Sweet tropical flavored alcoholic beverages — they are my shortcut directly to puke. No long build-up. No gentle initiation. Just a full throttle descent into projectile vomit. There’s a brief period of spinning, of texting people emotionally revealing messages, and then someone’s HD television is splattered with partially digested Popeye’s spicy chicken tenders. Although I rarely puke, I also rarely drink, and therefore, the odds of me puking rise drastically. The line between not puking and puking, for me, is one crossed quickly and inadvertently like a toddler who drowns in the deep end of the public pool.
One of the first times I ever puked was in Austin, Texas. There was an enormous bowl of trashcan punch, and I told my friend, “Let me tell you a secret: I love fruit punch.” He said, “Well, that’s good because this has Everclear in it.” I immediately recognized this as portentous news because a) I love fruit punch, b) I can’t stop drinking fruit punch, and c) my fragile baby girl physiology could only withstand maybe one cup of this fruit punch. I mean, for real, as I write these words, I’m drinking a kiwi-strawberry flavored vitamin water. When fruit juices, artificial chemicals, and sugar combine, my mouth secretes saliva, and I have a moderate/ intense yearning in my heart. Here, I had access to essentially an infinite supply of toxic death punch, poisonous nightmare brew, a reverse laxative, and yet, even with this knowledge, I drank many many cups.
I remember bits and pieces of the night. There was a room filled with strange handmade instruments ordered off the internet. Kids gathered in a large circle on the floor and played paper accordions, turtle shell horns, and something like a sitar. In another room, a boy yelled about Britney Spears, that I had to listen to Britney Spears, and he pulled up her music videos while I stared blankly into the void. I have vague memories of flirting with a girl in the desperate rambling mumbling style of a homeless man who asks for change, and then, realizing he won’t receive any, proceeds to tell his life story.
The car ride home was a violent roller coaster — hundreds of loop-de-loops, whirlpools, and rotations. I thought, ‘I’m so intrigued by this experience. The alcohol has hoodwinked my sense of motion.’ I thought, ‘There’s a bubble of rational thought that exists at the center of my fragmented consciousness like a lighthouse, and I’m purposefully circumventing it.’ I announced to everyone in the car, “I’m going to drunk text girls now!” Someone groaned and said, “Don’t do that, man.” I said, “I’m going to do it! I’m doing it!” I thought, ‘I’m hilarious right now. I should talk more. I should say everything I think as I think it.’ Being drunk was such an exciting novelty to me.
Upon arriving at my friend’s house, the countdown to puke stood at approximately three minutes. My friends observed me with concern. Sitting on the couch, eyes fluttering, body swaying ominously — it didn’t look good. Someone asked, “Brad, are you okay?” I said, “I’m fine.” He asked, “Do you need a drink of water?” I said, “Wait — … hold on. Just stop. Just stop. Just stop what you’re doing.” Everyone froze. The world spun around me. The spinning accelerated. Then a fountain of puke erupted from my gullet, spraying across the room onto the television, the coffee table, and a myriad of other personal possessions.
The worst part of puking is the pity, the avalanche of disdain, issuing from every direction. The shame! The awful horrible shame of it! I stumbled out of my seat, trampling through the puke, saying something like, “I need a paper towel I’ll clean it up let me just get a paper towel.” And someone said, “It’s fine. Don’t worry.” And someone else said, “It happens to everyone.” And someone else said, “We’ll take care of you.” And the owner of the house said, “Someone take him to the bathroom and make sure he’s okay.” I suddenly realized why so many of my friends relished this level of drunkenness — secretly, everyone wants to be taken care of. There’s a tiny needy baby inside everyone that wants the maximum amount of attention, care, and love available.
As I was led to the bathroom, I said the same thing I always say after puking: “I’m that person, aren’t I? I’m the idiot who puked. I’m a cliché, and now I’ve abdicated my humanity. Any semblance of autonomy and self-reliance — gone, gone, gone.” He said, “It’s fine. Don’t worry. It’s fine.” But it wasn’t fine. The bubble of rational thought nestled in some impotent portion of my brain could only watch in horror as I was reduced to an invalid, hugging the toilet in a way that struck me as painfully stereotypical. I gazed intensely into a blended mixture of water, chicken, and seasoned curly fries while heaving rhythmically, lost in a nauseous meditative Zen Buddhist delirium. Apropos of nothing, I thought, ‘I’m going to die alone.’ Then I laughed and yelled something about Matthew Fox.
I woke up the next morning, chipper and energized, long before anyone else. No hangover; just bored and maybe a little dazed. Having a brother with severe autism, my biggest fear is to be deprived of my mental faculties — to need help to the bathroom, to not know what’s going on around me, to be unable to communicate — and that’s exactly what happened. It seemed profoundly affecting and yet horrifyingly trite at the same time. I think I’d do it again though; a “tremendous desire for control at all times” is probably not an enriching trait.