I came to with a good hangover.
No, wait. Scratch that.
I woke up with a glorious, glistening goddamn miracle of a hangover.
It happened like that sometimes.
Hangovers could either be generous or cruel and they were impossible to predict.
The pleasure centers of my brain were sweeping with a warm tropical wash and shining, euphoric anesthesia. Pure uncut pleasure.
I sat up in bed, reveling in the way my spine worked, feeling each vertebrae stretch and pop with smooth languorous release. I thought of a line of dominoes falling in slow-motion.
Light was bursting through my window, illuminating a corkscrew strand of hair on my collar (I’d passed out fully dressed – even my sneakers were still on). It wasn’t my hair. Or any of my friend's. In fact, I didn’t know anyone with curly hair. I pinched it from my shirt and held it up. It was black. I pulled it taut, then relaxed it and it tensed back into a coil. I tried to think back but my dim memories of the night were vaporous and full of gaps. I looked at the hair again and conjured a beautiful black woman. Had I met someone? Had I...maybe...
No. No chance. I opened my fingers and the hair slipped free and floated to floor. I watched it slowly turn as it fell into the vast canyon between my bed and bureau.
I looked at my hands. I studied the lines and veins, the slopes of bone, the tough little puckers at the joints. They looked different, like a stranger’s hands. I was really, really seeing them for the first time and I pictured the slow evolution of the articulated hand flap rapidly past like a trillion frames of film, going back eons, finally landing on a primordial ape grasping at branches, bridging for the first time whatever invisible breach existed between reason and the functional utilities of the corporeal.
I remembered the last time I’d been blessed with a hangover like this. One day last year a heavy downpour turned to freezing rain and in the bright morning I awoke to find everything on earth encased in glass. The woods behind my apartment had become a crystal forest of prisms and reflections, dazzling jewels and splintered refractions of light. I dressed quickly and ran outside to walk among its wonders.
Now I felt like I was tripping on benign, low-grade acid and I wondered why my hangovers varied so much. Sometimes I woke up sick, the world tilting and falling away, my stomach empty and pinched and all I can do is lay still and concentrate on some small movement - the jiggle of a foot, clenching and unclenching a hand, and wait it out.
Sometimes I woke up on the edge of tears, wracked with remorse and sorrow. Raw, isolated misery. The world turned ugly and cruel and sickening. At such times suicide becomes an appealing option.
I remember sitting in Medieval Western Civilization, evil hangover nesting like a snake in my brain, staring at the back of Kelly Wilson’s neck. Ordinarily, I thought Kelly was just about the best-looking girl I’d ever seen. She had soft brown eyes, soft brown hair, and a dangerously delicate face that looked sculpted out of snow.
But with my alien hangover eyes she transformed from something calm and beautiful into a violent grotesquery. It was like a rose opening its velvet petals and dropping a tiny, dead fetus in the dirt. Those soft downy hairs on the back of her neck became menacing, insectile. Her pores were tunnels boring into the wet depths of her body. Sluggish early light oozed like syrup along the absurd alien landscape of her ears.
I had fled that class in a panic, shaking, not sure whether I wanted to scream or laugh or throw-up or what.
The transformative effects of alcohol were powerful indeed, but capricious. Sometimes the alcohol sanctified you. Sometimes it butchered your guts and mind with a meat cleaver.
One never knows...
I gathered some clean clothes. It was time to start my day.