By Mark E. Smith
The first and only time that I met Jacki, I ate a cigarette. Everyone else in the group knew me, but Jacki and I didn’t know each other, and I immediately recognized that the impression that I made upon her was the wrong one. See, I performed a vaudeville trick, where if the weather is just the right temperature, you can eat a cigarette, take a deep, warm breath, and blow smoke. But, of course, it’s not really smoke, just breathing “frost.” Everyone who knew me understood that it was me goofing off, that there are mostly serious sides to my life, depth to my character, but I can be hilariously over-the-top when appropriate. However, not discounting Jacki’s own gracious character, I got the impression that she only saw me as a cigarette-eating jackass – which in the moment, I was. And, that soon troubled me.
Firstly, for me, “legacy” is a life-driver, where if I can have even a small, positive impact on a stranger’s life, it’s really important to me. And, every time I thought about Jacki for months, I cringed, realizing that I was nothing more than the jackass who ate the cigarette – not very impacting.
And, secondly, I was admittedly smitten with Jacki, where her eloquence struck me – the way she carried herself, you might say. Have you ever met someone in passing, and just thought, wow. Well, that was my moment seeing Jacki – only I was eating a cigarette like a total jackass.
So, for some time, when it came to my one and only encounter with Jacki, I saw myself as the underdog in every teen movie: I was the goofy guy who the really attractive, popular girl only saw as a dork. But, life went on, and I reckoned that, at least to Jacki, I’d forever just be a jackass.
However, I recently ran into Jacki again while working a trade show, and I immediately had to ask her out to dinner with friends. In fact, I openly prefaced the whole conversation with the fact that I wasn’t the jackass who I may have seemed before, that I was a far more serious guy. It wasn’t that I had anything to prove, per se, but I just wanted the chance to be me – the real me, not some jackass eating a cigarette – and I wanted the chance to likewise get to know her on a genuine level. I mean, maybe after spending an evening with me and friends, she’d still see me as a jackass, but at least she’d see the real jackass in me.
Now that you know the back story, let’s fast forward into present tense….
So, we meet for dinner in Los Angeles, and become fast friends, chatting each other up with a lot in common. And, Jacki is an amazing woman – smart, funny, successful, compassionate, and beautiful – and, at some point, it comes out that she has a boyfriend. But, I’m OK that she has a boyfriend because I’m a grown-up, and I’m pleased to be getting to know an amazing person on a totally sincere level. We have a great seafood dinner, and Jacki is kind enough to feed me raw oysters, which are forever challenging to balance on a fork. We learn a ton about each other – admittedly ignoring our friends to some degree throughout the eve – and end the evening with a hug. And, I, the once-jackass, feel like I was able to be my true self, not a seeming jackass after all. And, Jacki was, of course, a remarkable person to get to know.
As I fall asleep in my white-comforter, king-size hotel room bed, I feel like I’ve done right by all, and slip off into a sound sleep.
However, around 1:30am, I awake with my stomach boiling over – and it’s too late. Even if I was the world’s fastest sprinter, I couldn’t have made it to the bathroom. In the pitch black, I vomit toward the side of the bed – and it just keeps coming. I’m praying that I’m targeting the dirty clothes between the nightstand and my wheelchair, that I’m not hitting the bed, the nightstand, or my wheelchair – but likewise knowing that I’m probably nailing all three at once.
Finally, through the dry heaves, I turn on the lamp, scared to see what I find. I glance at the night stand: clean. I glance at my wheelchair: clean. I glance at side of the bed: covered in vomit. Damn, I missed everything but the all-white bed!
Now, I’m kind of panicked because I’ve vomited seafood all over a white hotel bed, and it’s a horrible situation. I begin racing through solutions on cleaning this up: a wash rag and soap; I’ll strip the bed and take the sheets and comforter to the cleaners down the street; or, I’ll just live with it till check-out another day, and skip-out of town. But, none of these strike me as valid solutions.
However, I have being a bachelor on my side. See, if a woman was with me, it would require immediate action. I’d have to act embarrassed, strip the bed, brush my teeth, and fawn being sicker than I was. But, I’m alone, where the only action required is scooting across the bed, to the clean side, and promptly going back to sleep. This is where being single on the road totally rocks. No, I’m not getting drunk or laid, but the fact that I can vomit on my hotel bed in the middle of the night, and do nothing about it till morning, going right back to sleep, makes being single the best lifestyle ever. And, so, I just go back to sleep – winning.
In the morning, I shower and dress – and know that I have to do the inevitable. I have to march up to the front desk and declare, “I’m Mark E. Smith, in room 318, and I’ve vomited on my bed….”
However, I realize that I’m only partly to blame. See, Jacki has to have some responsibility in all of this. And, so with little more than shame, I roll up to April, the woman at the front desk, and spill out my heart:
So, last year, I ate a cigarette as a prank, and made myself look like a jackass in front of this amazing woman. And, so to show her that I’m not a jackass, I took her and friends out for seafood last night. And, the woman is totally smart, funny, and caring – but, she has a boyfriend, and I respect that. So, long story, short, I made a new platonic friend, but the seafood, not so much, and I vomited all over my bed. …I mean, all over – the comforter the sheets, running down the sides….
“Oh, don’t worry about that, Mr. Smith – we’ll get that changed for you,” the desk clerk said. “At least you were sleeping alone last night, from what it sounds like.”
“Trust me, April, when it comes to women and me these days, I’m glad to be sleeping alone every night,” I replied, and headed off to start my day.