When I studied in Paris, it was through Queens College, and thus I was surrounded in my daily life with other New Yorkers equally, if not more, willing to violently experience all bled out onto the streets and into every cell of the city and its inhabitants. It was a Holy Experience, in that we roamed the Bastille, St. Michel, and Montmartre filling amply our orifices in any way possible: eyes soaked up sights, throats wine, you get the picture.
As I may have mentioned, I am now in Mexico, and oh, how the tables have turned! For reasons unbeknownst to me, studying abroad in Puebla appeals to America’s super religious, the non-meat-eaters, those who have never experienced the thrill of a throbbing dick, those to whom a subway is a sandwich shop and yay is something you say when you’re happy. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of in-home drinking, diary scrawling, and day counting that goes on here. Also, as a result, I haven’t really had many a sode. Sure, we’ve gone out; yes, I’ve been hungover a couple of times. But I’d resigned myself to the fact that I would have to wait until August to be properly bombed in the company of friends.
However, I attempt to be open minded, and thus when Benito Juarez’ birth anniversary gave us a four day weekend, I carpe diemed my way down to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, with five other students.
The town was not a rockin’ on Friday night, and thus we bought a bottle of cheap tequila in the OXXO and parked ourselves on hammocks and chairs in the beflowered lounge area of our hostel, getting gradually more rowdy and having a smashing good time.
On Saturday night, after learning that people don’t start arriving to the clubs until 2 am, we decided to relax in our hostel before heading out on the town. In this time, I and a comrade spilt a fifth of brandy, which more just calmed the pain of our sunburns than affected our states of mind. We cabbed over to the center of Playa Zicatela, the main drag for young travelers and old surfers who missed their plane back to the States in the late 70s. Though we had a bunch of coupons for free shots at a salsa club, we noticed that it was empty. Thus we purchased a fifth of tequila, and then another one, and arounf one in the morning, cheeks aflush, we entered the club.
It was still empty, save for a few oldies at the bar and a white lady shaming my country on the dance floor while the Mexican guy with whom she was shakin’ it had a “a huevo, this seals the deal!” Cheshire cat grin. The majority of the group was not feeling it; however, as we had coupons for free shots, I and my friend, K, decided to remain.
(NB: Nothing is free, especially spirits. What you save in money you pay for the next day. Read on.)
In every travel book, it tells you: “Do not drink unmarked alcohol. If you are uncertain, ask for a new bottle and examine the seal to ensure it has not been adulterated in any way.” The free shots were of mezcal, and a terrible one at that, poured out from the spigot of a small, unmarked wooden barrel. It may as well have had three black Xs like in cartoons. We had two coupons each, which vanished quickly. A guy came up to us and started chatting, innocently. Playa, cerveza, Netacoyotl, you guys have good espanol, and before we knew it, I, K, and New Friend Antonio had all bought a round of shots. (NB: I say pay, but after the fact it appeared that neither I, K, nor any of our friends had spent a cent at this bar.)
My tongue grew wings (as did K’s) as it flew about, chatting with everyone in English, Spanish, and French. I had forgotten about my drunk fluency in the language of love, and was more than happy to find a couple of Italian rastafarians who had lived in Marseille and were thus willing to listen. I bet the bartender a shot he couldn’t guess what country I was from, and won.
Ignoring the four shots of tequila and the hors d’ouerves of brandy, we had taken six shots of mezcal in less than an hour, and had spent the entirety of the day under the hot Pacific sun. The following diagram represents what I remember of the evening from this point on:
——————————————– – — – —- —- ——- ——————- —— —
—- —— vomit ——– — —- —- — – – – – – – – ——————— – ———- – – – – – – – ———–
——————————————– – — – —- —- ——- ——————- —— —
I woke up the next morning in my bed in the hostel and immediately jumped up looking for my purse. It took me a ful thirty seconds to realize that I was holy mother fucking hungover to hell shitballs jesus fucking christ. This was no ordinary hangover. This was call me Ishmael because this is the white whale of hangovers, elephantitis Texas size my BF’s penis Polynesian woman hangover, the shock and awe hangover, AK47s in my head hangover, the hangover heard round the world. A bathroom was necessary.
Still in my Saturday night fever outfit, I weaved across the stone path through palm trees and tropical flowers towards the bathroom. I saw my fellow Americans sitting at one of the tables.
“FUCK MEZCAL!” I shouted, and then esconced myself in a stall, doing everything one can do and more to that poor chamber.
I emerged a few minutes later and stumbled back into the bed, which I realized was not exactly clean but rather stained with what had once been tacos al pastor. This was worse than I’d thought. I saw my red purse hanging from the bedpost, and my pouch containing passport and iPod. At least I’d lost nothing tangible, I thought.
A knock came on the door. E, my roommate.
“Are you okay?”
“No,” I groaned. “What happened?” K, in a similarly tragic state, made her way over, and we listened to a Sunday sermon that only mezcal could have inspired:
It would appear that the rest of our group arrived at the bar to find us bombed out of our minds, but dementedly drunk. They had never seen people so drunk before. (NB: When I told my friend S in NYC about this, she commented: “I’m that drunk before lunch every day.” Keep in mind everything is relative.) I was at the bar talking to a large group of guys (“DID I CHEAT ON MY BOYFRIEND?” The answer was no, though had B not wrestled me into a taxi who knows what would have transpired…) and K was chatting intimately with our New Friend, Antonio. The newcomers tried to herd us gently and rationally from the salsa club/bar/seventh level of hell, but we were having none of it. We had become belligerent.
Unfortunately, at a certain point, gravity got the best of K. She found herself cheek to pavement, and it was thus decided we would retreat to the hostel IMMEDIATELY. Our behavior was such that taking both of us in one taxi would have proved impossible, and so E took K while B remained behind to corral me in. I can be quite ornery, especially in a drunken state, and it would seem I had to be physically removed from the establishment, to the dismay of the remaining patrons. (“DID I HIT YOU?” The answer was “It’s possible,” which means yes.)
I proved my maturity by waiting until I got out of the taxi to vomit, though I left a trail of mezcal and meat from the pebble street all the way to our cabin. Bits of the expelled substance remained in the grass and on the rocks until the day we left; I can only hope it serves to warn future generations of hostel-goers against the dangers of free liquor. B’s attempts to hold my hair back were thwarted by cries of: “GET YOUR MOTHER FUCKING HANDS OFF ME,” not to mention: “I’LL KILL YOU,” and of course the classic: “I FUCKING HATE YOU.” It was suggested that he distance himself from me.
K went in to the bathroom, leaving her cell phone and a 50 peso bill on a table.
“What are you doing?” A said, aghast, as I pulled it together for long enough to snitch the bill, fold it into a teeny-tiny square, and hide it in my boobs.
“What do you mean?” I asked innocently.
“You just stole her money!”
“No, I didn’t,” I scoffed. “I did not such thing.”
(I found the fifty pesos glued to my breast with sweat at some point the next afternoon, and, after hearing the story, returned it to its rightful owner.)
K, meanwhile, had been settled in her bed, where she was repeatedly proclaiming her undying love and friendship for A, another one of the group. She ultimately passed out; her real problems wouldn’t start until daybreak.
I, however, had only just begun. I went to the bathroom to relieve myself of even more excess food product, and once inside started yelling B’s name. Ironic, being as I’d just threatened to murder him. When he didn’t materialize, I apparently just started screaming like a banshee. A thought to herself: “This simply can’t go on,” and went out to tell me to shut it. Other people staying in the hostel came out and started complaining because of the noise.
I got bored with shrieking, and decided to lie.
“I left my passport in the bar!” I cried. I had specifically put my passport and iPod in our friends’ cabin for safekeeping, stating that I did not want to lose it if I got too drunk at the bar. Since I’m drunk Pinnochio, though, and everyone else was too rattled and abused to remember, panic reigned again as E called New Friend Antonio (who had luckily given K his number) and asked him to check. Though they scoured the joint, the magic blue rectangle was not there.
At a certain point, I was placed in my bed by the patient good souls with whom I was traveling, at which point, judging from the stain, I vomited again, though E, bless her, cleaned it. I too passed out, leaving everyone disturbed, traumatiized, and uncertain as to whether K or I would awaken in the morning.
The story thus imparted, the victims of our intoxication decided to take advantage of the day, and thus K and I remained in the cabin to suffer the consequences of free mezcal.
Though around noon, had to emergency dump the dirty clothes out of the plastic bag hanging on the wall to vomit in it, I had eradicated almost everything the night before, leaving nothing to do but lie in the fetal position, holding back sobs.
K, however, had not vomited, and thus the routine went like this:
K comes into my cabin, sits in doorframe with head between legs
I moan, postulate over what could have possibly happened
K runs to corner and vomits &/or dry heaves, depending on whether she’s drank water or not
I have chills, sweats and irregular heartbeat
We retreat to respective quarters, yelling “ARE YOU OKAY?” every 15 minutes
Repeat approximately twelve times, allowing for naps and bathroom breaks.
Around 6 pm I broke down in tears, certain I was going to die. K’s inability to stop retching wasn’t giving me hope for her state, either. However, around 7, I somehow got into K’s cabin, and lay on the concrete floor for 2 hours. C gave us some Blue Gatorade, aka elixir of life, and eventually we realized that maybe, in a week or two, we would be able to laugh about it, though for the moment we couldn’t even get ourselves prostrate and the thought of solid food was sickening. The rest of the group returned with more Gatorade and crackers, which we miraculously kept down, and as the humidity turned to breeze and the waves crashed into the background, we decided to go to sleep. It had been a long fucking day.
I awoke the next morning and torpedoed to the Costera where I ingested a three egg, bacon, and cheese omelette. I gazed out to the beach and alternated between sentiments of shame and silliness. Yes, I feel remorse that people I don’t know very well had to assume responsibility for me. But I felt, even though I couldn’t remember, that I was home again. That I was lying with my underwear at my ankles in front of the Hudson after downing half a liter of Jose Cuervo. That I was in G Lounge (commando) hooking up with the one straight guy in the place preparing to go have sex with someone else in Washington Heights. That I was standing in the basement bathroom of a bar on 3rd and 12th with blood dripping down my hands trying to convince everyone to go to Continental. I’m not a saint, but I’m sure as hell not boring, and I think that through the fog and the hazy nights we learn to get it the fuck together. If you don’t know the depths of hell you can never reach paradise because you won’t know what you’ve had to overcome. I sipped my double espresso and watch a naked indigenous man approach the cash register, asking for money. He gets me, I thought, K does, too, and maybe there are others out there as well. Perhaps there’s hope for humanity after all.
Thus, the moral of the story is when you’re out in Puerto Escondido, or any place for that matter, and there’s a potential to have free shots, learn from my mistake: Don’t Do It. And if you must, be sure to have at least a couple grams of high-quality cocaine on your person. You will thank me.