…continued from chronicle nine.
March 18, 2015.
Welcome to the morning of the legendary hangover. It starts like this. I get woken up at eleven by a message from the Irish trader, last night’s host. “I’ll leave your bag at my reception”, he writes. This fills me with delight. What a night – and I have my bag back. How lucky.
But shame and guilt chase delight away. What do I feel ashamed about? I can’t remember.
Dear God. This room is spinning. What’s that stench? It’s the shameless mess next to the bed – black and green with bright stripes of red. Stains on the sheets and pillow cover. This wasn’t necessary.
Thirst attacks without compassion. I ingest the glass of water on the night table, stare at the ceiling but immediately crawl up – nausea and a rush of sweat send me down the stairs, into the bathroom to give back what I’ve just swallowed. Trembling, I climb the stairs with a bucket and sponge. I scrub the stains. The room is still spinning. Like a corpse, I fall down on the bed. Endless thirst. Busting heart. I want to disappear.
The alarm rings. I have to get up and leave. There is no choice. Because I love the arts.
The vision ripples like a pond.
I am on the phone with a middle-aged stranger. The stranger has an interesting proposition – a proposition linked to my status as a recipient of a prestigious award.
“Excuse me, can you say that again?”
“We have free tickets to just about everything in New York City.”
“Just about. Once you’re in our system, you can call us whenever you want and we’ll tell you what’s on. Think of us as a snack bar. You choose from the menu but you don’t pay. That’s what the State Department does for distinguished scholars like you. How about it?”
“That sounds great. What do I have to do?”
“Follow these instructions. March 18th, there’s a dress rehearsal of the Paul Taylor Modern American Dance Company at the Lincoln Centre. Have you written all of that down?”
“There will be a tutorial before the rehearsal. It starts at one. If you show up there, on time, I will enroll you in our system and you’ll enjoy free performances for the rest of the year. Isn’t that just great?”
“I will be there!”
“Just a minute. I want to be one hundred percent sure you’re coming.”
“No, don’t think. Know. Are you one hundred percent sure you’re coming?”
“Let’s go for the one hundred percent.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Because if not, terrible things will happen.”
I laugh. “Don’t laugh. Seriously. This is not a joke. Terrible things will happen.”
“I guess I’ll see you on March 18 then?”
“Yes. See you then.”
The vision ripples like a pond.
It’s gonna be alright. I’m gonna be alright. I get up in the name of art and zigzag from my door to the entrance of the subway station. It’s colder than ever before. The sunlight chars my brains. But I’m okay – really, I am.
Except that I’m not.
“Hi! Great to see you!”
The middle-aged man at the entrance of the Lincoln Center isn’t too tall. He is – without question – the one I spoke with over the phone.
“Gr..t…se…ya…tsuh..”, I mumble with a fake smile. I am giving it all I’ve got.
“It’s freezing!”, he exclaims, “have you ever known it to be this cold?”
“N..no”, I tremble. This man has a moustache. Moustache. Mou. Stache. My thoughts spin out of control. Oh no. Here it comes. Increased saliva. Moustaches, is that the right plural? What a strange thing. Right under the nose. Ever wondered about its original purpose? Is it clean? Does it matter? Does it smell? It moves sideways while he speaks. Stop. Stop it. Don’t go into the question. The question is what’s making you sick. You’ve made it all the way here, now don’t blow it all. I refrain from puking on the public esplanade.
“Well, I must say the people in Washington are over their heads with this program…”, the man continues. I nod without listening, concentrating on the good behavior of my esophagus. Breathe and wait. Wait it out. But this man is unstoppable. He ignores the frosty gale. I don’t tremble, I oscillate like a tuning fork.
I receive my member card and walk inside. I have made it this far without humiliating accidents. The guide – a just-retired dancer of Asian descent – starts his tutorial. And here it comes again. I burst with cold sweat. Increased saliva. I can’t run away. He is eyeing me. I look down and swallow, one, two, three, ten, twenty, thirty times. It works. Second attack halted.
When the group moves up the stairs, I stay behind and run into the nearest men’s rooms. I throw up, drink infinite gallons of water, convince myself I’ll be okay now and retrieve the group inside. I need to sit this one out. In the name of culture. Shortly after the beginning of the dress rehearsal, I fall asleep.
I wake up in the middle of a dazzling choreography to music by Astor Piazzola. Elegantly, almost invisible, I get up, slowly walk towards the exit and make a run for the nearest toilets. The steady explanation of a passing tour guide is violently interrupted by a disgusting howl emerging from the lady’s room. It is me, squirming on the marble next to the pot. I stand up, straighten my shirt, rinse my mouth and go back inside to enjoy more ballet. This pattern repeats for about ten times – in the course I get to know the true sense of projectile vomiting. I can reach the pot from over one meter. After the fifth time, I start getting good at it.
“Why awe you going to the toilet all the time?”, Bin, the Chinese anthropologist at my right asks me.
“Puking”, I answer without moving a muscle.
“Oh nooo…I should hawe blought you Chinese medicine.”
Enough of this. This tale must be taking its toll on your digestive system. Writing it does on mine. It suffices to say that I made it to the end and shook hands with everybody. The way back home is even more painful than coming here – forty minutes of waiting in a drafty hall at minus five. Inside the train, I keep my eyes on the ground to prevent any accidents from happening. It remains dangerously close. Finally home, I head straight to bed and sleep away the hangover.
It’s past sunset. I open my eyes with a heavy heart. It’s the same mixture of shame and guilt I felt this morning. But still I don’t have the faintest idea what happened. It blemishes me. There’s humming in the kitchen. Felipe preparing lamb chops. If anyone has the answer to the question what I mucked up, it must be him.
“Felipe?”, I ask, softly coming down the stairs in my vomit-stained bathrobe.
To be continued…
“I don’t tremble, I oscillate like a tuning fork.”