It is early Sunday morning and the mother has woken up on the bathroom floor, her cat and a small spider appear to be watching her. They are deep in conversation, which is unusual, for a cat and a spider.
“Is this where she slept last night?”
“Yes, quite possibly.”
“Ah look, she has attempted to fashion some kind of bed around the toilet using a towel and her coat. She has even managed to make a small pillow using her T-shirt – clever Mummy.” “It’s not a very big bed, is it?”
“No, but then again it’s not a very big bathroom,”
“Ah, look how she’s curled up like a skanky hedgehog.”
“Oh, yuk that floor’s going to need cleaning, and the toilet, and the sink. Oh yes and the mirror as well. Hang on, what’s that putrid smell, is that your litter tray?
“Nooo, that’s her!”
“Oh, look She’s still wearing her jeans and bra.”
“Wow, she’s like a rock star!”
Waking up with at least some clothes on is always a plus. Firstly, because it means you’re not stark naked. Secondly, it’s a sign that you at least attempted to get ready for bed. When you feel this bad, it’s always best to focus on the positive. Including, well at least I don’t have to go to work today, do I? Do I?
“What could be wrong with the mother? What are her main symptoms?”
“Ah I’ll hazard a guess; you see she’s had this before. I’d say she aches from limb to limb; her tongue feels like sandpaper and her throat is red raw.
“That’s not a very imaginative description.”
“No, I know, it’s not but it is a very accurate one.”
Does she have some kind of infection or a virus maybe?
“No, she has a massive great fucking hangover and has been vomiting all night.”
“Shhh, listen can you hear that noise?”
“It sounds like her stomach is churning and bubbling again. “
“Oh really, I wasn’t aware it had ever stopped doing that.”
“Oh yes, briefly, just after the diarrhoea.”
Morning has finally broken and the mother has managed to drag herself up from the bathroom floor.
She has an overwhelming desire to relieve herself but also senses she is about to be sick, again and she is in no condition to multitask. Luckily, she manages both, but it’s not pretty.
The mother is desperate for water – a glass of the stuff would be nice; several gallons would be better. Maybe submerging herself in a vast lake of volcanic spring water blessed by angels, would help. Maybe she’d drown in it, she heard it wasn’t a bad way to go. It couldn’t be any worse than feeling like this.
Everything hurts, her limbs, her stomach, her internal organs, Jesus even her eyes. But if there was an overall winner in the pain stake it would go to the torment she was experiencing in her head. She doesn’t think she was hit in the skull with a pickaxe last night, but she can’t rule it out either.
The mother can hear a noise, a sound that is not made by her own pitiful, disintegrating body. There seems to be some movement in the kitchen. It must be her boyfriend, another human being, thank God. Could he be making tea? How truly wonderful that would be. Oh the thought of something passing her lips that wasn’t lager, or vomit.
“What time did you get in last night?” he enquires
Oh, dear, that doesn’t sound like the voice of a man who’s willing to make her a cup of Earl Grey. He is speaking in a weird way. He is not shouting, but she can sense he is angry.
The last time he used this tone with her was when she smashed the cooker hob with a heavy-bottomed Le Creuset saucepan after an argument. At least on that occasion there had been some mitigating circumstances – she had been severely sleep-deprived following the birth of her second child. This time it’s very different.
She has no one to blame but herself. And just in case she is not already come to this conclusion, her partner helpfully reminds her of this, while he is busy not making her a cup of tea. He also reminds her that she is not actually, technically ill,
“A hangover is not an illness, and don’t be taking paracetamol, that’s just putting more drugs in your system.”
Yeah, thanks for that Jason, now fuck off.
After taking a deep breath, the mother manages to get herself off the bathroom floor and upright. Everything is a bit swirly, but she does manage a few steps. Ah, the road to recovery. She was like one of those injured veterans learning to walk again after some kind of horrific injury, kind of.
Inadvertently the mother catches a glimpse of herself in the full-length mirror. For several seconds she stares blankly at her reflection, It’s not easy on the eye. However, If she had been aiming for the middle-aged stripper who’d slept in a ditch look, she certainly pulled it off.
If her mother could see her now, which thankfully she couldn’t, she’d probably mutter,
“Christ you look like something the cat dragged in,”
This would have been blatantly untrue. The cat wouldn’t have dare touch her in this state. She’d have taken one sniff, and then left her in the gutter.
Silently the mother contemplates Jason’s earlier brain teaser. What time did she get in? It is hard to say as both thinking and speaking require a great deal of effort. In fact, trying to function at all is a struggle. Could she even remember herself? I mean she couldn’t remember much about last night, but surely, she could remember that. Afterall arriving home had to be one of the least embarrassing moments of the evening, oh shit maybe not. it was starting to come back to her now! Don’t fight against the amnesia, welcome it with open arms, like a good friend, the mother reminds herself
After all this temporary memory loss is your body’s way of coping. When the skull-splitting headache retreats and nausea stops, then the memories will regrettably return. She drags her body up the stairs to the safety of her bed. But even the nice soft quilt and plump pillows offer little protection from the oncoming storm, and her memories, like the sickness, assail her in waves.
For several hours, the mother drifted in and out of sleep. It was not a pleasant feeling, not like a little boat sailing across a calm turquoise ocean, that would be lovely. But no, more like the drifting, you experience when recovering from an operation when the anaesthetic wears off, and the pain kick in. Perhaps drifting isn’t the right word. If she had to use an ocean-themed simile, she would say it is more like a stormy and violent sea. A sea with waters filled with raged rocks, into which she keeps crashing.
And it is in this ocean in which the mother finds herself for the next few hours. Flitting between sleep and waking wretchedness and back again. And soon, not even her old her friend Mr Amnesia will be by her side, as slowly her memories return like splinters in her mind
The mother had gone out for a drink in Camberwell with her best friend. She’d had a couple of pints. And that’s where the evening should have ended. But no, in her alcohol-induced wisdom, she’d suggested another drink. But not somewhere local, oh no that would have been far too easy
“Come on, let’s go somewhere more exciting. The night is young and so are we,” neither of these statements were true.
Before they knew it, they were heading north.
If her memory served her correctly, which it probably didn’t, they ended up somewhere between Kings Cross and Collingdale at a place called Club Couture. How’s that for alliteration!
Before that night, neither of them had ever even heard of the place and so it was quite amazing that they found their way there. Yet another unsolved mystery of the evening but still. They did find their way, and when they got there, the music was loud, the place was packed, and she was buzzing.
Club Couture was made up of 3 large dance floors, each floor having its own DJ, and playing a particular style of music. She stuck to the ground floor mostly as it was playing what her son would call, ‘your generations of music.’ Bit offensive, but she knew what he meant, and I am sure you do too! Back in the day this would have the kind of place she come home from broke, stinking of cigarettes and out of her head on something. She would no doubt also have brought some one home with her, from the club, or the bus stop.
The mother remembered talking to an Italian lesbian who she had met in the smoking area. Not that she herself was a smoker, at least she wasn’t when she arrived there. Well, they say drinking changes people, by midnight she was a Benson and Hedges kind of a girl.
She could remember talking at length to her newfound friend about work, travel, politics, and the outrageous cost of renting in London. The conversation quickly moved on, and soon they were both discussing Pope John Paul II and his disdain for homosexuals, as you do. The petit woman who was in her early thirties had previously lived in Turin and worked as a teacher before relocating to Earls Court and getting a job at J.D Sports. The mother cringed as she remembered citing the Jewish writer Primo Levi in a bid to impress this woman. For he also shared her hometown. But by then she was slurring and was pretty sure ‘Sonia’ did not know what the fuck the mother was talking about, Christ she wasn’t even sure. Had she even got the author’s name right, she kind of remembered saying something about Noel Gallager oh Jesus. She did come back with,
“God, Catholics ay!” though. Nice and short, no slurring there.
Although, had it not been for this former Pope’s attitude to the gays, the hilarious Italian would not have left Italy. And as a result, would not be now entertaining the mother in a grotty toilet of a smoking area at a debauched club in north London. Swings and roundabouts.
At this point in the evening things were still going well, she was in good company and there was a fantastic atmosphere in the place. She felt like everyone was friendly and, on her wavelength, and this was without any ecstasy. But that’s how it always starts, isn’t it?
By about 1 a.m. she’d probably had four or five pints, which was her limit. And so It was at this point in the evening/morning, that she made up her mind not to drink any more lager, and that’s when she switched to Jägerbombs. The Jägerbombs had not been her idea, she wasn’t even sure what they were. In fact, when the Italian convinced her to try some, she thought she’d agreed to a pill or powder of some sort. But then they’d both pushed their way to the bar, and she remembered thinking, ‘well, that’s definitely isn’t the best place to start experimenting with Class A’s.’
It turned out Jägerbombs were some kind of alcoholic cough medicine fused with fizzy caffeine. Their impact on her senses was immediate, she suddenly felt even more alert and yet even more pissed. The cost however was horrific; a couple of lines would probably have been cheaper. Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, her Italian friend recognized someone behind the bar, a part-time dominatrix from Putney, (her words!) At that point there was no stopping them, the drinks came free and they just kept coming. Not long after that, things started to go a bit wobbly.
The mother could remember talking a lot, but to whom and about what remained a mystery. Whatever the subject, she could recall being particularly animated about it. Although she might have been on her own with that.
She could also remember heading to the dance floor to the sound of Rhythm Is a Dancer and almost breaking her neck on the way.
“Ehat a fuck. ing….. syupid pLace to pput stairs
Shortly after the stairs/stair incident she remembered dancing to Jump Around by the House of Pain, and mostly staying upright. She felt like she’d held her own on the dance floor for at least 20 minutes, probably, until they played Firestarter by the Prodigy; Christ even sober, she’d struggle to dance to that little number. It was at that precise moment, that she realised she needed to get some fresh air and, as it turned out, throw up into a bin.
According to her best friend she left the club at 3.00 am. She did have a vague memory of getting on a bus sometime later, which was weird because her friend had put her in a cab. In-between, there was nothing, an abyss – this was all she could remember from the entire evening and for this, she was eternally grateful.
She closed her eyes and tried to get back to sleep. she counted backwards. She counts sheep. She counted sheep jumping backwards. She imagined herself lying on a warm sandy beach the waves lapping at her feet. She even tried to picture herself being whisked away by the milk tray man, chocolates in one hand and chloroform in the other. And eventually, eventually she fell asleep again
After another two hours of sleep, she was beginning to feel a bit better. Not back to normal by any stretch but at least human. The time had definitely come to get up. She could hear the sound of her kids’ downstairs which was reassuring, as it meant she was defiantly in her house. But Christ knows how many episodes of I Carly the kids had watched, or what state the house would be in – well she was about to find out.
Climbing out of her bed felt like the hardest part, but once free of the crumpled, quilt and dribbly pillow, she feels a little bit more awake and headed more confidently to the landing. After a couple of tentative steps down the stairs, she realised this wasn’t going to be as easy as she thought. Lying in bed with a hangover was a relatively simple albeit harrowing affair. Moving around the house whilst also where you’re going, however, was a totally different ball game.
Very quickly she started to feel unsteady and queasy. Her hands began to shake, and the blood which flowed through her veins now felt like it had been replaced with some kind of toxic, corrosive liquid. But all this she could have tolerated if it wasn’t accompanied by the feeling that her skull might crack open at any moment.
Every step she took caused tiny vibrations through her entire body, straight up to the epicentre of the pain, her head. She felt horrible. She tried walking in a different way, but then she just succeeded in feeling like shit and looking weird. Like some kind of robotic children’s toy at the end of its life.
You just have to make it to the kitchen, that’s all, she kept telling herself. You’ll be safe when you get there. And you’ll be right near the toilet again. But oh, so many obstacles on the way, not least was the cat who was lying on the stairs refusing to move. And then, after she’d managed step over her, another challenge greeted her.
For with her final step, she was meet by a stream of sunlight breaking through the thin gap between the curtains in the front room. Jesus, it was like the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. But unlike Harrison Ford she had not have the foresight to shut her eyes. No she was like one of those stupid Nazis who looked straight into the light, causing their eyes and head to melt. Fortunately, her bloodshot eyeballs did not melt, which again could be racked up as another positive. Although if they had, at least she would not have had to face the devastation which awaited her in the kitchen.
The devastation of the kitchen.
Dirty plates, cups and spoons covered every work surface. Empty cereal boxes, milk cartons and yoghurt pots were strewn around the room. A sticky spoon was balanced precariously on an open pot of jam. A tub of margarine with a butter knife still stuck in, no doubt fancying itself as Excalibur, sat melting on the side.
Rice Krispies were sprinkled all over the floor, even in the cat’s food and water. Beef with gravy and snap, crackle and pop ewwww, that wasn’t going to go down well. Christ, that cat had a delicate stomach at the best of times.
All the mother wanted was a cup of coffee. But what previously seemed possible now seemed out of the question. Washing up a spoon and a cup were simply beyond her capabilities even if she could actually find these things. She half-heartedly looked in the cupboard under the sink, and miraculously her pathetic search was rewarded. Just next to the U-bend, she spotted a mug, of sorts.
I mean technically, it was a mug; whether she was capable of drinking from it was another matter. On the front of this lurid pink mug, written in huge black capital letters, were the words “I LOVE COCK.” The mug was bought for her years ago by a friend; well, a former friend. Now, with every other cup and mug in the house dirty, this would have to do; it was her darkest hour. She would simply have to ignore the giant erection in the middle of the mug, which revealed more and more of itself as she drank her coffee. On another day, it might have made her laugh, but not today.
After consuming some strong coffee and forcing down almost a litre of water without being sick, she felt a lot better. Next, she ventured into the medicine cabinet.
The inside of the cabinet was like a modern-day Alladin’s cave, although a very disorganised one. The contents include cat worming tablets, Rizlas, nit shampoo, Oust multipurpose descaler, superglue and three boxes of herbal tea. There was also an unopened jar of decaffeinated coffee, tampons, several hair products and a long-abandoned breast pump. Then finally, just behind the headlice shampoo, she found some Nurofen Express. “Quality pain relief,” thought the mother.
“Works in 15 minutes, heals the sick, raises the dead, cleanses lepers and casts out demons. Christ, if that doesn’t do the trick, nothing will,” she thought, swallowing three, you know, just to be on the safe side.