I Don’t Remember the Countdown, I’m Puking My Guts Up, and I’ve Done This Before
Because I cannot bear the thought of spending New Year’s alone, I get in a car with a friend and two others I’ve never met before. One of the strangers is driving.
We’re travelling to the other side of Melbourne, an hour and a half away, to a suburb I’ve never been to before, to a house party hosted by someone I’ve never met. I’m drinking rum and pineapple juice in the car in a red solo cup. The girl beside me is drinking wine. Everyone (except the driver, of course) drinks before we arrive.
The exposed countryside is dry, scratchy, yellow, going on and on. It’s summer. Sheep, shorn not long ago, find what little shade they can, and cows lounge around the dams. It’s a stark reminder of the reality of my country right now. The sky in the distance is hazy, smoky. I have another drink.
We’re chatting, laughing, singing. They’re singing. I don’t know the lyrics to K-Pop songs. It’s nice. I’m falling into a persona, one of many. It’s easier to play a part around strangers. My friend doesn’t notice. Maybe it’s easier to play a part around friends too. They’re making inside jokes. They laugh. I smile. I have another drink.
We by-pass the city as best we can, but cars roam everywhere. I said we should have left earlier, but it’s not my party, it’s not my car. We watch the sun sink over the skyline, red and pink and orange. It’s blinding. It’s gorgeous. It’s hollow. I have another drink.
“Your destination is on the right.” Thanks, Siri, Google, whoever, whatever.
It’s past 9:30 pm. We pull up on the curb on a house similar to every other. Brick, with low maintenance gardens and a concrete path to the front door. Suburbia all around. A girl covered in glitter greets us. Must be the host. She has the same name as my grandfather. Leading us through the garage to the backyard, she directs us to store our drinks in a bathtub full of ice, in the centre of the yard. There’s a handful of people here for a party that started two-and-a-bit hours ago. They’re playing a game. It’s a mobile drinking app, each person has to do or say something and then drink. God, technology’s come so far. They’ve added their own rules: you can’t say drink or fuck, or else you have to drink more. I have so many drinks. Oh sorry, beverages! There’s another gulp.
I’m laughing and smiling and meaning it. I’m drinking and chatting and loving it. My words feel heavy in my mouth and my body is dissolving but we’re playing spin the bottle and I’m kissing so many people. Who even plays spin the bottle? Why have I Frenched more people tonight than in the whole year prior? Those guys are brothers? Whelp, I pashed both.
I stagger to the bathroom, off the deck and around the corner, inside the laundry and out of the way. Everything slumps in drunk bathrooms. You feel it, once you’re alone. You feel the clouds and the weights, and your arms cut loose. You can’t stop touching the walls, the floor, your hair, your face, your legs.
I rock forward to grab the toilet paper and I realise I missed. I’m a 21-year-old cis-woman and I missed the toilet. I’m sitting on the damn bowl and I missed!! How? I sprayed a puddle on the floor in front of me like a toddler. With drunken hands, I mop up my urine with the paper, grabbing more ‘til it’s gone. It’s unsanitary but I can’t reveal myself yet. I giggle as I leave, chatting to those waiting while I scrub my hands.
I trip on the step and fall onto the couch. There’s a guy who makes me uncomfortable, but I don’t know how to articulate it, so I ignore it. I’m with friends, I’ll be fine. Except, kissing doesn’t equal friends, and I still don’t know some people’s names.
“Shame there’s no clothesline. Anyone wants some goon?”
Of course! Why on earth wouldn’t I want cheap wine? It tastes alright, I think. We play and talk and kiss and I can’t see. I need some fresh air. We’re outside and I need some fresh air.
If I claimed to remember how I got on the couch in the garage that’s open to the street, I’d be lying. If I turn my head, I can see streetlights, and no doubt, they can see me. I don’t know how long I’ve been laying here. I’m fine. Need to rest is all. Someone’s talking to me now.
“I’ve drunk too much, I’ll be fine.”
She says something again. We laugh. We laugh and I’m hurling on the rug. It’s vicious. Violent. Vomit. I can’t hide myself now.
Oh, everyone’s so helpful, but I’m so far from helpable. I’m out in the garden now, and can heave and heave and ho. I’m laying with my face on garden pebbles and I can’t help but think, haven’t I done this before? Specifically, on New Year’s. ‘Cause time might be a manufactured construct but my head isn’t, and this feels like an end I don’t want. A start I can’t face.
I can’t stop apologising. I’m mumbling sorry like drool. They swear it’s fine. They promise. I believe them as much as I believe the toilet floor is clean right now. They put me to bed somewhere with a bucket and a bottle of water and it’s fine.
Three times in four years I’ve missed the NYE countdown. It’s the only occasion that’s made me blackout, one of the few time spewing hasn’t been my choice. Why is drinking to excess becoming a tradition? I’m not the only one. So why? Why do we drink so much at all? Is smearing our memories for a few hours, a few hours where we dissociate from our lives, so necessary that we just roll with it?
I wake with vomit in my hair and under my nails and I wonder, what year is it this time?
Cover by Gemma Clarke