You wake up.
You are on the 28th floor of a high rise hotel in the heart of New York City.
And you may have had a fuck of a lot to drink the night before.
It’s not quite seven, and the street outside is already humming with traffic, which you can hear through the slightly cracked window. You blink up at the ceiling and begin to take a mental inventory of your bodily functions.
Time to see what kind of a hangover we’re dealing with.
The good news is that you are not immediately nauseous, and your head does not yet seem ready to split open and spill your pickled gray brain all over the pillow. Maybe you escaped a bad one this time, eh?
You roll over and try to go back to sleep but your old friend BEER ANXIETY grabs you by the throat and won’t let go.
You rack your brain for reasons to feel bad about the previous night.
Did you spend a lot of money?
Well, yes. But you knew that you would when you came this way. The expense was something you would have to live with. Better to spend the money than sit at home and struggle with the feeling that YOU ARE MISSING OUT.
Did you drink too much?
Well, of course. Far too much. Mugs and mugs of dark beer served out of dirty glasses in a bar that reeked of sweat and onions and urine. Beer that was fermented with a centuries old tradition of malt and yeast and hops, and laden with the kind of sinister microbial pathogens that flourish in a place where “the dishwasher” is nothing more than a lukewarm basin of rinse water.
Did you behave in an untoward manner?
Not really. Sure you may have yelled a few off color things in the spirit of the moment. Made a couple of jokes in poor taste. But nothing that would have been out of bounds when you were sober. There were no threats to fight anyone, no overly personal conversations, no giving unwanted and unwarranted opinions about the lives of others.
So why does something feel wrong?
You roll over and try to go back to sleep, but the heat and the proximity of OTHER PEOPLE make this impossible.
Maybe you drift off for a moment, maybe not, but suddenly you jerk to life with a spasm of nerves.
Something is wrong.
In your head. In your eyes. In your ears. In your stomach. In your soul.
You are sweating and freezing at the same time. You feel suddenly and surprisingly connected to every nerve ending in your body, as if they are all firing at once and all sending your brain RED ALERT distress calls.
You get up and start pacing because you can’t sit still, but your legs buckle and sway with every step.
The sunlight that creeps in through the cracks in the shade hurts your eyes, but you can’t shut them. Whenever you close your eyes all you see are those mugs of warm dark beer.
Finally, when you think you can take it no more, you grab the key and head out of the room, closing the door softly behind you (even though in your ears it clicks into place with a resounding CLANG!). You walk down the softly padded corridors to the banks of elevators (hearing STOMP, STOMP, STOMP with every STEP STEP STEP).
You press the button and you wait. When the elevator arrives, you throw yourself through the door and curl up against the far wall, hoping no one else will get on with you. You will not be able to hide your blackened soul and enfeebled body in such close quarters.
Mercifully, it is a solo trip. You get down to the bottom, stagger out the door and do your half-dead marionette dance through the lobby. You try your best to avoid the damning stares of all the early bird guests who are lingering there on the couches and chairs. They are sip on coffee, look clean and freshly showered, and don’t seem to be suffering from even a mild case of alcohol poisoning.
“Elitist snobs,” you mumble through cracked, dried lips as you lurch towards the hotel’s front entrance.
It takes all the strength you have left to work the turnstile door, but you finally get it moving and it turns 180 degrees tosses you out in the street.
It is then that you realize that 42nd street in New York City is no place for a badly hungover young man to be on a Sunday morning. It’s quiet enough for the heart of a major metropolis, but your head demands more quiet. The kind of quiet you find at a morgue for nuns and mimes and librarians.
It’s clean enough for the downtown area, but your eyes can only see filth.
It’s a safe enough area for the biggest city in the United States, but every person who passes on the sidewalk seems to glare at you with look that screams disgust or malice or both.
They don’t want you here.
You don’t belong here.
You turn tail and head back into the hotel.
Surely a darkened, stuffy, overcrowded room is better than this raw, unnatural and unwelcoming urban world.
But it’s not.