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Long winters will change a man. You can only spend so much time inside before you start showing symptoms of Cabin Fever. Your mind wanders, your health deteriorates, and the tunnel-vision looking to spring becomes narrower and narrower. Two things happen when you find yourself sitting inside for long stretches of winter – you drink more and you begin to lose sleep. It’s a vicious cycle because the two demons often feed one another.
It was mid-December, so winter had really just started despite our first snow falling in October that year. I had been seeing a girl, and by “seeing,” we had touched first base and engaged in one date. “Seeing” someone when you’re that age essentially just means you’re exchanging numerous flirtatious texts a day – delicately gauging the time between responses, crafting the perfect text before the other even responds, and using Read Receipts as tool to torture the other person when they don’t respond how you’d prefer.
The time between Christmas and Thanksgiving is a delicate time for your heart because once everyone reconvenes over the holiday, you begin to realize just how fucking single you are. New Year’s Resolutions hover over your head while you try to figure out your life in between your distant aunt asking you questions at the dinner table. Romances often bud out of desperation, coincidence, and the fuzzy feeling you get when there’s a few inches of snow covering the trees. Mix that in with watching Love Actually every other night, and you’re going to become a full-blown hopeless romantic seeking out every mistletoe in sight.
And that was just the case – in the midst of our texting, I decided to watch Love Actually for the hundredth time since it came out. It was a Sunday night, I was buried in my covers with a fir-scented candle burning, and I knew I’d have trouble sleeping with my hangover intact and work looming the next day. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and my desperate measures just happened to be opening a pill bottle where one single Ambien that my mom had given me for emergencies sat. Between the blanket, the candle, the movie, and the Ambien, I was primed for a cozy night of falling asleep before Sam could even chase Joanna through the airport.
I could feel it begin to set in as my phone would illuminate every three minutes or so with texts from her. At one point, I had my phone in my hand and the light coming from it would wake me up in a daze where I’d give some response I had planned out in the hours before, only to fall back asleep and do it all over again. Questions were being asked, flirtatious moments bookended moments of getting to know one another better, and before I knew it, I woke up the next morning with a crease on my cheeks from the pillowcase.
I sat in bed and did the modern day “spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch,” which essentially just meant I checked Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat before I intended on getting in the shower, bundling up, and heading into work.
But then I saw it. I didn’t know how it was possible, but a lump in my throat formed when I noticed that I had sent a text message at 1 o’clock in the morning. “I went to bed around 11,” I thought. Trying to make the best of the situation, I told myself that my final text had probably lingered before it actually got sent.
That is, until I opened our iMessage and I saw the horror that sat in front me.
The timestamps were confusing – three to four minutes between each text, with texts going from 9 o’clock until just after 1 a.m. My mind raced trying to recall something – anything – that we had talked about, but to no avail. I scrolled so quickly that I wasn’t even reading the conversation we had, I was simply trying to see how many texts I had sent with no recollection of actually sending them.
And then I realized it – “Fuck, the Ambien.”
I had become a victim of one of the side effects of taking Ambien. For normal people who don’t require prescription drugs to get a good night’s sleep, Ambien can cause you to do things you never thought imaginable if you resist the temptation to immediately fall asleep once it begins to set in. I call it “Entering The Forest” because you find yourself only being able to see what’s immediately in front of you, and you’re completely lost with no true north. That is, until the sun comes up the next morning and you see what you’ve done.
In this case, I had texted for two full hours with her. A hundred-plus messages between the two of us, both flirty and informative, hers more intelligible than mine. Squinting my eyes in fear of seeing something I just didn’t want to see, I scrolled through our entire conversation while my heart rate elevated with each swipe of my index finger.
“Okay,” I kept thinking. “This isn’t that bad.”
And it wasn’t. Much like when you surprised your younger self after looking through some not-so-bad drunk texts you had sent to your crush, I was realizing the damage control required to remedy this situation wasn’t going to take that much effort. Of course, I wasn’t going to tell her that I had accidentally entered The Forest and fired off a series of texts that I didn’t remember sending. If she wasn’t already turned off by my affinity for having one-too-many, she was definitely going to be turned off if I apologized for any weird texts I had sent while inadvertently hopped up on a controlled substance.
But just as I thought “everything was fine,” I saw it. I saw a text that aired my dirty laundry. It took the cards I was holding close to my chest and I laid them down for everyone to see. It was the final text of our entire exchange. It ended the conversation, at 1 a.m., with no response from her. It was something you don’t say in the early stages of “talking” to someone. It was something you don’t say in the late stages of talking to someone. It was something you only say as a child who has a playground crush.
“I like you.”
Upon seeing it, I immediately exited the conversation and deleted it as if it never happened. But it did happen, and the horror still lingers in my mind today. The Forest had taken advantage of me in my most vulnerable state, and I succumbed to its grasp.
By Christmas, everything had dwindled. We were no longer talking and I had moved onto the next one in search of that coveted New Year’s kiss. Whether it was the following weekend where I had indulged in too much scotch at a holiday party or it was that fateful text that came out of my blacked out fingers after taking a prescription sleeping pill that wasn’t prescribed to me, we’ll never know what caused it’s downfall.
But hey, shooters shoot. .
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