I wake up and open my eyes as I lay on my side in bed in the morning. My knees are crunched up against my chest, I’m afraid to put them down because the night before my intestines felt taut as a wire in my stomach, and I’m certain if I stretch out they’re just going to snap like a guitar string. The trashcan of my bedroom had been lined with paper towels, next to it is an untouched glass of water. When I finally unwind I feel fine. I actually feel just fine and dandy, maybe even better than I normally would for a Saturday morning. I can’t think of any reason I have not to get up and face the day.
So why am I so mortified I can’t even leave my bed?
All one of you long-time readers (Hi Dad), might know that plenty of my humor columns start off like this. I write facetious and irreverent articles that are basically heightened versions of the things I see and do at St. Mary’s. This article however, is the exception. Everything I’m going to tell you actually happened, and the only thing that has been changed are the names, to protect the guilty. This is the story of the night I entered a competitive drinking competition and won. And everything that happened afterwards.
THE DARK WOOD
On Wednesday, my friend asked me if I would like to participate in an event that will hereafter be referred to as the Four de Tranzia. Now, I’m aware that my thinly veiled attempt to protect the name of the actual event makes it sound more like a drag 4k than a semi-hazardous booze bash, but believe me, it’s not your grandmother’s wine challenge. The Four de Tranzia has many variations. The one I’m competing in dictates that three teammates finish an entire box of wine as fast as they can; no leaving, no vomit, no holds barred. The team that finishes their box first gets a trophy and the honor of first dibs going out the lawn to puke and die. Just to be extremely, explicitly clear, a wine box, traditionally designed for consumption by parties and non-idiots-with-death-wish, is roughly 42 glasses of wine. That means every person is expected to finish roughly 14 cups of grade-D vino, if you’re pulling your weight. Objectively, I know that sounds like a lot. Believe me, even before I started I knew logically that it was a monumental undertaking. But something in you, whether its just youthful hubris or just the mechanical monkey playing cymbals that is your brain function just quitting altogether, doesn’t know just how much that really is. Not until you get there. I can’t really say why specifically I wanted to take part in this all or nothing leap from zero to wino, but I can say certainly that although lucid, although of sound body and mind, I had almost no idea what I was doing.
My first hint that I may have something to fear from the Four de Tranzia should have come from the fact that the person who invited me, who I will here call Annie, had absolutely no intention of participating, and in fact was only coming because she’d been invited to watch the events unfold. At some point in your life, maybe in the dentist’s chair, watching a teacher grade a teacher, at the OBGYN, perhaps you’ve had someone look at you or your work and go ‘Oh my God, Ted, you’ve got to see this or you’re not gonna believe it’. You know that when something like that happens, it never means its good. This in mind, I needed two partners willing to embark on a voyage of the damned. Where to find two such jokers? Joker number one was Annie’s housemate, a fellow that I will call Jo. Jo and I agree on many things, including food, movies and murdering ourselves for empty glory, apparently. It seems extremely fitting with the pervasively dark humor that we share that Jo and I would knowingly do this to ourselves. Joker two was a guy who I will call Jan, with apologies to the real Jan for this name choice. Jan and I had begun going steady, as the kids say, shortly before, and we were in the phase could still manipulate him into doing dumb stuff for me. He didn’t need a great deal of convincing, because he is a jovial dude with the stomach of a lumberjack. Thus we had our team.
Now does our story really begins. Friday, the night of the challenge. We roll up to the host house, which I will not identify under any kind of duress, lest you’ve got Bradley Cooper and a ball pit full of Lindor truffles stored away somewhere. By this time I’m nervous. This had a great deal to do in part with my beloved friends and housemates repeated reminders that this is a terrible idea. I know it, and the more they say it the more it’s congealing within me. The only thing that really keeps me going through with it is the knowledge that the only person who is going to make me do anything is me, so I’m pretty certain I’m going to be okay. The other part of it is that I am me. Here are the facts: I am a 21 year old girl, about 5”4 and 125 120 115 pounds. I drink like a leaky faucet; short, strong spurts. Both my comrades are average-sized men in the prime of their lives, and even they’re concerned about how they’re going to fare tonight. How the hell am I going to pull my weight with my lil ol’ stomach? How can I even worry how I’m going to pull my weight when the real danger is that they’re going to have to haul my ass to the county hospital and pump my lil ol’ stomach? I calm myself, and decide I’m going to go through with this based only on the self-assurance that I can and will stop anytime I want to. Nothing’s going to make me take thing this seriously.
We are asked to select a country for our team to represent. Choosing to seize upon a country that would probably be well equipped for this kind of task, we naturally pick Ireland. We also have to pick our wine box, a choice of major strategic importance, as you’re not allowed to leave until you finish your box. What you get is what you drink. It’s also worth saying that the choice is important because whichever one you choose, it will be ruined for you forever after. You will not be able to catch a fume of it without running for the bathroom. This in mind, we choose the Tranzia known as Sunset Blush. I haven’t changed the name of this stuff, because it is of the fucking devil to me. It’s a white zinfandel with a stomach curdling strawberry flavor. It is so grotesquely saccharine that it would make the producers of children’s cereals cry. Just us against this wine for what we’ve been led to believe may be the whole night. We place our box on the table and finesse out the spout. The countdown starts. It’s just a game. No pressure.
And we’re off.
I look down at my cup, and I guess I’m possessed with the strategy that Jan and Jo and I have agreed upon; just finish as fast as you can. That one thought rattling in my brain, I unhinge my jaw like a snake and pour my cup down throat like…I don’t even know what like. There’s really nothing comparable to the ridiculous feat I’ve just performed. Nothing that is, until I do it again. And again. As I finish my third, I can already feel the flush in my cheeks and that horrible nauseous swelling feeling in my stomach and throat. I also feel eyes on me. Jan and Jo are looking with expressions of guh. Suddenly my nausea gives way to acute, giddy, boozy delight. I’ve found my usefulness to this team. I’ve helped us to an early lead.
Those first three drinks I speed-demoned represented my shining moment, and naturally after that I go downhill pretty quickly. As I slump into a chair I’m pretty sure I’m out of the game from here on in. Then Jan picks up the box. ‘Holy shit’ I think he says, handing the box to Jo who then hands it to me. Compared to when we got it, the thing is light as my head is in that moment. I squeal, and then prance off to the bathroom because already I have to pee like a racehorse. Sitting on the potty for what felt like an eternity in my swimming head, my restraint suddenly comes apart at the seams. We absolutely, positively have to win. I dance out of the bathroom with a second wind, and the bag is lighter than ever.
Better though I feel, there’s no way I can pretend the rest of the evening didn’t belong to Jan and Jo. As it becomes more and more certain we have this, their cups get fuller and fuller, and the task becomes harder and harder. Jan is an anchor if I’ve ever seen one, and gulps down giant portions just to get us close to the finish line. I have one or two more glasses and then I’m out of commission. Jan and Jo start supplementing their drinking with bread rolls from my purse. People start to notice how close we are, and suddenly all eyes are on the boys. Jan finishes his drink with incredible force of will, and designates his remaining strength to keeping himself from throwing up. I’ve never gotten drunk so fast, but suddenly I’m so sauced I’m almost manic. Jo is sitting there nursing his last cup, the very last cup we need for the challenge to be complete, trying to muster the grit to make that last push. Suddenly the chant starts coming in; ‘fin-ish, fin-ish, fin-ish.’ It’s getting louder, and Jo’s looking so pained; “FIN-ISH! FIN-ISH! FIN-ISH!” He tosses it back. We wait for the longest most, excruciating second of our entire lives to hear it made official. It’s decided; we are the winners of Four de Tranzia.
We are out the door before the speech is even finished.
Jan dives behind the house. Jo and I sprawl on the lawn, prostrate, and start torrential vomiting. It feels like every smoker on campus has decided to have a cigarette out back at this very moment, and every one of them is watching us doing our impersonation of the Trevi Fountain. But when I roll onto my back reeking of vomit, my senses in shambles, it feels like the most glorious moment of my life. We’re now doubled over in peels of hysterical laughter. We are the kings of time and space and history. Our host comes out to present us with the trophy. Without so much as a thank you, the three of us snatch it up and take off shrieking down the path to the home of our friends. We want to revel in our victory, show them all what we’ve done like it’s world peace we’ve solved. I don’t feel sick, I don’t feel drunk, I feel like I can do absolutely anything and as far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Did I mention hindsight?
This is where another part of the story begins. It is the story of our beloved friends and housemates, who were having their own party that night. It feels right to include their point of view, on one hand because with out them, who knows what might have happened to us, and also because my own memory of this part of the evening is a blackhole. Here they were, having their own party, playing their own games and having a good time, when in we burst through the door, caked in puke, wild-eyed and screaming. One of my friends tells me that the second she saw the trophy in our hands, she knew shit was about to get bad. From what I remember, I was feeling like a million dollars; and I was absolutely ready to go out an keep the evening going. The next thing I remember I fell off my bed. The next hour was a blur of me heaving into a trash can in my room, begging my friend who been called there to help out to go home, heaving into a trash can in my room, and angry yelling. On Saturday, I woke up. Back to where we started off.
I’m paralyzed in my bed. I feel fine, except for that dried out sponge feeling in my stomach. Panicked and embarrassed, I lightfoot it to the shower to rinse layer after layer of sweat and puke and trash out of my petrified hair. The water falls on my face, and my nose stings. There’s a raw patch under my right nostril. Have I been fighting? I take wipes and paper towels to the trashcans with furious urgency, as if I can pretend when my housemates wake up that they imagined my whole ridiculous parade of craziness. I can’t think what that parade is, but I know in the pit of my stomach its there. I know with certainty we have the trophy, but I can’t remember if we won the contest or we stole it.
Hungry, I dig through the fridge for a leftover Chipotle tin from yesterday. It’s gone, it’s boxtop left there on the kitchen table. Who would take advantage of a drunk person so shamefully? When my housemates are finally roused, they’re staring at me with uneasy concern. I already know amends are in order. I launch into apology after apology, and beg them to tell me what exactly happened. They look at one another. Not a good sign.
This is a laundry list of what I did that night, compiled from various sources:
-I was walked home by my friends, rambling so mightily they had no idea what I was saying.
-I tried frequently to stop and sleep in the grass, but they wouldn’t let me.
-I alternated rapid-fire between bouts of crying and manic laughter.
-I demanded my friend J. respect me and everything I’d accomplished repeatedly.
-I heaped gratuitous details on my friend V. about stuff she had no desire to know.
-My friend M. had to trick me to get me home by saying we’d go out after, because if she had tried to tell me straight up what to do I would have shot out the door into the night.
-Nobody stole my Chipotle. I forced Jo to take it, and I was extremely aggressive about it.
-Jan tried to put me to bed. I fell out.
-I skidded against the carpet a scratched up my nose.
-Jan tried to get me a trashcan, and I insisted on it being the trashcan from my room. The trashcan from my room is mesh, and although he tried to reason this out with me, I insisted, again being extremely aggressive about it.
-I heard that Jo was sick as well, and I dragged myself to the bathroom trashcan and sidled it up alongside his stall.
-I talked to Jo for about a half hour, punctuating most our statements with ‘Why did we do this?’, followed by, ‘But we won!’
-When my housemate E. came to check on me, her friend S. was standing outside talking to her. Hearing his voice I screamed ‘WHO THE FUCK IT THAT?’ Identifying him as S, I replied ‘Oh, S. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE, S?’
-I heaped swear after swear on the friends who were trying to care for me, out of embarrassment that they were seeing me like this.
-I suspected that Jan was fine, which turned out to be the case. Instead of being relieved by this, I repeatedly cursed his name and swore revenge.
Oh. My. God.
If I was apologetic before, it was absolutely nothing by comparison.
My friends are great, loving people. They’ve held nothing I did against me, taking the good with the bad. The good being that they get to tease me for the rest of my life. Jan and Jo are equally wonderful. Jo is the nicest friend you could ever vomit your brains out with. If I know him, I think he’ll appreciate that sentiment. I probably hadn’t even farted in front of Jan yet when he saw me at probably the absolute worst I’ve ever been, and he still went out his way to make sure I was OK and was totally cool about it. You don’t get much greater than that, man. It later turned out we finished the Tranzia box in 27 minutes, taking an enormous lead. I don’t know if that means anything to you, but every time I tell that to someone, I swell with pride.
I think it’s pretty easy to conclude from this article that the Four de Tranzia may have been one of the most down-and-out, David Lynch-esque, crazy pants nights of my entire life. I think the takeaway for a lot of my friends who saw me is that it was not a proud moment for me. I generally agree if they voice that opinion, because it would be crazy to think otherwise. Then again, rationality has never been ranked amongst my virtues. It’s so hard to explain why I consider the Four de Tranzia one of my best recent memories. None of the badness would been worth it if the outcome had been different. I feel awful to have had people I care about witness me in such a pathetic state, and have to take care of me. My life came as close to one of my humor columns as it’s ever come. I never want to do it again as long as I live, and there’s no way I can recommend it in good conscience.