Monday, 13 September 2010

Grown-up (so to say) sleepovers

Partying hard at home has some drawbacks, including the late-night possibility of cavalierly opening your lovingly saved bottle of 2004 Chateauneuf du Pape because all the plonk has run out, and the morning-after shock of what you and your friends managed to do to your house in mere few hours. But it does have the benefit of establishing you, having taken temporary leave of your senses, in a place where you’re familiar with the floor plan.

When you sleep over at a friend’s house after partying hard (because you mustn’t, you really mustn’t, drink and drive), there are many nasty experiences that can befall you.

First, there’s the waking-up-at-4.30am-in-a-strange-place thing. By then, you’ve only been asleep for a couple of hours – just long enough for your stomach to start turning the alcohol in it into battery acid which it then begins leaking directly into your brain, your kidneys having long packed for Buenos Aires.

Additionally, if you’ve fallen into bed in a giggling, loose-limbed heap, halfway through the magic bra trick* and with your shoes on, you’re likely to have done it face-down and with one eye jammed open against the pillow, so the first thing you feel, as the horrible realisation dawns that you’re still alive, is a stabbing pain in your cornea. You fumble for your bedside lamp switch but it is not where you left it. In fact, you realise, as you cover your copiously weeping eye with one hand and stare frantically around with the other, your entire bedroom has been inexplicably and nightmarishly rearranged. There’s a window where your wardrobe used to be and the door has been moved to the right-hand side of the bed.

You get up and immediately fall down – your jeans are around your ankles. You pull them up and crawl, whimpering, to the confusingly misplaced door, where you use the jamb to right yourself, slowly and painfully, like a kangaroo foetus inching up towards its mother’s pouch. Then you fumble around until finally, thank god, you feel a switch, which you turn on. The light pierces your retinas like a chef’s knife and it’s all you can do to stop yourself from screaming.

(There’s a host of unpleasantnesses that may be revealed when you turn on the light, including but by no means restricted to discovering that you don’t recognise the room you’re in at all; that someone else was in bed with you; that someone else was in bed with you and he’s naked; and that you’ve been sleeping in a truckle-cot, which can play evil mind-games with your sense of perspective.)

As your brain starts grinding into gear (and some of the cogs, it is becoming alarmingly clear to you, are damaged beyond repair), your body begins telling you several things: it is sore on your right knee, it is sore on your little finger, it is sore in your spine. It is tremendously, agonisingly sore in your head. It is also as thirsty as if it has just spent two weeks crawling through the Sahara (after, perhaps, a harrowing small-aircraft crash), and it needs to wee, desperately.

You stumble into a corridor that looked bright and fun last night when you were dancing up and down it with your friend’s underpants on your head to the tune of ‘I will survive’, but now is long and dark and filled with unnameable threats. Clamping your teeth down over the groans that are emanating unbidden from somewhere in the region of your toes, you find your way to the loo.

You switch on the light and discover that someone’s already in there – and she’s clearly dangerously deranged. Stifling a shriek, you hold out your hands in supplication, as she jolts towards you with scarlet eyes and murderous, grabby fingers. Then you realise it’s a mirror.

It’s categorically not possible to look at yourself in close-up – your already-overloaded grey matter would simply liquefy and pour out your ears if you did. You wee (two drops! when your bladder is literally on the point of bursting!), then, hunched over the tap like Quasimodo, you scoop frantic handfuls of water into your parched mouth. Even after you’ve been drinking for what feels like an eternity, the thirst hasn’t eased one jot, and additionally it appears that your brain has clunked against the top of your upside-down skull and stuck there.

You straighten up, then close your eyes to rid yourself of the horror-hallucinogenic effect of hundreds-and-thousands, but this makes it a gazillion times worse, so you open them again. They both hurt, a lot, although one more than the other (perhaps). You stumble back to bed.

(At this point, it’s possible you won’t remember which room you came from. The corridor seems so long and it’s so dark, and there are so many doors leading off it. Which one is the midget’s bedroom? Sometimes, if you can’t find it, you might just retire to the living room and collapse on the sofa. Sometimes you might find there’s someone already there. The potential traumas of this kind of night-time meandering are infinite.)

You wake again five hours later. Naturally, you neglected to close the curtains the previous night and now the early-morning sun is streaming in and causing such bizarre synaptic activity that you begin to fear the onset of epilepsy. In addition, none of the pain has eased since 4.30am; on the contrary, some of it has increased significantly. You can’t open your left eye. You can’t straighten your right arm (which you realise is as a result of your bra trapping it against your side, something that would be easily remedied if you could only remember how to unhook the damned thing). Your back aches and you’re sure your little finger shouldn’t be pointing backwards like that. You get up and immediately fall down. Your jeans are now where they should be (or, arguably, not, because you probably shouldn’t have slept in them) but there’s something wrong with your knee.

You stumble out of the midget’s room and down the corridor (curiously of the regulation length and quite ordinary-looking in the light of day) into the living room, where your host is using braai tongs to fish CDs out from under the sofa and remove random bits of clothing from the chandelier. ‘Hi,’ he says. ‘Sleep okay?’ Then he grins and says, ‘Creature of the night.’

You have no clue at all what he’s talking about, but it gets worse. There are three total strangers sitting outside on the verandah drinking coffee, but they seem to know you quite well. Uncomfortably well, in fact. ‘Vindaloo, my arse,’ says the one by way of greeting, and everyone falls about laughing. (Oh god, you think to yourself, please don’t tell me I told the ‘Vindaloo, my arse’ joke. But apparently you did.)

You realise that the only way you’ve going to make it out of there alive (there is, let’s face it, no saving your dignity) is to make tracks. But you also realise, when you try to put your coffee down on the table and your body in a chair at the same time, and succeed in accomplishing neither, that you’re still drunk and probably won’t be able to drive for some time to come. This causes yet more good-humoured hilarity in the gathered company – it turns out you’re a bit of a card, which is news to you, as you normally suffer from fairly advanced social phobia.

At this point, realising it’s only 9.30am and the day can’t possibly get any worse, some people opt for hair of the dog. And sometimes a kennelful of dogs. The downside of this is that you’re going to be repeating all of the above some time in the next 18 hours, and as mentioned at the start of this post, it’s always preferable to do so in a place where you know where the light switches are (and the doors). So my advice would be to take some power painkillers, drink as much water as your body can hold, and try not to cringe too obviously when yet another person compliments you, with a knowing wink, on how well you do the tango, a dance you’ve never learnt.

And when you can stand up without veering about like a tall tree in a storm, and are able to clearly differentiate real objects from those your brain keeps creating out of nothing in your peripheral vision, go home. And stay there.

* The magic bra trick is taking off your bra without taking off any clothes. I once did a magic bra trick in the Wimpy with a winter vest (so, in this case, the magic winter-vest trick). Johann and I had gone there quite early for breakfast and it was cold when we left home, but then later it got hot and I didn’t want to traipse through the shopping centre looking for a loo. Johann was very impressed and a bit embarrassed.

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Claudine said...

I just snorted hot tea up both nostrils. And I am not even drunk! Hilarious and yet so vaguely familiar.....

Paige said...

great post. oh yes, so familiar. 'magic bra trick' bwahahahah

MzHartz said...

I tend to wear long sleeve undershirts in the winter, so I often do the "undershirt trick." One of my guys friends really gets a kick out of it.

There is something worse than grown-up sleepovers: camp outs. Rule #1: always set up your tent BEFORE drinking. You might even make it back to your tent at some point during the night.

And then when you wake up in the wee hours of the morning with your bladder threatening to explode, it requires putting on shoes (and possibly clothing) and walking out into the cold night air to find the outhouse. You consider going in the bushes, until you realize that you should be given a medal just for being able to stand.

Somehow, miraculously, you make it to the outhouse and happen to find your way back to your tent (passing by unfortunate others who didn't quite make it back to theirs and gave up somewhere along the trail). When in the morning, you stumble out of your tent barefoot because you can't locate both shoes and instantly step on the pointiest rock ever, someone comes down the trail from the loo, holds up a shoe and asks, "Is this yours?"

Muriel said...

I love that this is familiar to you guys! And yes, MzHartz, you've got it so right re campouts. Another is long-distance hikes. I used to do a lot of them and one of my least favourite memories is drinking too much Old Brown Sherry the night before a 26-km day littered with spiteful mountains and belligerent rivers. I haven't touched Obies since.

Gretchen said...

Lol Lol Lol. Bad Bad Bad

Johann said...

Love the blog, love the pictures! Shall I come make a video of you doing the magic bra trick to post??

Audrey said...

Tragically, this type of thing has NEVER EVER happened to me. It's true. The only familiar bit is the magic winter wimpy vest trick, which is all very well but.

I feel like a flippen library prefect As Usual. The only remedy, I expect, is to get invited to your house, Muriel. Luckily, I have joined the Jozi chicken run (we prefer to think of it as a friendly takeover of the Western Cape, and to be honest I can see why so many Western Capeians are iffy about that) so I live in hope. I have already begun affecting proper pronunciation of “mountain”, which I believe is said in about fifty-three different ways depending upon all sorts of things, and I look forward to my eventual successful naturalisation. Also to changing my number plates.

Anyhow, if ever you find yourself one guest and two dogs short of a picnic, email me ok?

I remain, as always, your faithful reader


Muriel said...

Gretchen: I know where you sleep.
Johann: Bring on the video camera. Gretchen will do the necessary.
Audrey: email Juno at the address at the bottom of the blog and she will forward it to me. You are on the list for the next Muriel blowout. We will discuss why our parents gave us the names they did. Then we will drink to that.