Sunday, 28 September 2008

Last Post on Dissertation Hand-Ins

Ok. I realise this is starting to look like the blog for an Alcoholics Anonymous group, so I absolutely promise that the next few posts will not be about drinking. But let me just get this pebble out of my shoe, because it’s a logical continuation of the previous post.

So. Getting back to how dissertations are handed in. The other night I am sitting in front of my laptop doing something productive (namely, playing mine-sweeper), when I hear a knock by my window. It's like, half-ten at night. I open the curtains and there's this friend of mine standing there with two massive bags under his eyes and in greater need of a shave than Charles Darwin, and I'm like 'What's up?'.

The guy has just finished his dissertation. He asks me if I happen to have any booze, because he is, quote-unquote, dying for a drink. I tell him to wait a second, and I go knock on my flatmate's door. Those of you who have read the blog entry just below this one will know this flatmate as the guy who passed me his gin, a fact which guarantees his entrance into heaven almost as surely as it guarantees mine into hell. I knew there was still some left, and I knew by direct experience just how horrible its taste was, but at that stage I had a friend in need. So I asked him if I could buy off him what was left of the gin - which admittedly wasn't much, considering the swig-fest I'd been undergoing the previous night, but he accepted and I got myself the booze.

We're on!

I let my friend inside and we start downing. Goddamn. It tastes even more truculent than the night before. He doesn't seem to mind it but I'm going into orbit with how far it's kicking my ass. We take a look at the side of the bottle to see what the ingredients are. It turns out it's some kind of Indian gin made in the desert or God knows where, with so many ingredients in its recipe that they couldn't actually fit them all on the one side of the bottle. Almonds, lemon, blackcurrant, the roots of some wacky plant, something I can't pronounce, something else which I don't even know what the hell it is, it could be their name for myrrh for all I know... It's all stuff which tastes excellent on its own, but why it should produce such a lethal brew when combined into such a concoction is something which remains beyond me.

At all events there isn't that much of it, so we finish it around ten to eleven and start wondering what to do. We could either go to sleep early, considering that tomorrow we've got another event already planned, or take our bikes, make a run for Sainsbury's before they close at eleven, get hold of some Whisky and blaze our way through the night with that.

Well - not really a dilemma.

So we're speeding through this fucking cow-field in the middle of the night and half-way through my wheel hits a cow-shit and skids for half a mile in a direction at right-angles from the one in which is headed my body, which sees me thrown into the air like a Canadian goose on the day of its most glorious take-off. Suddenly I feel the ground. My friend, unfortunately, is going so fast that he barely even notices, and for a moment I am assailed by panic: I am in pitch black in the middle of a goddamn fucking cow-field, without the slightest idea of where's backward and forward and I can't see any lights signalling civilisation to me because there's all these damn trees. If I lose track of my friend, I am going to die here. I am going to be trampled by a herd of cows. I am going to be savaged by a tiger. I must get moving!

I jump on the bike and power-leg it like a maniac, probably hitting twenty-four shits at sixty mph on the way but frankly who gives a damn, until my friend comes back in sight.

'You alright over there?', he asks. 'Thought I'd lost you at a certain point.' I cannot deign him with a reply - my tongue is rolled out like a carpet and my lungs are contracting like the wings of a humming bird.

We get to Sainsbury. We buy ourselves a bottle of old-style Whisky and get back on the bikes (I make sure I'm letting him carry the Whisky, because I have the impression that if it's placed on my bike then something catastrophic is going to occur). Another terrifying ride through the fucking cowfield (I cannot say it without swearing now), and we're back in college.

It's Whisky O' Clock.

Shot one: We're doing well. Shot two: We're doing well. Shot three: We're doing well, but we decide it's time to get our young and glowing physiques moving, so we get hold of a football and we go outside. For a while, we just kick it around. Then the poor guy has the unfortunate idea of challenging me at football-based drinking games. Challenging an Italian at football-drinking games. Dude. You're either South American, or you'd better forget it, is what I'm thinking. This turns out to be utterly true, not only because he's now sucking Whisky from a straw but because he has the chance to directly experience the Italian defence - also known as the best, most refined, most powerful and most unsurpassable defence in the history of the game, an instinct for which runs into the veins of all us Italians and to the discipline of which we are trained from the moment we step into the agoge of our kindergarden football courts: I produce myself in a spectacular tackle which would have had all Old Trafford on their feet and clapping, and the guy goes down like the walls of the city of Byzantium when the Turks invaded it in 1453. This gets him so whoozy that within ten minutes that we're back to playing, we fuck around in our control and the ball is slung into the lake and lost forever except to the ducks. We spend the ten minutes of our lives throwing stones into the lake like idiots in the hope that the waves we produce will carry the (infuriatingly immobile) floating ball in our direction, an endeavour made completely hopeless by the fact that the stones we are throwing are the size of mild confetti produced for the wedding of a couple who has that bone disease which makes your skeleton frail like glass, so after quickly dismissing the idea of jumping into the lake (that place is not so much a lake as a latrine for ducks), we decide to go back inside, oblivious to the fate of the ball.

There, we start jamming. Holy shit. I know that when it comes to music I have been blessed with all the talent of a mildly retarded bloodhound, but how someone could reproduce the full screeches and screams of the Pearl Harbor bombardments with just the three basic notes of a blues is something I do not understand. I'm surprised the neighbours didn't come down and lynch us. Hell, I'm surprised my friend didn't just call it quits to sit down and weep. But apparently my castrated attempts at symphonic compositions were enough for him to solo over, so he did not complain.

In the meantime, the Whisky is quickly getting drunk. We're more than halfway down the bottle and I haven't even had dinner except for a couple of chips I scavenged off someone else's plate before the mould got onto them. At a certain point we decide to go and look for another friend of ours so he can share in our celebrations for the end of academic work. We barge into the computer room and almost get arrested for how drunk we are, then we go out and look for him elsewhere. Eventually we get him on the phone and he promises he'll be at my place in no time.

The day that they burn down the restaurant in Rome where I used to go with my flamboyantly constituted rowing team for loser-pays-all eating competitions, this guy I was calling will become the agent responsible for the most food I've ever happened to eat in one night alone. He's an American, and I followed him out, once, with his American clique; we were going to a Chinese restaurant, and we had one of the most delicious and massive meals of the year; everybody else couldn't finish their plate so they dunked their stuff into mine and I concluded theirs as well. We went out drinking after that, and when we got home a few hours later, I met my Portuguese flatmate cooking himself a meal, and he offered me some tortilla. I accepted as a way of being polite, left him, and went back to the American group in their flat. They happened to have some French liquor called Crounjon or something which was based on orange. It smelled like gentle heaven and tasted like flaming hell; the gradation was 40% and I was having it smooth. I downed what was left of that whole bottle, then hit the vodka for a bit, then went back home. As I went, I crossed this Italian girl I knew, and in the hopes of getting a shag, I started chatting. She invites me upstairs and I think, ‘Let’s roll!’, when it turns out she's got her boyfriend over and she was inviting me up to join them for pizza. Holy shit. I’m not hungry at all, but it would really look ill to leave now, and admittedly I could really do with some hot pizza to rid my tongue of the syrupy aftertaste which has been left by the Crounjon. So I accept. I get back down to my flat, and guess what I find - a whole congregation of Indians cooking a collective meal! 'Dude, join us!', they chant in a chorus. 'No, guys,' I tell them, 'I seriously couldn't have another bite.' Then they start getting really offended, one of them starts yacking something in Hindi, one of the girl looks really wounded that I won't stay with them, so I end up accepting. Nan bread and South Indian lentil puree with beans for all. It took me twenty hours to metabolise.

So anyway. This is the American guy I invite over; he's not bringing any food this time, but he is carrying an extra bottle of rum with him, which we open as soon as we finish the Whisky. Around that stage the guy who was really jolly about having finished his dissertation gets a little too jolly and it turns out he can't stand up when we go out for a smoke. This guy is like over two metres tall so that when he crumples down on me I end up going down with him onto the ash-tray next to the college door. Inside that ash-tray, it has rained, and the massive puddle of yellow water with ash floating on it is thereby dislodged and tidal-waved towards us – most particularly, towards me. I scream like a calf and leap out of the way, puma-style. My friend has an intervention by a squadron of guardian angels and doesn't get soaked in the stuff, so we lift him and carry him back to his room. We leave him with his bin next to his bed and his hand in it in case he wakes up and finds he needs to throw.

I do feel very manly when I walk other people back home.

Then there's me and the American guy. And the rum. There's still quite a bit to go of that, so we go back to my place and we start drinking it. En passant, I give a call to my Indian flatmate, who is always up for doing stuff. He comes into my room. As the swigging goes on, we decide to go for a smoke.

'Oh,' yelps the American, 'do you mind if I roll? I haven't rolled in years.'

'Yeah, no problem,' I tell him.

I wish I fucking hadn't. I thought I was bad with the guitar, but what this guy does with the tobacco surely ranks among the natural disasters. I swear to God by the time he even begins rolling, he has already spread a carpet of tobacco over my desk the circumference of which is broader than the length of his outspread arms. There is no way in physics he could have dropped the tobacco over such a half-stadium of an area if not with purpose. I'll admit he was smash-drunk as well as inexperienced, but hell. After twenty-five minutes he still hasn't even managed to close it.

We left the cadaver of his cigarette on the table, rolled a couple of other ones (properly), downed the last shot of rum, and stood up.

And suddenly, the world is spinning.

I sort of understand why the tall guy fell down earlier on. I understand even why leaves fall from trees in autumn. All of a sudden I notice a distinct malaise in my stomach, which appears to be spreading towards the other organs. Fortunately I'm highly resilient when it comes to throwing up (with some exceptions - I did wake up once to find that the shower-tent of that room's same bathroom was encrusted with dried vomit, but to date I have no recollection of how on earth that had happened, so it might even have been someone else’s for all I know).

We walk outside, smoke and decide to go to bed on account of the end of the booze. I wonder if the guy can make it back to his college on his own, so maybe I should walk him; then I remember he wasn't here for the gin and the Whisky part, and decide that he can find his room on his own.

I stagger back to mine, and fall asleep.

The only real reward in the next day's wake up, gargantuan hangover aside, is that my table was so iconic that I swear I would have taken a picture of it if I only had a camera. Three empty bottles of liquor in an almost perfect triangle surrounding the remains of some broken cigarettes and a dust-storm of tobacco evenly spread over papers and papers of hand-written poetry alongside books, pens and my (ancient) laptop.

Aesthetics of chaos. And witnessed when dying of a hangover, which I had to get rid of soon because I was going to go out for real that same night. As beautiful as it gets.

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