Christmas Morning

When I woke up at dawn on Christmas morning feeling peculiar and spent the next two hours naked on my knees puking my guts out, I was annoyed. It’s one thing to bring that kind of degradation on yourself through a series of dubious choices. But I made good choices, healthy choices. I ate vegetables. I ate a well-balanced late-night snack. I went to bed early after watching an informative documentary film. It was Christmas, for Christ’s sake! Why?

It’s tempting to assume I was poisoned by Santa Claus or perhaps the spirit of the Baby Jesus himself. But I abhor Jews who cry anti-Semitism in this brave new age in which hatred in the West has found other objects and Jews have so kindly been invited to join in all the xenophobic fun. This leaves me with the less inflammatory assumption that some ingredient in my balanced late-night snack gave me food poisoning. It figures. I’ve been to several parts of the world known for inducing digestive distress and emerged completely unscathed. The gods of digestive distress have been lying in wait for me for some time. On Christmas Eve, they followed me to the deli, and then they followed me home. Down the chimneys of the world went the man with the big belly, and up from my own belly came my well-balanced late-night snack, as well as these weird little globs of what I can only assume to be my immortal soul.

It must be said that I am a champion vomiter. Listing ships, turbulent planes, swerving cabs, vigorous dancing, heightened emotion and of course excessive drinking (not to mention any combination of the above) all lead to the immediate and profuse expulsion of dinner from my body. My roommate, who hates vomiting so much that she “just doesn’t do it,” always remarks on the frequency, length and drama of my puking episodes. “They just go on and on,” she says, “and then you look up and say, ‘Am I gonna die?’ and then you collapse in a heap, and sigh, and lose consciousness.” The fact that I sleep–and therefore vomit–in the nude adds a certain pathos to the whole situation, I’d imagine.

Despite my many adventures in reverse peristalsis, I hate and fear nausea and find it far worse than pain. Vomiting, while sometimes a relief from nausea, is both distressing and fascinating to me. Vomiting is a moment when our bodies make clear to us just how little control we have of them. It shows us that we are just passengers on a complicated ship whose crew can enact a mutiny at any time. When the body works we hardly notice it at all.

When my body is working, rather than appreciate the ten thousand things it does every second just so my consciousness can experience a few decades of ecstasy, melancholia, neurosis, despair, bliss, fear, rage and occassional boredom before succumbing to deterioration and toxicity, I simply ask it to do more. “Climb that mountain!” I say to my body. “Bring these chemicals to my brain, break them down, and bind them to the little cells there! Now use the extra chemicals to put on a show! Now clean up the chemicals and throw them away! Wake up! Go to sleep! Have an orgasm! Twist into a funny position at the command of a vegan modern dancer! Jump up and down! Faster! Kill these millions and millions of tiny viruses! Make this quiche into pure energy! Maintain equilibrium despite confusing messages from the peripheral vision! Pick up that small child and turn her upside down without dropping her! Run up those stairs! Get on that train!”

To think that my body does all of these things, and yet at times I’ve been reduced to begging it for mercy. To think that a body has no battery in the back, no slot into which you can stick a coin, release the battery, override the freeze-up and start again.

This is why when it comes to puking, I’ve found there is one thing and one thing only that can bring me comfort and eventual peace. That is to surrender to the experience completely. To make my surrender clear to the gods of digestive distress in general and my innards in specific I yell, “I surrender! I surrender!” in between retchings until the episode subsides.

Christmas morning, the sound of me alternately retching and shouting, “I surrender!” eventually woke up my roommate. Shielding herself from the disgusting reality of my distress, she brought me a glass of water and some towels. I made a little bed out of the towels to lie on between spasms of horrific puking. My roommate went into the next room to read the New Yorker until things quieted down enough to go back to sleep.

The only consolation in my bizarre bout with food poisoning is that it did mar this, the biggest of all national and religious holidays, with the kind of perversion I strive to achieve on every national and religious holiday. As dawn made landfall on the densely populated wealth of the East Coast and children from Maine to Florida were sneaking downstairs to rip the wrapping from their latest consumer orgies and numb themselves into a lombotomized state with toys that would sow the seeds of future eating disorders and violent acts in accordance with the religion that brought us pedophiliac priests, the pro-life movement, the Puritan work ethic and the Madonna-whore complex, I was at least expressing my feelings about this holiday in the most honest, visceral way I could ever hope to–puking my guts out naked before passing out on the bathroom floor.

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