I’m wrenched awake by a gut-churning headache. I’m in a tent somewhere in the mountains, long before dawn, far from home. I fumble around in my backpack for my ‘Vitamin I’ (Ibuprofen) and realize that I’m all out. Oh, shit.
I force my agony-fogged brain to calculate.
Continuing the hike as planned goes in the ‘ha ha’ basket. Once I get a headache like this I need drugs or I’m out of action for days. For this reason and many others I would never have survived in the pre-industrial era.
I can drive into the nearest town pretty easily. Problem is, it’s 4am. Pharmacies won’t open until 10. I could get home by then, take the drugs there, then sleep in my own bed.
Can I get home? Physically, can I drive that far in this condition?
Maybe not, but it looks like the best of a bad set of options. My study of the Stoics shall be tested. I cannot control painful events, but I can choose how to react to them. On this occasion I choose to react by spitting obscene language and by furiously kicking objects that get in my way.
Bending down is a really bad thing for headaches. Probably that’s what extraordinary rendition camps do to suspected terrorists. Induce a headache then scatter a bunch of irresistible goat porn on the cell floor. You know what else really requires a lot of bending down? Packing up a tent. My condition worsens until I become nauseous. Oh, it’s nothing, I tell myself. I can take it. I haven’t eaten anything in hours anyway, there’s nothing there to come up. It’ll go away. Then I violently throw up water and mucous for the next half hour. Oh, and then it rains. Of course it rains. All my stuff gets wet. In between stomach contractions I have time to note: this day is off to an inauspicious start.
Somehow, after an hour, I am packed. Google Maps says the drive home will take three hours. I double this projection as I’m on a scooter. Off I go. The cold wind against my face wakes me. Maybe I’m going to pull this off.
I ride down, down the mountain roads, getting lost and chased by stray dogs several times. Down, down, through the villages and towns. Past lakes and over wide, smooth-stoned rivers. Through endless strawberry fields. I think: fucking strawberries. Fucking rivers. Fucking lakes.
My arse aches like I’m a teenager in Pentridge. As though by magic, I pass not a single open pharmacy. The one thought that keeps me going is that soon enough I will be in my own bed, drugged and able to sleep for whatever is left of the day. Soon, I think. Soon.
But it is not soon. I get lost. I take a wrong turn and end up in a gigantic maze of mushroom sheds. I know I must turn right but there IS no road that goes right. Can’t get there from here. I finally find a right and the road almost immediately stops in a T-intersection. This is impossible. The oil light comes on. The rains has stopped and the sun pounds on my helmet.
Through a muddled haze of heat-enhanced pain, I check the map again. I stop and recheck after every turn. The few kilometers through the mushrooms take a good half hour.
The moment arrives: I recognise the road. It stretches longer than it was before but it goes straight and true. The traffic is monstrous. The air polluted. Beeping horns echo around my skull like it’s a squash court and the obnoxious businessmen players in their lunch break shorts have decided to try using a billiard ball today.
I turn onto my street. Impossibly, my own apartment rises in front of me like the waters before Moses. It has taken seven and a half hours.
The elevator, in suffering and confusion.
The drugs? The drugs?
I find them.
The bed. My bed.
I awake in the evening in a befuddled but somewhat improved condition. Now that the immediate pain from the headache has eased I notice that my tonsils are inflamed and that I have some sort of infection in my mouth that makes chewing painful. I’m in pretty terrible shape. Thank god I can rest. I consume a little leftover camping food and collapse back into bed. I play with my phone for a moment as I set my alarm for the following day, wondering if I’ll be well enough to get up by then. I still can’t believe I’ve managed to make it home, and that the endless ordeal is over.
Oh, a Tinder message. Her profile says she wants to get married, be a housewife and look after a husband and children. ‘If you are just want the hookup type swipe left’. She’s way over on the other side of town. She wants to meet. Tinder girls never want to meet. I say, tomorrow? She says, I’m leaving town tomorrow.
Ha, if only she knew. Women aren’t used to being turned down but this one’s just going to have to be disappointed. I tell her, I just got back from camping. About to go to bed.
She says, you can come to my hotel. It’s a long way so you can stay overnight if you want, but no sex.
What a joke, I think. What perfect timing. It’s absurd. It’s ludicrous.
I message back:
‘I’ll be there in 30 minutes’.
I take more drugs, drink some coffee. Get back on the scooter. Oh, the oil light. I’d forgotten. My arse still hurts. Off I go.
Now, I am not as stupid as I look. I know that these situations require a plan B and a plan C because women are highly flaky. Plan B: If she changes her mind and doesn’t let me in, or kicks me out, I’ll go shopping near the hotel because planned to buy shoes there anyway. Plan C: I also bring a book just in case the evening is uneventful.
Never be without a book.
She says, come up. I’m too lazy to go down. I go up. She opens the door. I’m ready to jump back in case eight burly yakuza bastards try to grab me. She should be poised to slam the door in my face in case I turn out to be a gang of Nigerians or something, but she doesn’t appear nervous at all. For her this is just a day in the life of the modern woman.
She’s in her pajamas. She goes back to bed and invites me in. We lie in bed and introduce ourselves. I fume silently. I wish I could do that – just stay at a hotel in another city, in my pajamas, and play Tinder, pick and choose my consort for the night. She’s okay, but my age, which is old for a woman. I’m pretty fit, not bad looking. I make way more money than most guys in this country. I speak two and a half languages, have traveled to many places, can pretend to be funny and socially adept when required. How come an average woman in her mid-thirties can just summon me in the middle of the night from the other side of the city, on a whim?
But here I am.
Oh well, at least she can’t find a husband. I can get married any time I want.
We chat for a while and she says she’s tired, wants to sleep. I try a kiss and a cuddle but she’s not having it. I say, we don’t have to have sex but I thought we might fool around a bit.
Having been in this situation many times before, I know what to do.
I say, oh, so you just want to be friends. Okay, I’ll go home. She says, you don’t like me? I say, I like you so I’ll sleep better in my own bed. Very nice to meet you, thanks for inviting me. She says, the hotel has breakfast. I say, oh no thanks, I won’t bother you any longer. She says, I find you attractive, just I’m too sleepy. I say, obviously not attractive enough. If Brad Pitt were here you’d wake right up. She pretends not to understand. I say, no problem, it didn’t work out, have a good night and a safe trip home tomorrow. She starts caressing me and telling me how smooth my skin is. And you know the rest.
The moral of the story is: a day that starts in a blinding headache and vomiting high in the mountains will always end in shagging a lonely mid-thirties lady in her hotel room by midnight.
She wanted to stay over at my house the following weekend. I said no. After a long period of abstinence she’d awakened my dormant libido so I’d already reconnected with an ex who has bigger boobs and gives blowjobs. Although these day I know to always check under the covers before I get into her bed.
My other ex also contacted me out of the blue. Angry that I wasn’t meeting her or replying in a timely manner, she claimed she thought there was ‘something wrong with her body condition’ and that she’d had blood tests, and that I should too. For a moment I panicked, then remembered that she’s a rather clumsily manipulative drama queen and that I’d always used frangers anyway.
Does anyone else have a life like mine?
Further reading: What To Do After Sex