Friday, March 16, 2007

And now, a personal note

In three months time my curious life will reach the quarter century mark- a sign-post I planned to overtake with the measured advent of a swooping thrush, but now looks as though I’ll approach more like a grounded pheasant- hunched over, head cocked, with a magnifying glass in hand. What difference does it make? Bad dates. In any event, I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on the great and telling moments of my formative years, here-to-for.

I’ve had two memorable disgorgements. The first was when I was fourteen. I was on a semester program in Switzerland, though the event took place in a hotel washroom in Annecy, France. I had been out to diner with the director of the program and three of my fellow contemplates. I believe I was the only member of the party present from Minnesota. The second, and more glorious of the two, was when I was twenty-three (just last year!) and working in Manhattan’s financial district, when the previous evening’s dipsomanic episode finally caught me up and exacted its merciless price. I will now describe both affairs in exquisite detail to see if I can’t wrench the truth of these almost twenty-five years from the acrimonious haze that beguiles my retrospective mind.

At fourteen I had the bearing of a madly shivering fawn. I accoutered this virility with soft cable-nit sweaters and pleated khakis, the fortifying armor of preppies the world over. I kept a darling fop of blonde tussle just over my vernal brow and I might have passed for ten. I had just arrived to Annecy by bus with fortyish other neonate scholars and ten cadres of supreme allied commander somethingorother and was discharged to my hotel room to freshen-up before supper. My rooming assignment was a manly youth named Teslik who, despite being very nice, had overlooked me on his social docket in favor of anything female and some guy from the Jr. Olympics. “Which bed do you want” is probably the only thing he ever said to me, though I’m not sure he even managed that, because I really can’t remember him ever saying anything.

Seven O’clock sharp I met my group for the evening. They siphoned us off in threes or fours, subjoined a cadre for good measure, and loosed our American grit on a substantially more genteel culture. I can’t remember anything about the boys and/or girls in my group from that evening. I do remember that our cadre was the hearty son of the supreme allied commander (I realize now he was not the commander himself, as I recorded above). We both ordered duck. As far as I know, the evening passed without event and I retook the room with Teslik at some reasonable hour.

Dead of night. I awake in a dark hotel room, far from home, with a miserable pain unrivaled to date in my life. My hands are clammy, my brow perspiring, and my little stick arms are shaking uncontrollably. I consider waking Teslik, but check into the bathroom by myself instead. I remember that the bathroom was small, and white, and very well lit- not unlike my bathroom in my childhood home.

The house I grew up in has remarkably sonorous acoustics. As a small boy of four or five, my little voice could be heard from any of its extremities calling: “Mom? Mother?” So when growing up I took to the bathroom with flu, or croup, or general nausea, it was more than likely that my mother would hear my cries and come to comfort me. That night in Annecy, I wretched so violently that I was sure my mother heard me across the Atlantic.

All told, I estimate I spent four hours in the bathroom, tired, scared, alone, and very very sick. In the morning, I looked so disheveled that I was dismissed from daily activities. The cadre was suspicious, as he (having also had the duck) passed the evening in utter tranquility. The bastard. Then again, maybe I was upset about something. Who knows? I have never returned to France.

The second incident I think I’d prefer to chronicle with the very words I uttered (in print) immediately following the event itself. Here is a letter I sent to some friends recounting the tale, written just minutes after quiting the scene (parts of which were mentally composed during the act). If you find the tone of this letter somewhat discontinuous with that which you are currently enjoying, I apologize for the jar and ask that you forgive a little playful banter between college friends. I’ve replaced the names of certain people in the letter with variables to preserve their anonymity.

"I’m calling it in. As of this morning, I have legitimately been so hungover at work that I vomited in an office bathroom stall. I always knew this day was coming. Frankly, I'm amazed it took me this long. Since I first set eyes on that tremendous row of office toilets, glistening under the florescent lights, I knew. I knew some day I would bury my head in one of those beauties and evacuate my bile ducts- purge my sins in a visceral act of systemic revolt. But when? And how? I knew not.

I waited and waited and it never happened. I'd been close a few times, but it was all false summits and shimmery mirages. Time went by. Days. Month. It felt like years. For all I know it was. And then today. I woke up this morning, and I had that pounding headache and the taste of stale cigarettes I know, and I thought maybe, just maybe, today would be the day. I could have called in sick. I could have ditched. Another day I might have. But no, I was not to be denied. Today would be the day that I would embrace one of those pearly-white office lous and hurl my fucking guts into the depths below. And so, like Nazareth and his cross, I trucked my waisted body to the financial district this morning to meet my destiny.

How would it be, I wondered? Would I burst into the bathroom with a hand over my mouth and spray stomach acid and beer all over the stall door? Would I crawl in on my hands and knees and wrap myself around the base of the toilet and barely lift my face over the seat in time to have one of those cathartic, almost religious puke sessions? Or would it be emotional. Would I shake? Would I cry when it was over? These were the thoughts that sloshed and slished, swished and swashed my dehydrated head early this morning.

In the end, the only defining characteristic was a palpable feeling of disbelief. I had constructed the moment so completely in my mind that when it actually arrived, I couldn't help but find it wanting for the exquisite detail I had envisioned. I didn't cry. I didn't shake. There were no trumpets, or angels. No red carpet. No one held up a sign that said "John 3:16." No one called me courageous. I just sat there on the cold bathroom floor and quietly spewed my private little dreams into a harsh and indifferent world.

But such is the fate of overly-anticipated moments. Besides, this is a happy day! So study your law books X, if it makes you happy. Write your movies Y and Z. Don't let anyone tell you you can't or you shouldn't. Cause I've had my dream already. And I’m here to tell you, and this is the truest thing you’ll ever know: it's the dreaming that makes it all worth it."

Ah, youth! So there we are. Those were the two great disgorgements of my formative years. I’m not sure that gets us anywhere. I can’t say I’ve lifted the truth up from the muck. I’ve no spoils to dust-off and carry in my pocket towards a knowing future. Maybe it’s better this way. There needn’t always be a lasting truth. Perhaps I’ll give that sign-post a little buzz after all.

1 comment:

CapeTownDissentator said...

Puke: that's a funny word.