I was browsing the small book store in Penn Station in New York City while waiting for my evening train to take me to my home to Long Island. I perused the David Foster Wallace book I have never been able to get past the first 50 pages of-Infinite Jest. A family friend, 10 years my senior, tactfully ducked his head and turned the corner to evade eye contact. My stomach dropped and swirled in that familiar feeling of dread. The humiliating memory of our last encounter came flooding back into my mind. I recalled talking to him at a high school alumni event a few years ago when we were on better terms.
That night, I came to in a living room with a white rug and flower patterned curtains. I was perplexed as to how I got from the bar to here. A girl was sitting next to me on the couch. We kissed briefly. The next waking moment I was sitting on their front staircase, her two brothers standing there, 5 and 10 years older than me, one was a teammate of my brother and the other had taken my sister to high school prom 15 years ago. They were deliberating about what to do with me. I observed them and undaunted, tied my shoelaces with care and attention to detail. The next moment of conscious awareness I was standing on their front steps. I rang the doorbell ten times and ran as fast as I could, at around 5 am. The reasoned logic going no further than the thrill of revenge.
Each hiccup of consciousness was detached from the one before, not being enough time to orient myself in the timeline of events and undertake any sane evaluation of my actions. I was a train with a conductor manning the controls only sporadically, the navigation left on cruise control in the interim. During the auto-pilot stints, the slurring of words and aggression were on display. What I thought was an unfiltered version of my personality, was really just pure id.
Upon recounting these black-outs in the morning after, I was impressed by the autonomy of the human brain and its independence as a functional entity. My motor function and rote memory were still largely intact during conversations that would be re-told to me in many mornings after. I would walk or run home from the bar a mile from my house and have no recollection of getting home, waking up with vomit all over me and my sheets. I would lie in bed all day, not able to even swallow water without throwing it back up, writhing with a headache in bed all day.
I was excited by the prospect of turning into something new in a night of drinking, although this new person was highly volatile and had zero control. This embarrassing memory is easily accessible every time I consider going out drinking with friends. I can cue that reel of shame to keep myself away from the drink. The problem is when the reels don’t stop and play on indefinitely, and I am paralyzed by self-centered fear.
10 am- Just walked 3 and a half hours before I found decent place to eat this morning. No bars are open until 8:30 or 9 am. I was irritable and hangry (Hungry/angry), but calmed for the last half of the walk. I can see how fasting can lead to higher spiritual states, by letting go of earthly attachments and animal desires.
I devoured a hearty Spanish breakfast of a bread pastry, doritos, nuts, and two cafe con leches. Met a guy named Johnny last night and we went for a drink. He a quiet confidence under his easygoing, upbeat demeanor, though a bit reticent. He was an aspiring doctor who wants to join the peace corps and sees the value in a service-oriented life. He had gone to Peru for 2 months with an ex-girlfriend to volunteer. I am coming to relish the close quarters of 50 people sleeping together more than I resent the snorers. I have to use my small quick-dry fabric towel as a blanket and it’s not so bad for all the intangibles I am gaining on this trip. As much as I want to call this desert bumblefuck, with no humans or civilization around. I keep thinking of what the tan British girl told me yesterday, it all flows, just get up and keep walking/exploring/interacting. The people I have met here think unconventionally, they want to go off the beaten path. These are the people I want to surround myself with.
10 pm-Brutal day mentally and physically. Finally caught the up with the Danes, Peter and Anders, they had surged ahead of me in the last few days, propelled on by a steady flow of ibuprofen in the bloodstream. I chugged 2 Aqua’s when I arrived at the hostel, and devoured 2 Kit-Kats and 2 corn muffins. Being united by our love of fitness, we had a makeshift workout on a local playground swing set. push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups.
I felt sufficiently exhausted, sitting in the cold pool at this hostel after that last 6 km with no water in the blistering heat. A scantily clad Italian couple is laid out on the grass canoodling. Anders flirted with the two Danish girls swimming, which I couldn’t understand, while we relaxed in the pool. A loud group of French 20-somethings sat around a table carousing and drinking beer. We went to dinner with a kid from Liverpool named Alex who was unfailingly polite. His accent had a typical spike in pitch at the end of every sentence, typical of all British accents, but his seemed to say “Right, man?” as if we were reaching a friendly consensus about every statement he made. Before climbing into the top bunk that night, I looked at the moon, it was prominent and hung low in the sky, illuminating the wheat fields.