Delilah smells like booze and lavender.
"Idiot," you mutter, but affectionately. She's asleep in the passenger seat, wrapped up in one of those ugly puffy coats with the faux fur trim. With the badly dyed blond hair, Delilah looks like the cliche she is: the sad woman a few years past her quarter-life crisis, the woman copying teenage trends in a misguided attempt to cling to her youth. You remember from your freshman lit class that most men lead lives of quiet desperation, but you think that Thoreau never knew half the desperation that women feel. Poor Delilah. You feel sorry for her in spite of yourself.
You step harder on the gas in response to the feeling, hope that there aren't any cops lurking around at this time of night. It takes seven minutes to get to your apartment on an ordinary day. You resolve to get there in five. Maybe, just once, you can drive faster than Delilah's demons.
When you pour Delilah out of your car, she comes back to life, mumbling about bad dreams and, bizarrely, laundry. "Gotta get my socks, 'Manda," she slurs, nose running in the November air. You kind of want to get a tissue and wipe it, but you suppress the urge out of the horrified sense that you might be turning into your mother after all.
Instead, you say, "You're drunk as shit, sweetheart," and get her through your door. You're going to have to have a talk with that asshole bartender who wants to get into her pants, because first of all, bartenders are supposed to cut you off before you get to this state, and second of all, it's easier than trying to have a talk with the real asshole, the guy driving her to drink in the first place. Oh, you want to smash his face in with a chair, but the law wouldn't like that. More importantly, Delilah would just clean his stupid face up and then never talk to you ever.
"Can't believe he's cheating on me again." She lights up a cigarette without asking and you just sigh. You've long since resigned yourself to a smoky couch. "Who do these girls think they are? He'll be back. He always comes back."
No, you always come back, you want to say, but instead you hand her the box of tissues. The blankets and pillows are still out in the living room from the last time Delilah needed a place to crash.
She's still rambling about her latest drama, so you get up and go into the kitchen to pour her a glass of water. You can still kind of hear what she's saying, but it's mercifully blurred by the swish of water into the glass. God, that impossible girl. As much as you want to kill her so-called boyfriend, sometimes you want to punch her. Hell, she'd take it as a fucking sign of love. It wouldn't make any difference, though. You've learned to live with the helplessness, learned to just do damage control, but every time you help her, you feel like you're betraying her. It's a double bind.
"Amanda, you have work tomorrow?" Delilah has interrupted her own monologue with a question by the time you get back to the couch, handing her the glass.
"Just class." You're on your fifth year of sporadic grad school. The school is happy to suck up your money, but your professors think you're unmotivated. You can't make them understand that getting a degree in creative writing requires time to write, but getting a degree, period, requires working a shitty job to pay for it. Creativity is dead in the workplace. Maybe you should have gotten a degree in computer science and gone to work for Google.
Delilah giggles and cuddles up next to you, putting out the cigarette in half-remembered courtesy. "You should make up a poem about me. Right now. Rock me with your genius, girlfriend." To emphasize her point, she throws herself across your lap, beaming up at you like she's won the lottery instead of another night at your heartbreak hotel. Delilah's loved your poetry since you met in high school, both of you back in the loser corner of the class, but for different reasons.
"You're a song," you say, not mentioning that she's pretty much a bad country song come to life. You're kind of afraid to write a poem about Delilah, actually, because you think you could lay her bare with all your tenderness and contempt. You shouldn't brag, but you're really fucking good at what you do, and an accurate character portrait isn't gonna endear you to her.
"He wrote me a song once," she muses, and she's hit the point of the night where she isn't angry anymore. You hate this part more than anything else, when you lose that brief spark of hope that this time, it might be different. She reaches up and touches your face. "You're too good to me."
God damn it. You're done crying over her. "Best friends forever, right?"
"You know it."
The silence stretches out almost to the point of awkwardness, with Delilah sprawled in your lap in the world's drunkest, most ungraceful Pieta. The hiccup that escapes her breaks the tension. She laughs and rolls off you, peeling off her coat and then reaching for the glass of water. "Make you breakfast in the morning?"
Delilah can work magic with Eggo waffles. "Well, since you owe me anyway. I think I have syrup."
She knocks back the glass of water with an ease that speaks of many nights at many bars. "I'm not gonna call him tomorrow," she lies, because she still thinks she can get things past you after all this time. It hurts, but it's a hurt that you've gotten used to over the years. "He's gonna call me, but fuck if I'll pick up my phone."
"Delilah." You mean for it to come out angry, but it's your sweet voice, the kind you use to talk to babies and puppies. "Just give yourself a break, okay? You don't need this."
"Neither do you," she says, and it's so honest that you catch your breath. Delilah cracks a smeared lipstick grin, and your heart aches with how much you love her. "G'night."
"'Night," you reply. When you hug her, she hugs back.