’d meet in Germany near the end of her trip and the beginning of mine. She was taking a tour of Europe with Courtney, and I was traveling with my family.
We all washed up and met Dave outside and began the walk down towards The Terrace, a nice multi level bar in downtown Chamonix, with a view of the river that runs down the Chamonix valley.
Dave was a Kiwi, meaning he was originally from New Zealand, but he came to live in Chamonix because of the incredible mountains and his slight zeal for snow boarding. He was about 35 years old, and worked as a construction worker, but he spent a lot of time in the pub at our hostel Gite le Vegabond so we knew him and had even visited his house nearby.
Dave knew a lot of people at the party and immediately wandered off to be a social butterfly, leaving us with a round of beer and a couple of pitchers of free wine. We partook in all, and generally moved towards a more relaxed mental outlook (ie we were getting drunk).
Karen was a sophomore at Case Western in Cleveland, and I a freshman. She was/is dating my friend John, who is in my fraternity. I knew her because she lived in my building, but not to well before we found we were going to Europe together. We started hanging out more after that. She really likes John and John really likes her.
It was an hour into the party, and the DJ upstairs was really getting into his gig. Dave wandered downstairs suitably toasted, and joined us at our table. We were all intoxicated, and Courtney pointed out to me that Dave had his arm around Karen at different points in the night. We both thought that was funny, but didn’t take it too seriously.
Karen and Dave had been close for the whole time we were there. I thought it was weird, because she would ditch us in favor of spending time with him, and Courtney and I would joke that she had a crush on him. She would always smile and say it wasn’t true, and that she was still John’s girl.
We decided to leave the party around one in the morning, and walked back down the deserted streets to our hostel / his house. It was our last night in Chamonix for probably ever. I shook Dave’s hand and thanked him for telling us about the good hiking that we had done, and said if I was ever back in town I’d stop by. Karen remembered that she had a National Geographic of his and went up to the room to get it. She had left and Dave gone to his apartment when it occurred to me and Courtney that the two had gone to his apartment both intoxicated on the last time they would likely ever see each other.
The first weekend of my spring break I supplied alcohol for a party at my strait-edge friend’s apartment in downtown Pittsburgh. It was an interesting party in theory, including all my high school friends I had never drank with before. In reality it was a disaster. My best friend and I had an extraordinary amount of alcohol, 2 beers and 15 shots each. Neither of us had done anything like it before or since, and we both don’t remember anything other than taking the last drink. My friends had never really dealt with that kind of thing, so everyone who was sober basically babied the two puking college boys all night. Other than our health and dignity, the other major casualties were my other friend and a female friend who was in town for the weekend. They both were too drunk to help take care of us two, so both got a little action in the other room. To make a long story short, during the days after that night he drifted into a deep bout of depression because he had liked her and she dismissed it as a horrible mistake. Alcohol mixed with sexual desires became bad news in my book.
Courtney and I stared out the window to watch Karen open the door into Dave’s house and enter, and all the thoughts of my spring break flooded into my head. I can stop this, I thought. I asked Courtney if she thought this was as bad as I thought it was.
Karen had a boyfriend. Dave was 35, she was 20. They were both drunk. It was as bad as I thought.
“I’ll give 'em 15 minutes,” I said.
I wandered over to his corner yard after the time had gone up, jumping over the separating wall. Silence greeted me as I knocked the first time on the patio door. The second time I heard movement and Dave’s voice asking who it was. He opened the door and I saw his bed out with the covers ajar, and Karen sitting on the corner looking annoyed at me. He asked if everything was alright, and I, trying to act more drunk than I was to save a little bit of dignity, said I was just making sure she made it over there okay, and muttered something about making our train on time. She said she’d be over in a minute, so I jumped the fence with both them watching and walked back to Gite le Vegabond. Courtney looked sad that I didn’t have Karen with me.
Fifteen minutes later I went over again, to about the same setup and reply. Twenty minutes after that I went over this time not to mild annoyance, but a fairly pissed of New Zealander. He yelled that it was “fucking two in the morning” and “she’s on her way over.” I said I was sorry and that I was checking cause I didn’t want her to get locked out (even though I knew she had a key). I felt like the biggest asshole on the planet.
I looked out the window as I saw her leave his apartment, and immediately went upstairs with Courtney. In retrospect I kind of wish I had stayed and waited for her to come in, maybe I would have said something. But I just hopped up into my bunk.
She walked in and asked Courtney where I was. Once she knew, she turned to my bunk and said “Sam, you can trust me.” Sleep didn’t come for a while.
The next day nothing was said. I couldn’t tell if I’d made a big deal about nothing at all or she was really embarrassed about the night before. With Karen I can’t tell, she masks most of the normal signs I have recognized. Our goodbye was awkward, and I took the train to Paris to meet my family and they took the train to Frankfurt for their flight home.
I just got an e-mail a couple of days ago from her. She said “thanks for your concern the other evening”. Thats it. I told Courtney that if Karen was pissed at me that she didn’t need to tell her that she was involved, she could just say it was only me who was checking up on her.
I feel like I did the right thing, but I also feel like an asshole. I hate it when people put me into situations like these. When we were looking out the window deciding if we should go get her, I remember telling Courtney that “if I don’t go get her, I’ll hate myself.”
I guess it’s just another thing to think about as I climb mountains this summer.