I wake up in the morning, still drunk from a night spent drinking whatever was put in front of me, an endless stream of red wine and pink champagne. At this point, I am feeling tip top, mostly because my brain is still drowning in booze and desensitizing my body to the perils that await it. I fall asleep, noting the way the room is spinning ever so slightly, but still, I’m too drunk to care.
At ten-something in the morning, I wake up, overcome with the appropriate punishment for my nocturnal behavior. I look around the room, thinking how on earth I am going to find the strength to put on a pair of pants and go forage for food. I have a Lara bar in my bag but the thought of its sweet chewiness makes me want to wretch right there and then, so I put it aside as a non-option. “Bread. Bread is what I need,” I think to myself, still lying in the same place, looking at gray Paris outside my window.
Eleven a.m. approaches and I haven’t moved for fear of arousing some beast inside of me. I stumble towards the closet where the menu for room service is, my back hunched over in an instinctual standing fetal position. I thumb through pages of variously prepared eggs and other fancier fare. I assess the options for the continental breakfast: pastries, juice, coffee, toast, tea. I have four minutes to order before the breakfast window ends. I keep staring at the word “pastries” and that even makes me feel ill. Fuck. Knowing that it is now or never, I call down to the front desk.
Front Desk: [Says something polite in French, but I can’t focus on anything but my nausea].
Me: Parlez-vous Francais?
Front Desk: Oui. Yes. Yes.
Me: I would like to order breakfast. The continental breakfast, please. But could I just have wheat toast? No pastries or anything?
Front Desk: Hmmm…wheat toast?
Me: Cereal. Integral. Um…brown? You know, brown bread?
Front Desk: Brown bread…let me see if we have.
Me: Yeah, just toast. Like a lot of toast. [Laughing] I drank too much last night.
Front Desk: [Laughs] Do you want pan au chocolate, too?
Though the thought of chocolate for breakfast, especially breakfast on a day like today – the worst day in the last decade, sounds less than appealing, I agree before hanging up the phone. Thirty minutes into my continued in-bed coma, my meal arrives and I sit in front of a tray of fresh squeezed orange juice, a French press filled with coffee, and my requested bread, wondering what I will be able to keep down. I sit there, motionless again, for another ten minutes. “Toast,” I think finally, and I pick up a piece, tearing it in half.
I slather my wheat toast rather generously with some strawberry jam, munching contentedly until I am overcome with a sweeping urge to, well, not keep the food down. I scurry to the bathroom, where The Sickness takes hold of me. The Sickness and I become loathed enemies over the course of the next eight hours. It takes away the desire to keep my eyes open, the ability to walk in a straight line, swallow water, etc. For fuck’s sake, I can’t even touch the coffee, and I live for coffee.
After me and The Sickness have had our first official date, I sit back in front of my food, determined to eat something to soak up the booze from last night. There are three remaining pieces of toast, “Practice Toast” I call them in my head, hoping that eventually I will get a piece down without incident. This, however, does not happen. Each and every piece of cereal…integral…brown…wheat…what-fucking-ever toast refuses to do its duty and make me feel better. Kill me. Someone please just kill me.
I take a shower, wondering what I am doing with my life, feeling momentarily relieved since The Sickness has now emptied my stomach of all of its contents. Nothing to worry about when there’s nothing there, right? Wrong!
Foolhardy, I think I am ready for a trip to the local Starbucks where I can order my Tall Latte Extra Shot with “soja.” I’m still feeling vaguely human when I sit down at my own little table, but The Sickness sits down across from me, telling me whatever I do, I better not even think of drinking that coffee…because “you know what will happen.” I close my eyes and contemplate running into oncoming French-car-and-moped traffic. Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up. The room spins. Before I’ve even had a sip, I am running for the restroom and puking in a public space. I have officially reached my all time low.
I’ve felt this bad before. Once. Almost. This was back in 2001, a decade ago, while still in high school. My mom went to Chicago for work and I invited a few close friends over to drink cheap booze and dance around the house like the asshole teenagers we were. That was the night Captain Morgan and I forever parted ways. I woke up on the floor of my bathroom, a pillow under my head and a wet washcloth above it, stumbling to my feet while the world spun viciously. It was a dark day by my standards; this one is worse. Infinitely worse.
I leave the Starbucks, once again feeling the tiniest bit better, though completely disgusted with myself, thinking that now, now is the time to find something to eat. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it. I’m walking around Paris and all I can think of is food that won’t make me throw up. I mentally award myself with the honor of Best Tourist of All Time.
I walk into a patisserie, hoping to find more wheat bread for me to experiment with but there is none. I scan rows of baguettes and this girl with a tong in her hands stares at me and stares at me and I can’t even look at the pastries to my right. In a thoughtless haste, I point to a sugar crepe. For anyone who knows me, I haven’t had a sugar crepe or anything like a sugar crepe in the last eight years. It’s not what I do. I eat cardboard and bird seed. I leave the store, munching away at the sides of this papery thing made out of bleached flour, crunching down on granules of refined sugar to my heart’s content while taking mindful sips of my soy latte. The air is mildly refreshing and I think it might be best to keep moving, lest I sit down and feel the world spin once more, which, if I ventured to do, it surely would.