The worst hangover I have ever had was in St. Martin. It was one of those delayed reaction deals. I woke up with crazy energy at 7 a.m. and went out on the pool deck to do lunges. We were staying in a hilltop villa – open air and sprawling – Kim was there, and when she padded out holding her forehead in one hand and her coffee cup in another and saw me, she said, “I think you should donate your body to science. Now. Before you are dead.”
The place had a fabulous outdoor dining room, and we sat up long after the children went to bed, drinking wine, watching shooting stars, eating licorice and talking. Kim went to bed and I stayed up to look at the sky and drink another bottle of wine. In the morning she was queasy, but I was like some post-apocalyptic beetle (another phrase Kim coined about my superhuman constitution): cheerily scuttling over the terra cotta, with milk jugs for hand weights.
We decided to climb down the hill to the ocean and go for our usual beach walk. It was challenging at the best of times because the sand was pliant – a wet cement that sank with each step. And it was hot. We each took a bottle of water. By the time we made it to the starting point, I was beginning to realize my earlier zeal was because I was still drunk, and it was beginning to wear off. The heat was staggering, the air unmoving. I started to notice the top of my head and the fiery pockets of my temples: a flicker of nausea. I was sweating from odd places (the roof of my mouth, my eyelids, my spleen…).
In St Martin, the beach villas all have vicious dogs instead of alarm systems. When two, frail women stumble past they charge their fences and teeter on the edge of break walls in a gums baring, terrifying racket. I was drinking my water in gulps and flinching. I think I mumbled under my breath, “I am not entirely sure I should have done this…” We were sinking to our calves in the mire.
Forty minutes in and I was like an overheated car engine; my brains and my heart were pounding and I really thought I was going to die, although for some weird reason, I was still pretending to be okay. My water was almost gone and it was no longer cool or refreshing. I held the bottle to my face, but it was just hot plastic. I was beginning to eye Kim’s supply…
It occurs to me now, the entire Caribbean Sea was at my disposal, although the shallows were warm. I could have cooled my body temperature and rested (or put myself out of misery). Instead, I trooped along in black leggings, absorbing the heat like penance.
Obviously I survived. Just like a cockroach. When we got back I recuperated in a dark room with a cold cloth, and of course, I drank again that night…
The greatest thing about being sober is the morning. Righteous, clear headed, healthy, remembering-the-details morning. I do not have the same kind of frenetic energy I used to have (chasing my tail bootlessly until the ethanol dissipated), but I have energy.
And I am not going to crash.