66 Degrees Of Separation

66 Degrees of Separation

66 Degrees of Separation

Published July 24, 2014

Photos by
Jói Kjartans

This is the story of how Lebowski broke my heart.

From the position in which I imagine the perpetrator was standing, if he or she had been so inclined as to make a small directional shift of only 66 degrees, the outcome of this evening, and my life, would have been irrevocably altered.

Perhaps he or she had been on a more appropriate path when someone nearby misjudged the beat of “Walking on a Dream” or some other synthy song the DJ played in the moments leading up to this event and knocked the culprit off their likely target of the steps leading down to the bathroom.

Recounting the events leading up to trauma is a natural response. When did the relationship go wrong? What did I do wrong? It feels like if you could only pinpoint the moment when things changed, you might be able to fix it. But there will be no fixing this.

The 4th of July is a day of celebration. It is a day of independence for my people, the Americans. It is also the day someone puked on my stuff at Lebowski.

It was barely even midnight when tragedy struck. The gin & tonic had been flowing for a solid hour and my roommate was dropping it pretty low on the dance floor. This is a snapchat-able moment if there ever was one, I thought. I walked over to the bench where we had piled our things to retrieve my phone. We were so innocent then. So naïve to the ways of Reykjavík nightlife.

I assessed the pile of black leather and chunks of food. That’s odd, I thought. Why would someone put food on our stuff?

The room started to spin. Maybe the gin & tonics had been flowing for two hours. I tugged at the slimy sleeve of my jacket. My jacket sleeve is not usually slimy. I held it out in front of me for inspection.

No, it couldn’t be. I tried to deny what I was witnessing, but the smell made it impossible.

Sabine. I thought of my roommate only a few feet away. She didn’t know.

“Someone puked on my stuff,” I announced to the crowd.

“Who?” Some bouncer-esque figure inquired. I wasn’t ready to discuss this with a stranger.

I grabbed Sabine away from an Icelandic guy and gently broke the news.

“There is puke on our stuff.”

“What?” She was still dancing.

“Someone threw up on our things.” English is her second language so I did my best “regurgitated food” charade and led her back to the evidence. We stood still in shock.

“Ew,” She picked up our jackets and we descended to the bathroom to attempt to scrub away the bile and remnants of what may have once been pasta.

“I just feel so dirty,” I told my roommate as I rubbed the fabric together under the faucet of a dingy bar bathroom.

“Well, yeah.”

We were both dressed in black, as if we’d some how anticipated the devastation in our future. We could hear the music pounding through the walls. We’d almost exhausted the contents of the hand soap dispenser.

I held up my jacket, which now smelled of Fresh Scent and had only dark splotches of damp material where the puke had been. Washing someone else’s barf off your clothing is no way to end a night.

Rather than dwell on this crime we Irish goodbye’d out to Dolly, where a fight broke out. For a few hours we wandered in and out of various bars and were hit on by various men. We’d lost our sense of place in reality. This was a new, harsher world. A world where no casually stashed coat is safe from the contents of intoxicated strangers’ stomachs.

They say time heals all wounds. But it does not do your laundry. I thought about the healing ahead of me as we hitched a ride home with friends. Would I be able to recognize stain remover with an Icelandic label? Would I ever feel safe leaving my outerwear unattended at a bar again?

I felt angry but I couldn’t help but blame myself. If only I hadn’t put my jacket there. If only someone had directed their gastric projectile away by the angle from which my coat manufacturer gets its name. 66 degrees. I should’ve worn North Face.

Maybe someday I will return to Lebowski. But first, I need to find a dry cleaner.


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