Thursday, March 10, 2011

Man-Child


Slowly remembering the night before and how I called Mel selfish, I exhibited caution before raising my head.

It was a morning to swear off alcohol for at least a day, or at least consider the idea. My hair was clumped together like dried sap from too many shots of crème de menthe being poured on my head.

It had been a rough night, one that is either looked back upon as a really good time or the start of bad times. It came back in blocks of bright color and in fast motion, the only clear thought being my asshole behavior with Mel at the end of the night.

I feigned illness in an attempt to get pity. I knew what I had said to Mel, but there was a good chance I had said something mean to Tom and/or George, too. Not knowing the proper greeting for this situation, I fell back on a tried and true opening:

“Hey.” I spoke softly, testing the water. It seemed like the best approach.

“Hey Foot,” Mel pleasantly replied, smoking and driving. By the tone of her voice, I knew everything was ok. Tom was in the passenger seat, sucking on licorice root. He had heard that licorice root was good for the throat, so he had a never-ending supply and was always chewing on it like a cigar. It was customary for Tom not to speak after a tough night of drinking and playing. His voice was hoarse and he wanted to save what was left of it. He had a harmonica for situations like these, when a question warranted some kind of response: one toot on the harmonica meant yes and two toots meant no.

“Hey Tom,” I said, desperately wanting to rehash the night before, even though I knew doing so would bring up the end of the night. “How are you doing?” Tom grabbed his harmonica and tooted once. I took it as a positive affirmation that he was doing well. But I knew he was as hung-over as I was and that he was probably extremely worried about his voice for the Madison show.

Halfway up interstate 94, we stopped at Wendy’s for lunch. I was still lying on the dirty floor of the van and, no matter how much I wanted to join them, the thought of food repulsed me. All my energy was focused on not throwing up. Despite the allure of a baked potato with sour cream and chives, I knew just the sight of it would send me running to the bathroom or an empty bag.

“Foot, you coming?” Tom questioned, while Mel and George looked on. I waved them off, knowing that they’d understand my absence.

Hanging from the lock of the side door of the van was a plastic bag that we used for garbage. I moved closer to it, knowing that it was just a matter of seconds before I threw up. As my eyes passed over the lip of the bag, I saw what was in it: discarded cigarettes, mixed with scraps of food in a broth of dregs from an orange soda can. It smelled and looked disgusting. I threw up immediately, gagging, half in the bag and the rest on my arm. I threw open the door and chucked the bag, relieving what was left in my stomach on the blacktop.

I kept the side door open. It was hot, the heat exacerbating my misery. The parking lot glistened from the high temperatures and the freeway hummed in a low key. With my head bent down, I waited for them to return and anticipated throwing up again. It never came.

“I’m never drinking Peppermint Schnapps again. What the fuck is that shit anyway?” I said as Mel, Tom and George approached the van, sated from Wendy’s. They brought me back some fries. I shook my head.

“Come on, Foot, you've got to eat something,” Mel said, playing the role of caretaker to her three man-children.

“No, thanks. I just threw up,” pointing to the bag lying on the ground, the throw-up leaking onto the concrete. They were all empathetic, having been there before.

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