Punishment Fits the Crime

Some things are so unpleasant your brain tries to block out any memory of them, I decide – tightening my grip on the porcelain rim of the toilet bowl as I feel my stomach turning itself inside out – but once you’re exposed to them again, all those painful memories come flooding back.

My nose and mouth burn as I empty the contents of my stomach into the water. I cough, sputter, and spit several times, before I slump back against the wall next to the bathtub. My nausea temporarily subsiding, I reach out and press down the handle, flushing the toilet. What used to be more than a few rounds of champagne, Jameson, and Yuengling all recede down into the plumbing.

I look across at my roommate Matt. He’s slumped against the bathroom counter on the opposite side of the toilet. We’ve been here the last hour or so.

Matt groans, and closes his eyes. “I-I’m so sorry,” he stammers. “Last night just- it just- it got so out of hand,” he manages.

“Don’t be an idiot, that was a guh, (I fight back the urge to vomit again,) great fucking party. Glad we went,” I assure him. I’m not lying either: we spent the evening – leading into the early hours of the morning – at a 1920’s themed house party, with themed drinks and music to boot.

Upon getting home, I had enough time to take off my dress shirt before I started retching, but I’m still wearing the wool pin-striped pants I picked up at the thrift shop. My suspenders have slipped off my shoulders, and are partially tangled around my arms. Matt’s fedora is laying in the bathroom doorway.

“My head. Is kuh-ill-ing me. And my stomach isn’t doin’ great either,” Matt groans again.

“We’ll survive,” I assure him. Although I’m not so sure myself: I feel another wave of nausea swelling in my stomach. I reach around into the tub behind me and turn on the shower. Just the sound gives me something else to think about for a moment.

“It was kinda worth it, wasn’t it?” Matt mumbles. “I mean, things finally happened with Liz right? You walked her home, did you…” He trails off, as I shake my head.

“I didn’t want to try anything tonight. We made out a few times during the party, but I’m not that kind of guy. I told her I’d call tomorrow, and I will. If we ever get through this morning, that is,” I reply. I edge myself closer to the toilet again, just in case.

“Man, how did we get so trashed?” Matt massages his temples.

I knew exactly how: a complete game of Cheers, Governor, followed by a few rounds of Civil War and Keep Drinking and Everybody Explodes – a game of our own creation. Then we shook all that liquor up with an hour or two of dancing.

“I shouldn’t have had the jungle juice,” Matt doubles over. It looks like he’s about to start throwing up again, but he steadies himself.

“I think that’s pretty fucking sound advice for any situation,” I laugh. “You know Tommy makes it with like, half Everclear, right? You’re lucky you aren’t in the E.R. right now.” A smile flickers across Matt’s face. His eyes are still shut tightly.

“I think I, we sh- ” he trails off, his head lolling to the side. I’m briefly concerned, until I hear Matt start to snore. He’s out cold.

My arms slip to my sides, and my head rests against the plexiglass shower door. I shiver, but my head hurts and I worry if I stand up to get warmer clothes, I’ll start heaving again. I decide to rest for a while right here.

As my stomach finally starts to settle down, I start reliving the highlights of the party in my head; dressing up, dancing to old music, drinking games with my closest friends. And of course there was Liz in her blue dress. The way she kept leaning in during our conversations, her face getting dangerously close to mine.

These thoughts make the current misery seem trivial. More than that, they make it seem fair, or justifiable. If every night out could be this fun, I would take the accompanying hangover with no complaints. If that’s the price paid for living in the moment, so be it.

A.H.W.

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