THE CITY OF LIGHT
I'm in Paris on a magazine assignment, which is exactly as great as it sounds. I eat dinner at a restaurant so fancy I have to keep resisting the urge to drop my fork just to see how fast someone will pick it up. I'm drinking cognac—the booze of kings and rap stars—and I love how the snifter sinks between the crooks of my fingers, amber liquid sloshing up the sides as I move it in a figure eight. Like swirling the ocean in the palm of my hand.
Somewhere near midnight, I tumble into a cab with my friend and the night starts to stutter and skip. She leans into me, the bundle of scarf around her face. It's cold, and we are squished together on the vinyl seat, too lit to care about the intimacy of our limbs. The streets are a smear through the window. The taxi meter, a red blur. How did we get back so fast? A second ago, we were laughing in the cab. And now, I'm standing on the street alone.
I walk through the front door of my hotel, into the bright squint of the lobby. My heels clickety-clak across the white stone. It's that time of night when every floor has a banana peel, and if I'm not careful, I might find my face against the ground, my hands braced beside me, and I'll have to explain to the concierge how clumsy and hilarious I am. So I walk with a vigilance I hope doesn't show. I exchange a few pleasantries with the concierge, a bit of theater to prove I'm not too drunk, and I'm proud of how steady my voice sounds. I don't want him thinking I'm just another American girl wasted in Paris. The last thing I hear is my heels, steady as a metronome, echoing through the lobby. And then, there is nothing. Not a goddamn thing.
This happens to me sometimes. A curtain falling in the middle of the act, leaving minutes and sometimes hours in the dark. But anyone watching me wouldn't notice. They'd simply see a woman on her way to somewhere else, with no idea her memory just snapped in half.
It's possible you don't know what I'm talking about. Maybe you're a moderate drinker, who baby-sips two glasses of wine and leaves every party at a reasonable hour. Maybe you're one of those lucky fellows who can slurp your whiskey all afternoon and never disappear into the drink. But if you're like me, you know the thunderbolt of waking up to discover a blank space where pivotal scenes should be.
My evenings come with trapdoors.
Excerpted from the book Blackout by Sarah Hepola. Copyright 2015 by Sarah Hepola. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central.