Sandy and Derek were sitting in their bedroom on the bed, legs crossed, a bottle of vodka on the table behind Derek and each with a shot glass in their hands. Sandy had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, while Derek was pouring a little bit of vodka in their respective glasses.
“So, the idea of this is to forgive ourselves, eachother or someone else for something with each shot,” Derek said, “That way we can stop being so damn angry about every little thing in our lives.”
“Okay,” Sandy said, holding her glass to eye level, looking through the clear liquid, “And if someone starts to veer things into a direction the other doesn’t want to go, then they can just veto that.”
“Sure, that sounds fair,” Derek said. Sandy threw her head back and took her shot, then wiped her mouth on her arm and exhaled, shaking her head a little. She finally looked at Derek and grimaced.
“Ugh, I forgot how sick Vodka makes me,” she said softly, “I’m really sorry that I made things hard when we were first getting together. I’m sorry if I made you so uncertain about me, yourself or anything else. You don’t deserve that.”
Derek smiled and took his shot, then gave a gross look on his face, nearly gagging, “Oh jesus, you weren’t kidding, that shit is tough. Ugh. Alright, well, I’m sorry if I ever get on you for complaining. You have every right to be upset, because shit sucks for us. I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you can’t speak your mind.”
Sandy nearly blushed, feeling so lucky to have him, as he poured them another set of shots. Sandy pushed her bangs from her eyes and stretched her legs out, resting her feet in his lap, looking around their bedroom.
“I think I wanna redecorate,” Sandy said, “This place is lacking any sort of personality lately. I think we need to do something about it.”
“I’m good with that idea,” Derek said, as he finished pouring and started massaging Sandy’s feet while she took her next shot. She hissed through her teeth and shook her head a little.
“Well,” she began, “I guess I’m sorry for Reggie. When I was in college, I took this class about feminine representation in literature, specifically when written by straight guys, and how they’re rarely heroines and when they are heroines they’re overly sexualized because that’s the only way they can see us. Anyway, there was this girl named Regina, or Reggie, who sat in the class a few seats down from me. We started talking, we became friends and went to parties and stuff together since we didn’t wanna go alone, even though once there we usually just made fun of the people there. I guess she wanted to get to know me cause she was gay and one night she suggested we make out, just for something to do.”
“And?” Derek asked.
“…well, we did. We did…more…than just make out. Point is, the next day she completely blacked me out, like it’d never happened. So, for someone to make the claim that only men can see women as objects is an unfair subjection, because let me tell you, some women are just as predatory. Made me feel sick with myself, and so I just went and hooked up with multiple girls that year, so I guess I apologize to myself too for putting myself through that,” Sandy said, sighing and looking at her empty glass, “…I’m glad you never do that to me.”
“Of course not,” Derek said, “Bottoms up.”
He threw his head back and took his drink, exhaling afterwards, and then squinting. He finally opened his eyes, looked at Sandy and felt tears swell up in his eyes.
“I’m sorry for…” Derek started, but he couldn’t figure out the words he wanted to use. After a few moments of pause and reflect, he finally managed to say, “I’m just sorry. I’m sorry to everyone who’s ever had to put up with me. My parents, any friends…you, most of all.”
“Ditto,” Sandy said, “We’ve been kind of bad for eachother, but at least we recognize that, and we know it’s wrong, yet inevitably a part of being in a relationship, and we try to fix it, unlike other people our age who simply say if someone treats you bad once or disagrees with anything you say then you should dump them immediately. Ridiculous. That isn’t a relationship. That’s narcissism. There’s a difference between straight up abuse and disagreement.”
“Right, right,” Derek said, chewing on his bottom lip, “I’m going to get another bottle from the corner store, this one barely had any left in it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
As he got off the bed, he leaned down and stroked her cheek with his fingers, then grabbed his jacket, pulled on his shoes and headed out the door. Sandy laid on the bed, looking up at the ceiling. Eventually, she got off the bed, got her laptop out and started doing some research. She eventually wound up with a phone number, which she plopped into her cell and dialed.
One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Four-
“Hello?” a voice asked, “Carter residence.”
“…Reggie Carter?” Sandy asked, wondering if this was a bad idea.
“Yes? Who wants to know?” Reggie asked.
“I, uh, I’m…Sandy Price, we…we went to college together and-”
“Sandy?” Reggie asked, her voice staying the same deadpan it had been since she’d answered, “Good lordy, what’re you doing calling me this late, or, at all?”
“My…boyfriend, guyfriend, whatever, we’re sitting around and just talking about things we’re sorry for and…and I thought about you. I thought about, like, the time we spent in school together and shit and how like, I don’t know, how we hung out and hooked up and I felt-”
“I am really sorry if I made you feel bad,” Reggie said, interrupting her, “I…I don’t like stopping people from speaking but I need you to know that, I feel really bad about it. You have to understand, my family was really close minded and conservative and I could never discuss anything about how I felt to anyone, so to find someone who…who I guess was kind of like me, it felt freeing in a way, you know? But I know I essentially came off as predatory and like I used you to figure myself out and I apologize if that’s messed with you over the years because that was not my overall intention one bit. I was just really focused on figuring me out after all those closed off years living at home.”
“I understand,” Sandy said, “I really do, like, god, living with my mother…she still doesn’t even understand who I am and why I’m not just like her, ya know. It’s so goddamned frustrating.”
Reggie giggled and sighed, “Sandy, I’ve thought about calling you, I really have. I just figured you didn’t want anyone drudging up shit from that point in time, like maybe you were just trying to black it all out or whatever, but I’m really glad that that isn’t the case.”
“What’re you doing up so late anyway?”
“Well it’s not like it’s a school night or anything,” Reggie replied, laughing, “No, my wife works nights so I sleep alone most of the time. I was just reading when you called.”
“Not really, symptoms of illnesses.”
“Are you a doctor?” Sandy asked.
“I’m sick,” Reggie said, stopping Sandy in her tracks, “I…uh…I guess about a year ago I had headaches and my hair started to come out a little, and I felt really nauseous, and I found out I have leukemia. It’s not life threatening just yet, so don’t worry, but it is…it’s scary, but we’re dealing with it.”
“I…I’m so sorry,” Sandy whispered, “I had no idea, obviously. I hope you’ll be okay.”
“Listen, why don’t we meet for lunch or something next week, and we can catch up more? I’m really tired these days, as you can imagine. I will call you tomorrow and we can set up a date or something,” Reggie said, and Sandy told her that would be fine. As they said their goodbyes and hung up both ends, Derek came back into the room with a bag. He dumped it on the bed, and out spilled another vodka bottle, a baby ruth and a horse racing magazine. Sandy held the phone to her chest, pacing back and forth at the end of the bed.
“…if I ever get sick, leave me, ok?” Sandy asked, “Don’t…don’t try and be all noble or whatever, just go. I don’t want to put you through that and have yet something else I’d need to apologize for in hell.”
“I like that you recognize you’re likely not going to heaven,” Derek said, smiling as he opened the bottle, “That’s nice, modesty is important in a friend.”
“There’s too damn much to apologize for,” Sandy said, sitting at the end of the bed, “I…we can have an entire drinking game dedicated to saying ‘I’m sorry’ but in the end, I’m going to just keep adding onto that list, having more things to be sorry for, and there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to get through them all by the time I die, that’s for sure. So, don’t become one of those people. If something happens to me, just leave and go about your life, because the last thing I need in addition to dying is also to hurt you.”
“That sounds fair enough,” Derek said, “…and you’re right, there’s too much to apologize for. That’s the problem with mistakes, it’s not something you do once or twice in your life. It’s something you continue to do forever. You will always make mistakes. They might not even be big mistakes, like hurting someone you shouldn’t have or whatever, but just little things, like parking in a handicapped spot and then someone else comes along who needs it. Mistakes make up the majority of our time here on earth. Memories are often just the things we’ve deemed good because they’re the things we didn’t make mistakes in. That’s why we remember them. We filter out the bad stuff so we can have nice things to look back on. But…when it gets down to it, the thing we do most in life is fuck up, and I guess that’s okay, because at least we know we’re not the only ones doing it. Everyone does it. That’s some level of solidarity, I suppose.”
Sandy reached for the bottle and took a long drink from it before handing it back to him. Derek unwrapped his candy bar and broke it in half, handing one half to her and then eating the other himself. Sandy filled her shot glass again and drank it.
“I’m sorry we decided to play this,” she said.
“Yeah, me too.”