The Hangover Incident

I head to the martini party that night. Everyone was supposed to bring a bottle of liqueur, as the host is providing vodka. The idea is to all bring something unique, and then just mix and drink whatever you want all night. If communism ever really had a chance, it was in communal drinking. Alas, I won’t be joining the cause tonight.

Tomorrow my girlfriend’s entire extended family is meeting for a brunch at her mom’s house. Unfortunately, even though we haven’t been dating all that long, it’s kind of important to my girlfriend that I show up, and so, I’ve got to play the responsible boyfriend tonight. That means no drinking; it sucks.

I arrive at the party and people are already wasted. Girls are holding martini glasses, excitedly telling stories while periodically splashing their drinks on the floor. Guys are doing shots of Malibu in the kitchen and the kitchen counter island is literally covered in bottles of booze.

I instantly sigh and prepare for a night of soberness and babysitting drunkards. I look around at the excited party scene that would be so much more awesome if I were intoxicated. There are chatty girls and fun games; new people to meet and old friends to catch up with. Unfortunately although drunk conversation is awesome when you yourself are drunk too, when you’re not, it just comes across as sloppy and much less interesting than you’d imagine.

This is the great irony of parties: through sober eyes, what might’ve been awesome is now mediocre, what might’ve been hilarious is now mildly funny, and what might’ve been inspired is now barely coherent. I don’t quite know what it is about impaired higher-order reasoning that makes the world just seem so much cooler and more awesome, but it does; maybe that’s why children are always so happy.

I stare at the bottles of liquor as I remind myself that tonight I will be staying sober. I sigh again. The only worse place to be tonight would be an open-bar wedding. Something about free booze makes JD really drunk.

I enter the kitchen and start to greet some friends. Everyone’s stoked that I made it. I start to get the obligatory greetings out of the way but out of the corner of my eye, I stare at the bar and think how thirsty I am.

I sigh yet again. This is why people who don’t drink don’t come to parties.

I get some sloppy hugs from some female friends. Some guy friends come and slap my back and offer me a shot. I tell them I’m not drinking but they’re already pouring the shots, laughing at the prospect of a sober JD. I reaffirm that I’m not drinking and the girls pipe up now asking me why not. I tell them that I can’t. They tell me that one won’t hurt. The guys are nodding. They’re holding a shot. My friend tells me she can make me a martini. Another friend comes up and asks me to taste her drink.

I sigh one last time and suppose that as long as I have only one drink tonight, what harm could it do? In the back of my head my conscience is sarcastically congratulating me for staying sober for at least a few minutes...

If there’s one thing worse than being drunk, it’s sleeping drunk. Sleep is supposed to be the time that you can escape your pain. If you have a headache, you go to sleep. If you’re feeling nauseous, you take a nap. If you’re feeling exhausted, you rest. In all cases, your troubles don’t follow you. That’s why sleep rocks. No matter what your mortal wounds, when you sleep, you get a reprise.

But not when you’re drunk.

I’m having drunk dreams, half-asleep. I’m spinning and dizzy. My head hurts and aches. My dreams are taking forever. I feel sick. I’m sweating. I keep waking up, but I’m still asleep. I’m cold. I can’t get comfortable. I’m clenching a liquor bottle all night long. My clothes are still on. My belt is digging into my hip. I can’t fix it though. I want this to be over. Sleep is awful… being awake is awful… I want a third option!

Drunk sleep isn’t even really like sleep. It’s more like a semi-conscious state with closed eyes. Drunk sleep fucking sucks. But not as much as waking up.

I wake up with a throbbing headache. I feel like my brain is trying to bore its way out of my skull. I can barely move. I’m weak. I feel like Superman if he downed kryptonite jagerbombs all night.

As I wake up flashes of puking at the party and doing way too many shots pass through my dehydrated and exhausted consciousness.

I am the worst boyfriend ever.

“Gawwwwwdddd…” I groan in agony. It hurts my head to talk. The light coming in my window hurts my head. Being conscious hurts my head. “Fuuuuucccckkkk…” I mumble.

I feel nauseous as fuck. I just want this to be over. I curse my past self for doing this and desperately hope and wish that this will pass. Then out of nowhere, I start to barf.

I barely manage to lean over the side of my bed and puke on some laundry.

Actually, the laundry’s already been puked on. Guess I did this once already last night.

When I’m done I don’t feel better at all. I slowly reach down and pull off my sock. I proceed to sloppily wipe the vomit off the side of my bed frame and then toss the soiled sock into the pile of ruined laundry.

Why I didn’t stop last night?! Nothing is worth this. Nothing!

Even if I didn’t have to be somewhere today, this wasn’t worth it!

Last night definitely was a lot more fun as soon as I started to drink. That is, until I started to drink too much. The more you drink, the harder it gets to realize that you really should stop drinking. Each time you guzzle down a beverage, you think, maybe I should have just one more. I mean, after all, you don’t feel that much different, right? But the problem is that it takes booze a while to affect you, and when it does, it impairs the part of your brain that detects the effects its having on you. It’s a vicious cycle that just ensures you will drink more and more without realizing quickly enough that you really, really need to stop.

That part makes sense. I just don’t get why I haven’t developed an aversion to liquor yet. I mean, even dogs can be conditioned with avoidance. Why the hell can’t I learn the consequences of drinking?!

My brain feels like it’s in a vice and I can’t stop spinning. I feel sicker than I ever have in my entire life. I promise myself to never drink again as I weakly toss the liquor bottle I was spooning all night onto the floor.

“Never, never, never,” I’m chanting quietly, so as to avoid exacerbating my head pains.

Honestly, I still feel drunk.

I give some serious thought to bailing on my girlfriend today. But I check my phone and I have 3 missed texts from her already asking where I am. I was supposed to be there at 9am to help her setup. I’m already late.

I’d like to say that it was a sense of duty and to honour my promise to my girlfriend that made me decide not to bail, but realistically I am pretty sure that I am still drunk. Sick as fucking anything, I know that as bad as it will be to show up hung over, it will be ten times worse to skip the event all together. I tell myself that maybe getting some fresh air on the walk over will make me feel better.

Boy, was I wrong.

You know the movie The Hangover? Well it’s bullshit. It’s not about being hung over at all. Yeah it’s about getting shit-faced drunk and blacking out. But the guys in the movie aren’t even hung over the next day. Trust me, I’m fucking hung over, I know. But then again, no one would watch a real movie about being hung over because it would probably just involve a lot of puking and a 7 hour nap.

I’m starving and yet my stomach feels like it’s ready to evacuate my intestines. I’m shaky and weak. I’m simultaneously too hot and too cold. I’m both sweating and shivering. My head kills and my mouth tastes like I’ve been fellating a cotton ball all night long. I want to die. But instead I’m outside.

I wander down the street holding my forehead with one hand and holding my other hand out, trying to help my balance and steady my walk. Despite these efforts, I’m stumbling erratically down the street. It’s a combination of my headache, light aversion, and residual blood alcohol level, but I look like a wino repeatedly failing the straight-line test.

Whoever invented the martini was a fucking idiot. Hey, what should we mix our alcohol with? How about more alcohol? Yeah, brilliant fucking idea. The guy must’ve been drunk. It sounds like something a drunk would invent.

I promise myself yet again that if I ever get out of this, if I ever feel normal again, I will never, ever, for the rest of my life touch alcohol. Ever!

I’m wearing the biggest sunglasses I could find. Even at that, I find the sunlight on the way over to be unbearable. I’m wearing the t-shirt I slept in but a clean pair of jeans. I forgot that I sacrificed a sock to clean up puke so I’ve only got one sock on today. I look semi-homeless.

I make it a block or two before a familiar friends greets me. Ah, nausea… where have you been my friend? A moment later I find myself puking in a random garbage can, by a bus stop. The people in the bus stop pretend not to see me, but I know they’re all watching and judging.

Fucking judgy sobers… like they’ve never puked in a public trash receptacle.

I’m simultaneously embarrassed and insulted by their disgusted looks. So what if I’m barfing in a garbage can… am I not still a man?! A human being deserving of some dig… oh god… there’s more… don’t look at me!

I puke… and puke…

People start to walk away.

A few minutes later and I’m still hunched over the garbage can, dry heaving and spitting. I’m waiting for the nausea to pass, and trying to figure out how far of a walk it would be to the next bus stop, so I can judge if I can make it. Yeah sure, I could just puke on the street if worst came to worst, but that’s just so… classless. I mean I may be a dirty hung over bastard, but I’m not an animal.

A few more minutes and a few slow spits into the garbage and I think I might be able to soldier on. I take a deep breath and slowly stand up from the garbage. I grimace again at the sun in my eyes, hold one hand up to my throbbing forehead, place the other forward to steady my gait, and continue the treacherous journey to Sunday brunch.

I can’t explain it, but McDonalds chicken nuggets are the panacea to a hangover. At least for me anyway.

I stumble into my girlfriend’s mom’s house 2 hours late, holding a bag of McDonalds. Although I enter calmly and quietly, so as to draw as little attention to my late arrival as possible, as soon as I walk in the door I trip all over everyone’s shoes that are strewn about the foyer. First I stumble, then I take a few steps back, and end up leaning on the wall. Everyone near the door is staring at me, as I slowly, slide down the wall, to the ground.

I’m not loud, but everyone still turns to watch. Probably because I curse a lot as it happens.

Already on the ground and still with a poor sense of balance, I slowly kick my shoes off. A few guys come and help me up. They introduce themselves but I couldn’t tell you who they are. Probably my girlfriend’s uncles or cousins or something.

I introduce myself out of habit.

They already know who I am though. My reputation precedes me… although probably not in the good way.

“They boyfriend?” one of them asks, slightly surprised.

“Yeah,” I say.

He doesn’t look impressed.

I offer him a chicken nugget.

He doesn’t partake.

This is going to be a long day…

I start to wander around the party with my old t-shirt, sunglasses, one sock, and bag of chicken nuggets, feeling like a washed up rock star, or Charlie Sheen: winning. I didn’t even have time to shave this morning.

People keep looking at me. They’re all dressed up. Nothing super fancy, but the guys are wearing button-up shirts and the girls dresses. Judgy sobers… I really wish I’d taken the time to change out of my t-shirt this morning.

Finally, I find my girlfriend. When she notices me she immediately smiles… at first anyway. As she looks at me, her smile fades and she pauses. I know the look on her face. She’s shocked at how much I failed her. She knows I went drinking, despite my promise that I wouldn’t. She knows that I’m hung over, despite how important meeting her family was supposed to be.

Then she sighs, “Well… at least you came…”

The “at least” is never a good sign…

She leads me into the next room and I get introduced to my girlfriend’s mother. I should say that sarcasm is hard to portray in writing, but her mother is absolutely thrilled to meet me. Behind her fake smile and phony conversation, I know what she’s thinking: “This… is my daughter’s boyfriend…?”

Believe me though ladies, I’m thinking the same thing. This is not my finest hour.

I finish chewing a nugget and offer her one.

She does not partake.

I eat another one. They’re settling my stomach.

My girlfriend gets called by her dad to help with something. She sighs and tells me to mingle. I fucking hate mingling, but I’m trying to play the good boyfriend so I nod.

I’m in the bathroom, eating the odd nugget while I rest my head on the toilet bowl. Between nuggets I’m spitting into the toilet, contemplating whether it would be worth it to induce vomiting or if I should just wait the nausea out.

I’m aware that this technically does not count as mingling, but whatever. I can hear everyone outside talking and chatting. To be honest, I don’t feel bad about skipping out on this crap. I find family get togethers to be kind of tiresome. Usually it’s a bunch of conservative middle-aged housewives and office monkeys mixed with an appropriate number of elderly. What am I supposed to talk to them about? Getting shit-faced and playing Never Have I Ever? Pass. I’m too hung over to pretend to have something in common with old people.

Someone’s knocking on the door, asking if I’m OK.

Fucking sobers…

I slowly stand. I’m dizzy as fuck so it’s hard. One hand on the counter and the other holding the shower curtain, I pull myself up. A few of the rings rip through the plastic curtain, but I barely notice.

The sober jerk outside is still knocking on the door.

“I’m finishing!” I shout.

I turn the sink on and splash my face with water.

God… why am I here today?

I wonder how much longer the family will be staying around. When they leave, maybe I can convince my girlfriend to hang out in her room with me, so I can just sleep this off.

I grab my nuggets off the bathroom floor and pick up my glass of punch that I grabbed before I came in here.

I step out the bathroom and sigh, “OK fine! Time to mingle… for real this time…”

I stumble into one of the back bedrooms. After confirming that it’s vacant, I slump down in the lazy-boy in the corner and close my eyes.

All I want to do is close my eyes and have today be over.

I don’t know what I’ll do when I wake up.

Hopefully I’ll be sober. Hopefully I can get out of here relatively quickly. Maybe I can make up some excuse to my girlfriend’s mom about having the flu or something. Maybe I can say something that will make up for this. I don’t carry any illusions though, I know I fucked up. But I just want to close my eyes and leave this mortal world for a while.

So I do.

The world goes black, peaceful, and quiet.

I awake an hour later to a cold, wet feeling. It takes my groggy mind a moment to realize what happened. My pants are red and wet. The chair is wet. The floor is wet. And my cup of punch is empty. I spilled the punch. I spilled a full cup of punch all over myself and the chair.

“Fuck…” I mumble. “I didn’t even get a sip…”

I lazily turn to my nuggets and breathe a sigh of relief. They didn’t get wet. Albeit, they are dropped all over the floor. The bag sits sideways at my feet, a handful of nuggets strewn about.

My headache is worse now but the sleepiness is gone. The nausea seems to have left me as well. I guess it’s not all bad.

I get up and gather my nuggets off the ground, and back into the bag. Then I survey the damage.

My pants are soaked but I’m not too worried about them, the chair’s seat and side are completely red and there is a big puddle on the floor. I look around the room for something I can use to hide this new mistake of mine.

I find a small throw blanket and cover the chair, hiding the punch stains. I then pull the chair to the left a bit, moving it over top of the carpet stains.

I look at the scene once again and you can barely tell the chair is ruined.

OK now I am the worst boyfriend ever.

I briefly wonder if my girlfriend’s going to leave me for this when it eventually comes out.

Suddenly a cadre of kids burst into the room. They’re being lead by a sole aunt. She apologizes and says that she thought the room was empty. She says that she was just going to set the kids up with a movie, to keep them entertained.

I tell her it’s fine.

She smiles and introduces herself. She’s the first person I’ve met who hasn’t stared or glared at me. Maybe she was cool, once, in her younger days. Maybe she understands the disheveled-but-misunderstood look that I’m regrettably rocking today.

She doesn’t even comment on my soaked pants.

After pulling a video out of her bag her husband calls her from the living room. She’s being pulled in two directions as the kids are demanding their movie. She looks a little frazzled so I offer to set the movie up for them. She thanks me and runs off.

The kids ask me who I am.

I offer them some chicken nuggets.

Their little eyes all light up and they excitedly accept.

Now these are my people.

I hand them each a few nuggets and pop the tape in the VCR. The kids excitedly munch their nuggets and ask me for juice.

I look out the door for their mom. She’s long gone. They ask me again if I could get them some juice.

“Sure,” I say, “why not?”

I return to the bedroom with four cups of punch. The kids are running around, their heads fixated in the direction of the TV but they’re doing anything but sitting still.

I take it back. These are not my people. They’re loud and obnoxious, and my head hurts way too much today to be in this room.

I search about for my nuggets only to find an empty and torn McDonalds bag in the middle of the carpet. The kids, yeah they ate all the rest of my nuggets and my fries. I was saving my fries.

I give them their juice and leave.

Back in the hall, I grimace and clench my head in both hands. Being hung over really has a lot of phases. I’m in the flu-sleepy phase. Everything feels dull and distant. I realize that I’m probably just dehydrated.

In the living room, I slowly fill up another cup of punch, careful not to spill any. Some people are already looking at the giant wet stain on my pants. Fuck ‘em. I’ve taken back to wearing my sunglasses. I figure if I avoid eye contact with everyone, maybe they’ll just leave me be. Maybe I can just lie later and say that I mingled. I can barely stand sounds right now, I really don’t want to converse with anyone.

I turn back to face everyone in the living room, punch in hand. Two of my girlfriend’s cousins smile at me, trying to be friendly. I smile back and hold up my cup to cheers them. I take a big mouthful of the punch and then lower the glass and immediately open my mouth. All the punch that was in my mouth dribbles down my face and on to the carpet.

Everyone stares at me in shock. I look like a mentally challenged vagabond.

And they probably thought I couldn’t do anything worse to embarrass myself…

Me though, I’m not worried about the punch that is running down my chin and my clothes, I’m just staring in shocked disbelief. I feel more nauseous than ever at that moment. Perhaps it was the taste of the punch on my hung over palate or the knowledge that I just gave a room full of kids this juice. The punch, you see, is spiked. The taste and smell of vodka permeate my senses. A new wave of nausea rushes over me and I think I might puke.

Yes, I just served a bunch of kids hard liquor.

Now I am the worst boyfriend ever.

I drop my cup in the punch bowl and make a beeline for the back door. Stained with punch and the knowledge that I’ve now served alcohol to minors, I decide that I’ve done enough damage for one day. This whole day feels like one terrible, sloppy, drunk nightmare. I kind of wish for the all-too-cliché “it was just a dream” thing to happen suddenly. Sadly, I am all too awake and this is all too real.

I’m just about to reach the door when my girlfriend appears at the top of the stairs by the back door.

“Oh!” she says. “Where are you going? And what happened to your pants?”

I tell her that I need to take a walk, I need some air.

“You’re going outside?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I say. “But I’ll be back.” I lie.

At this moment in time, I know she doesn’t want me to leave and go home. But in 20 minutes or so, when a room full of drunken children become public knowledge, I’ll be lucky to leave this house in one piece. I don’t know if I’ll be able to salvage this. I just need to go.

I’m two seconds away from cutting my losses, breaking eye contact, pushing her aside, and just running out the door. But then, she gives me an out: “Can you take the dog to the park?”

“I uh… What…?”

She turns and calls the dog. It recognizes its name in close proximity to the word “park” and suddenly bolts up the stairs. My eyes are locked on the door behind her. I could just run…

She pulls the leash off a hook by the door and snaps it to the dog’s collar. She tells me to be quick. She tells me to go to the park behind the house. She tells me to keep him on the leash.

I stutter, “Um… OK... fine…”

As I lean on the bimmer in the driveway, puking my guts down the side of the luxury vehicle, I am cursing my idiot brain for not just running when I had the chance. With each contraction and evacuation, my head pulses in pain. I think I’m puking on her uncle’s car.

“God damned punch…” I mumble under my breath. I really thought that I might have the nausea under control, until that damned alcohol touched my lips.

To be fair, I was just trying to use the bimmer for leverage, to help stay standing while I puked. That I’m puking on the side of the car itself is really just a side effect of my impaired motor skills at this point.

My stomach once again empty, I wipe my mouth and figure I might be able to just let the dog make in the yard. Or hell, I should just tie him to the porch and get the hell out of here. Or fuck it… I could just abandon him right? It’s all a wash at this point, right? Who cares if my girlfriend is mad at me anymore, by the end of the day I will have no girlfriend no matter what I do anymore!

I sigh. I’m so screwed today.

The excited mutt knows I’m stalling. He knows I’m supposed to take him to the park. He’s barking and pulling on the leash. He’s jumping in the direction of the park. And eventually he pulls me away from my puddle of puke, and I start stumbling in the direction of the park.

I sigh again. Despite everything that’s transpired today, I just can’t abandon a dog. He yanks and pulls me towards the park, and I figure, maybe it will be the one good thing I can say I did today.

As we enter the park the dogs barking and yelping become more frantic. He’s pulling on the leash harder, trying to get me to run. Each jostle and tug from this energetic canine is making me taste bile. Every pull is like whiplash to a brain of jell-o. This dog is going to ruin me.

We walk about 20 paces into the park and I decide that I can’t take it anymore. I kneel to the ground and pull him over.

“You just want to run around, eh boy?” I say as I fiddle with his collar.

He’s barking and impatiently dancing his feet around.

“OK, OK,” I tell him. “You be a good boy, now.”

Between the sun, the headache, and the ADHD dog, I can barely see what I’m doing. I intend to just unclip the leash but I end up taking his whole collar off. He lets out an excited bark.

“I know, I know!” I smile at him. “There ya go!” I shout as I release him.

Immediately he turns and runs. He dashes across the park. I smile and collapse, just sitting there in the grass, enjoying some peace.

Watching the dog, I start to feel a bit better. He’s so happy at just the prospect of running. To have a simple life…

He runs and dashes across the park, waving his tail violently in pleasure as he does.

I smile as I watch the dog. I watch the dog run and run and run. And well, he keeps running, and running. Like, not even really like he’s running casually. He’s like, running full speed. He’s got his head down, flush with his torso like he’s trying to reduce wind resistance. He’s running like a bullet, faster than I’ve ever seen any dog run before. And he’s not turning or looking back or anything. He’s just going. He’s just running straight off. Just running and running and running.

“Uh oh…” I mumble.

In the far distant corner of the park, a man is throwing a Frisbee with his son. The dog literally leaps into the air, snatching the Frisbee as it flies between them, and then instantly continues its mad dash towards, what I can only guess is freedom.

The man instantly exclaims: “HEY!” He shouts so loud that I can hear him across the park. But the dog is already out of the park, running across the street, then down the sidewalk into the suburbs, and then, well, he just kind of disappears into the horizon.

Her dog literally just runs away. And the collar of his that I am holding, that had his name and address and owner’s phone number on it, would likely contribute to the fact that he was never found.

As I sit in the grass, still completely hung over, feeling awful—physically, mentally, and spiritually—contemplating the sheer lunacy of the day and the terrible, stupid, idiotic things that I did, I realize that now I am the worst boyfriend ever.

And when my girlfriend called to dump me later that day, I told her earnestly that she could do better.

I think she thought I was being sarcastic though because she called me an asshole after that.

Oh well. At least I got to go home and sleep and pretend this day never happened.

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