Truth Be Told

By: Holly Ryan


“Fuck,” says Lorelei, stomping her foot and yelling over the sound. “It’s like thirty fucking degrees out. Fuck.”

“If you say fuck one more time, I’m keeping my razor the next time you need it.” Lorelei has this thing with swearing. She’s trying to stop, and she’s asked me to help her. Most days that’s easier said than done. “I’ll make you dance all hairy.”

I’m not sure if she heard me, because she ignores what I said and takes my hand. Together we make for the door, about to join a large mass of people heading the same direction.

I hesitate briefly, resisting against the pull of Lorelei’s hand. Maybe I should run back inside for my switchblade. The truth is, I feel even more naked without that thing than I do without the majority of my clothes on, as I am now.

“Stella!” Lorelei says over her shoulder. “Come on.”

I guess it isn’t worth it. Don’t they always say that, anyway? Never go back inside for anything.

“Come on,” she says again. I rush up to her so that we’re closer together amid the small mass of people. “Keep me warm.”

But I don’t need to bother. It comes as no surprise that as soon as we get outside and the frigid air hits us, there are suddenly tons of men whose turn it is to do the stripping; they whip off their coats and outer layers faster than I ever thought possible, draping them over our shoulders until we’re wearing three solid layers of musty old leather, pilled North Face fleece, and over washed thrift store sweaters. The smells of b.o., smoke, must and spilled beer surround me and form a nauseous concoction which, once it hits my nose, makes me feel ill. I lean against Lorelei for strength. The dancing and sudden and cold was already getting to me; throw in those smells of dirty old men wrapped around me, and I’m done for.

I lean in closer, or rather, I fall in, thanks to the nausea and the pain in my feet, until I almost reach her ear. “I think I’m going to be sick,” I try to whisper.

“What?” She’s loving the attention she’s getting from the men, no doubt hoping it’ll earn her more tips when she takes the stage again in half an hour. If they come to turn this damn thing off. She stops batting her eyelashes for a moment to look at me. “Oh my gosh, Stella. Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll be right back.” I stumble a few feet away. She doesn’t yet know about my propensity to nausea; it’s not like that’s something I go around eager to tell people about. One person, a man, tries to follow me, and he reaches for my elbow to help hold me up, no doubt thinking I’m simply wasted, but I twist my arm out of his grasp and shoo him away. If I really puke, there’s no way I want anyone around me when I do. And I really, truly feel like I’m going to puke.

I find a place around the side of the building where there’s some privacy and hold myself up with one hand against the brick wall. Ugh. All I can think about is the overwhelming desire to get these things off me. The smell is still unbearable. It’s the smell of horny, drunk, desperate and raw man. But the cold sucks, too, and I’m faced with a dilemma: puke or freeze?

Fuck it, I choose freeze.

The nausea still as strong as ever, I drag the coats off me and let them fall to the ground, where they land with a thud. Please stop, I plead with my body. Please stop.

It’s no use. The sickness continues to rise, even stronger now, and I place my other hand against the wall as I finally throw up.

When I’m done, I do my best to wipe my mouth. I raise my head and look around. The nausea is gradually subsiding, as it does, and my senses are returning. My eyes scan the area until confusion sets in. Where am I? I’ve never been here before. I can’t be far away, though. I can still hear the crowd waiting for the fire trucks just around the corner, and I’m pretty sure I can even hear Lorelei’s voice above them as she continues to flirt, but where I am is basically nothing more than an empty, wide alley. It’s pretty well-lit, though; there two tall, bright fluorescent street lights cascading a small amount of light onto and around me. It looks like there’s supposed to be a third, but it’s burnt out.

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