The reservation had been made for the following day. How insulting. Eliza’s birthday, and the restaurant had made a mistake. (Or we had, although admittedly, it’s very difficult to acknowledge personal fault in situations like these.)

We call another restaurant. Wait 30 minutes, they say. We call back 30 minutes later. No name written down when we called before. Oh, come back in 35. No.

It’s settled. We gather at Nia’s for delivered pizza and underage drinking. But not me. I have the car, and for the second weekend in a row, I will be the designated driver. Except this weekend, Elana won’t throw up in my car. She feels guilty, and also knows that I hate vomit.

An hour passes and the masses load into my car for a ride to the next destination—the home of my middle school best friend, tonight being used for a pre-Valentine’s Day soiree. My friends giggle and babble in the backseat, my agitation growing with each demand for their yelling to stop. But I volunteered for this. Under different circumstances, I’d be exhibiting this behavior, and even worse so. I’m extra.

Nothing worsens anger more than the feeling of its insignificance.

After 10 minutes of unpacking eight people from a mid-size sedan, we enter the party. My glasses fog over a whole four steps inside and I realize this gathering is going to be far too hot and tight and loud and red to contend with. But I must, for their safekeeping.

And pretty soon, the hot and tight and loud and red is all over. There’s a rookie cop flashing a military-grade flashlight through a crack in the door. Everyone’s running through the back. I am free.

But the smell, oh the smell. It’s no one around me. They’re annoyingly drunk, but not sickly. It’s my jacket. My sweet, tan, Sherpa jacket, with its red Levi tag and distinct essence of 1977. There is vomit—orange, chunky, acidic vomit, all over it. And because I’d strewn it across my back in a rushed effort to escape the scene of the movement, vomit covers my shirt and dress too.

Elana keeps apologizing, even though it isn’t her vomit. I remember how last week, she aimed perfectly into the garbage bag. Her agility and empathy are among the many reasons I’m glad to have her in my back seat.

I leave the jacket in a bank of snow and get back in the car to return my passengers. I drive home, alone and naked. ♦