I've spent a lot of time hungover on trains. Once I had such an awful hangover I jumped on a train in hopes of escaping it.
It didn't work.
I used to be the last to leave the party, the last to bed, sometimes wincing at the morning sun as I lay down my head. I'd make or buy breakfast, pour a bloody mary or a beer for myself and anyone else dumb enough to be welcoming the dawn with me. On more than one occasion it was a bottle of red wine. My favourite wee hours red is Amarone, usually Allegrini or Alighieri. You need something robust for those times.
This morning my alarm was unwelcome. I hit snooze. I thought about making coffee and breakfast. Then I hit snooze again. I erased a little morning luxury with every tap of the snooze button. No time for breakfast, no time for coffee, I shaved and ironed a shirt and showered and closed my eyes as the warm water cleansed. No time to pack, I stumbled workwards.
The restaurant was locked. A kitchen porter waited outside, texting. Stacks of produce sat outside the door. The yellow van full of booze waited as well. I opened up and the phone was ringing. Some kids had chucked rotten eggs at the entry way and thrown our patio furniture into the sea. Our first table was merely an hour away, and there were no chefs to be seen. While the kp fished the furniture from the surf I wondered idly if he could cook.
Last-minute Christmas shoppers kept phoning and popping by the restaurant, demanding vouchers as gifts. Plates and cutlery went unpolished. I wasn't in my suit yet. My brain wasn't on yet. A single chef appeared, then another. Someone could cook something. The diners wouldn't starve.
I rubbed my eyes and face, scratched the back of my head, massaged my temples and drank water. Anything to remind me that my body and head were still attached. The chefs and I compared notes on the evening. When did we get home? Why were all the girls crying? Was X really trying to pull Y? If so, why? Did I go to the after party?
I didn't go to the after party. I don't remember what time I left, but it was late. All the fast food dives in town had shut their doors for the night. I looked everywhere. I wandered the cold night, drunk and hungry, and everywhere was bolted tight. Somehow I forgot the all-night garage. I walked the long way home and ate leftover apple and pear crumble. I passed out in my boxers and woke up and hit snooze on the alarm.
The head chef arrived and looked like death. Some of the afterparty goers trickled in with bruises on their faces. Drunken weight-lifting. The restaurant manager walked in, slowly, with an egg in the middle of his forehead, turning slowly purple during the course of service. A dumbell accident.
Dumbell accident? Drunken weight-lifting? The afterparty host arrived with a cut on his eye. Another dumbell accident.
The head chef and one of the sous drank whisky & soda and smoked cigarettes outside while I changed. Not my preferred hair of the dog and from the look of them, it didn't do them any good. Customers arrived early, wanting lunch. We served them with a smile. I starved, having slept through breakfast. Every pause and every face drooped with the weight of the night before. We drank water and coffee. A chef passed some spare risotto my way. Redemption.
Diners left happy.
I changed out of my suit and went home to pack. I remembered the presents and my train tickets and running shoes. I made the slow voyage from hungover to tired.
I missed the afterparty and wasn't drinking expensive Italian red while watching the sun rise. I'm sure it will happen again. But not this morning. And now I sit on the final stretch of the train journey to London and can smile that I've no bruises from drunken dumbell juggling or whatever the fuck they were doing. I eat a tasteless sandwich and sip some better-than-average white Burgundy. I read Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I wonder if the Yankees really have signed Teixeira. I didn't miss out on anything last night, except perhaps a meal.
Drunken weight-lifting... what the fuck were they thinking?