It's hard for me to pin-point exactly where it all went wrong. But if I were to take an educated guess, my money would be on the moment Cathy said her company Christmas party was an "open bar." Fourteen hours later I find myself cradling the toilet and looking up at a very curious three-year-old.
"Daddy, you don't look so good." Her shrill voice pierces my brain and sends my eyeballs into my socks. I do all I can to create some semblance of a smile, but I'm afraid that if I open my mouth to far, a bourbon laced demon will fly out and cover the floor. A second later Lu is joined by her little sister, whose loaded diaper nearly renders me unconscious, but I held it together. Even though the pungent odor was enough to burn the wings baby angels and melt the tires of a speeding eighteen-wheeler, I refuse to throw-up. A sequence of deep controlled breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth) and the calming thoughts of soft purple pandas feeding rainbows to Chuck Norris easily settles my stomach.
As I lay there drifting in and out of worlds James Cameron would be proud of, I find a bit of solace knowing its Saturday, or maybe it's Friday? To be quite honest I'm not sure what day it is, but whatever the case, Cathy is home and she gently swoops in and shoos the girls away…
"Come on girls, let's leave daddy alone, he's not feeling well."
"Why?" Lu curiously exclaims. As a parent I'm hoping the visual of my shaky, sweaty and unusually flammable skin turn this into a public service announcement of sorts. That's right Lu, take it all in. Let the image of the pathetic man at the base of the toilet be a symbol of bad judgment for years to come.
"Well…," an explanation was forthcoming and deservedly so, but how do you tell an impressionable little girl that your father drank like an immature sailor and acted like a woman who has just had her first dribble of alcohol since she stopped regularly breast feeding her newborn child?
"Daddy had one too many last night, and that's why he doesn't feel good." Perfect. It says it all, without really saying anything.
Just as the girls begin to remove themselves from my presence, Cathy bends down and places a glass of water next to my head and whispers, "You just can't hold your liquor like you used to. This is what happens when you get old." Later that day when the carnage was over, Cathy informed me that not only had I drank my weight in wine, I somehow managed to smuggle a full glass of beer out of the bar, in the front pocket of my coat (Awesome). A feat she was both embarrassed and amazed at, when I suddenly revealed it and began to drink my frothy wonder in a cab, three miles from our house (Double Awesome). A full glass! In my coat pocket! She would then go on to give me a lecture that began and ended with, "I am much too old to be supplementing our 'barware' with stolen glasses from a place that claims to have the city's oldest pickled egg" (Yeah, not so awesome).
As the day continued to pass S-L-O-W-L-Y… by, I noticed two things. First, as bad as this hangover is, I can't even imagine what it would have been like before the invention of porcelain toilets. Everything from their cool-to-the-touch neutral colored exteriors, to way it perfectly anchors a slumbering body over its oversized waste hole, they're basically begging to be caressed by the inebriated. They're really a feat of modern ingenuity. The second thing I noticed was a strange array of methodically placed items that began showing up between my "naps."
At first I thought nothing of the tiny Lego castle that appeared on the top of the toilet, but soon other odd tidbits began to appear: a small blanket, a stuffed frog, a bowl of Cheerios and a tiara. Although I have yet to see an actual being anywhere near my throne, I had the feeling I was being watched. Perhaps it was my guarding angel, a tiny cherub of hope or the ghost of hangovers past, and then it happened, I died. Well at least I thought I did. I felt a glow and a warmth come over me. Honestly, I didn't think I drank that much, but whatever. I could see the light! It was bright, unusually bright. In fact, it was way-way brighter than I ever thought it'd be. However, rather than running toward, or giving in to this "light" that so many people have found comfort in, I find myself cringing and my ultrasensitive eyelids burning. Maybe this was the wrong light, wait, where exactly am I going?
I slowly open my eyes to discover I haven't exactly left this world, not even close. My assumption that I was riding my very own light-highway to Cloud City was nothing more than Lucy shining an impossibly bright Maglite directly into my peeps, and it was making me sick.
"Daddy," she said with a whisper, "How are you feeling?"
"Where's your Ma and Ruby?" I said holding up a hand to block the light.
"Changing the laundry, Rubers is sleeping. I'll take care of you." She was sweet, but behind those usually innocent eyes of hers, a storm was brewing. It was as if someone had given her (maybe as a joke, revenge or moral lesson, CATHY!) a very specific list of things to say that would ensure that this very hangover would end in a spectacularly gross and somewhat cataclysmic finale. She wasted no time and got right down to business.
"Daddy would you like to eat some scrambled eggs?" The thought of eggs made my stomach jump.
"No thank you…."
"How about some chili, that will make your belly feel better?" My stomach flops again. Why is she asking if I want to eat, I can barley pick my head up. And furthermore, when has chili ever been a cure for anything?
"You know sometimes when I have a belly ache I like a glass of creamy milk." Ding-Ding-Ding, we have a winner! The thought of "creamy milk" was all it took, 'cause I absolutely lost it. It was as if my stomach had a date with the floor, because it felt like it was trying to physically leave my body. I couldn't control it. There were no brief pauses in which to catch my breath, just a disgusting non-stop flood of holiday cheer. I began to hear a babies crying, airplanes crashing and monks praying. Convoluted images like Pat Benatar's "We Belong" video, Olli North and Stormin' Norman Schwarzkoph baking tarts, and a Rubik's Cube solving itself all manically flashed before my eyes. Then nothing… silence.
The moral of the story is this: There may be times when your better judgment or common sense slips. There may even be a time when you feel the need to slip a full glass of beer into your coat pocket. But I have learned that it is almost impossible to slip anything pass a three-year-old.
One week later….
"Lucy, you need to finish your peas." Lucy pushes the bowl aside, puts her hands on her stomach and says, "No thank you. My belly is full, and if I eat any more then that will be "one bite too many," and I remember what happens after that, and I don't wanna sleep in the bathroom."