Through the mill

Glancing at his pint glass across the table from mine, I noticed the liquid level was an inch further down and remembered his gulping, intimidating yet nonchalant drinking pace.  Beer was like water to him and appeared to the similar affect.

One to one, man to man, it’s difficult to NOT keep pace; you just have to.  I would be drunk before too long.

I remembered his pace from that small Croatian island three years ago when I was on the cusp of my move to London.  A group of us had been thrown together and got on well, unknowable pledges to keep in touch had been made at the end of the week, Facebook friend requests had subsequently been accepted, occasional messages, but no more than that.  Then a week into my new term in Cardiff we bumped into each other in the street, met up for lunch, and now beer.  Copious, free-flowing, fast-paced beer.

I could reign it in though.  First game of the season tomorrow, after all.  Didn’t want to miss that, not after playing myself into the starting line-up thanks to a couple of passable pre-season performances.  Wouldn’t mind seeing the England qualifier too.

Another?
No need to feel the obligation of watching England really.  Not after the summer.
Go on then.

They were having no discernible affect on him at all.  Whereas I was feeling drunk and wobbly.  He was taking more toilet breaks more than me.  Perhaps that helped.  Neither of us had eaten.  We’d sat outside the trendy bar in the street since about five o clock, watched the sun affably fade and the evening rise, the cackling leering weekend Cardiff emerge.

We got on well and shared similar interests: books, music, outdoorsyness, occupations.  He was a proper valleys boy, a couple of years older and about a foot shorter.  Walking next to him felt awkward, as if I was patronising him by being there.  Daresay he was used to it.

A colleague of his walked past the bar and joined us.  I teased her, possibly flirted, drunk: infected by Cardiff’s cackling leer?  She failed to conceal a smile, said she didn’t like me and bought us a drink; the last one as it turned out.  Rum and coke.  I was done with San Miguel after more pints than I could remember.  They had to get trains back to their valleys.  I couldn’t drink anymore and could now get home for the football highlights.

Jermain Defoe had already notched his first of three when I arrived back.  Fuck me, I was really drunk.  I drank lots of water, which made it worse: stirring an unsettled stomach.

Today saw the worse hangover I’ve experienced in years.  My head has pounded relentlessly, I vomited until there was nothing there, just stomach lining, bile and tears, I spat blood at one point and had brief fleeting fears.  I text messaged an apology for my absence to the football manager, explaining it as some sort of food poisoning.  Sorry.  I’d really wanted to play too.

Instead I slept, more than I have slept in any single day in recent memory, mostly in bed, one hour on the sofa after Football Focus.  It came in wave after sickening wave, just when the worst seemed beaten, complemented by shivers and shakes and fever and cold.  Movement induced nausea and further horrible, exhausting wretches.  Sipping water was pointless, reintroducing itself with mulchy interest inside minutes.  I slept more.  There was no other answer.

Around five o clock, twenty four hours after we had met the previous day, I awoke again.  There was an absence I was emotionally grateful for.  The squeezing and pulling at my stomach had weakened, I could move my body without wanting to hurl.  Could I sip water and..?  More gurgling and clanking, but no cold sweats and nausea which heralded those intense contractions and that gravity-defying rush.

A carefully devoured cup of tea and slice of buttered toast was heavenly.  Each crumb and drop savoured like it was the first thing I’d eaten anything for months.  Would it go down and stay down?

I waited.  Things gurgled and processed.  No sweating or nausea or horrid expectation.

Yes, it stayed down.  Now I was confident I would pull through and this traumatising ordeal would be over.

I stank.

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