‘Heaving Homage to Abstract Expressionism and College Drug Dealers’ by Haley Holden

soft cartel may 2018

Somewhere between shot five at Ethan’s apartment and shot eight at the party, I had passed my limit. Limits are important, they’re the framework of societies, but occasionally the real art and the real truth lay outside of the limits. Unfortunately, outside of the limits there are also heightened senses and the leftovers of heartbreak I thought I had purged the last of months ago. The heartbreak rested at the back of my throat and it burned, but I wanted to keep it down. Keeping the pain down was better than having to deal with it coming up.

“I love him,” I sobbed into the toilet bowl. “I don’t understand how he can just sit there and look at me and not miss me like I miss him. It’s like a—”

The second half of the simile was lost into the toilet bowl as Fireball crashed up my throat. We had run out of the vodka before getting to the party and I had been too drunk to refuse whatever was dropped in front of me.

When the wrenching stopped I pressed my forehead against the toilet seat. The water settled and looked almost like a yellow and orange Jackson Pollock painting.

Grace shuffled into the bathroom and sat next to me, her long leg folded behind me. She pulled my hair back so the few strays were trapped back against my head. Vomit wasn’t her thing, so she had to leave whenever I started heaving. I leaned my head to the side so I could spit into the bowl because my mouth tasted stale. Half of the spit caught on my hand and any other time I would have laughed. I watched the spit that successfully made the descent. The small glob hit the water and bounced, breaching like a whale in the open ocean before it sank.

“You’re okay,” she said, even though I wasn’t okay. She rubbed my back.

“I just want him to hurt like I’m hurting.” It came out more as a sob than as a scathing wish. I wanted it to sound harder, more intimidating, less pathetic. I wanted to be sitting out in the living room laughing with our friends while Ethan cried over me in the bathroom.

“You’re gonna be okay,” Grace said.

“I don’t want to throw up anymore, I hate throwing up,” I sobbed, feeling my stomach revolting against me again. Grace managed to flush my Pollock down the toilet before she slid back out into the hallway.


The morning after a meltdown always interested me, as an observer. I wanted to know where the girl who had been puking in the bushes ended up the next morning, whether or not she was that much of a mess in the daylight. I woke up to a cup full of water on my nightstand after my night of puking in a frat apartment bathroom. It was much better than I had always imagined.

I rolled over, checked my phone to see it was 7 AM and then curled further into the blankets. My remnants of the night were gone, no crusted edges in my hair and no rolling stench trapped between me and the mattress. Meltdowns are less about who the drunk girl is and more about what makes up the friends that make sure she gets home.


The upside to puking at ten o’clock on a Friday is that most of the alcohol is flushed out of your system by ten o’clock the next morning. Grace hadn’t puked the night before, but I could hear her in the bathroom as I walked downstairs. I poured myself a second glass of water, closed my eyes and swallowed before I headed to the bathroom door and knocked.

Grace moaned that I could come in.

I pet her hair and held out my glass of water for her. She took a few big gulps and then handed it back. The floor of her bathroom wasn’t clean so I sat on the edge of the sink instead, poking her shoulder with my toe.

“Thanks for taking care of me last night,” I said. “I don’t know when I became a mess.”

“We’ve all been there,” Grace said. Then, as if I was talking about the puking and not the sobbing, she motioned to her own masterpiece in the toilet.

“Elaine De Kooning,” I told her.

She didn’t say anything, although I was sure she didn’t know about my own Jackson Pollock thoughts. Her insides had spilled differently, the morning after in a pattern that almost looked like a painting I had seen from the artist.

We were made up differently on the inside. Grace had a Bullfight tribute raging in her gut, a cocktail of tequila and vodka and spaghetti and meatballs. And I had managed to produce Shimmering Substance, all drip and no drive from yogurt, banana and too much fireball.

Grace started retching again and I turned away to fill up the glass. I wondered if it mattered what either of us was puking for, or what we got rid of in the process, if we both ended up hunched over the toilet anyway.

“You’re okay,” I told her. She nodded.

I handed her the glass of water and she flushed her own homage down the drain.

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