Hangover Days

Even hangovers were fun with you.

I haven't had much to drink since you left us. For one, drinking is celebratory. I feel as though I have very little to celebrate these days. The love of my life is no longer in this world, and there's nothing to celebrate in that. Secondly, drinking can be numbing, which I'm trying to avoid.

I never knew pain before you died, Ted. I've been under the knife for two back surgeries, I've lost ailing grandparents, I've had dogs run get hit in traffic, and I've had my heart squashed a few times – but those pains don't even approach the tail winds of this pain. I feel like I need an entirely different word than 'pain' to distinguish this from anything else.

It's been my course of action to feel everything, without numbing – and maybe eventually heal through actually feeling every drop of this wretched pain. Because the pain will be so intense that there's no deeper wound possible, and healing is the only option. Perhaps that's slightly self-harming, but perhaps I feel like I need to harm myself a bit. I mean, I was right there as you took your last breaths and I did not succeed at bringing you back. I did not save your life. I know I did everything I could, but it was not enough. You died, on my watch. So yes, maybe I feel like I need a big, bloody slab of self inflicted pain on top of this heart shattering devastation to remind myself of the most grievous failure any human could ever participate in.

So self-deprecating and preaching aside, yesterday I got drunk.

After attending the Warren Miller ski movie premiere with some members of my support squad, one beer turned into four and the liquid numbing agent dulled the pain for a few hours. I still ached the entire time without much relief, but I do remember at one point I actually laughed at a joke. A real laugh. The sound of my own laughter gave me chills and a dagger-like pain in the chest. But there was a laugh.

I woke up this morning, my body reeling from the depressant I'd poisoned it with. I couldn't get out of bed for two hours. It wasn't a bad hangover, in fact, if you were here I probably wouldn't even notice its presence. But alone, things are much harder.

When you and I had a hangover we would lay in bed until ten a.m. or so. Whichever one of us slept later would be awoken by a grumbly nuzzle from whomever awoke first. We would snuggle. We were fantastic at snuggling. If there were a gold medal for snuggling, we would be on the podium, hand-in-hand, gold medals shimmering around our necks. I would imagine intertwining every limb of my body in yours, like a double knot. We'd stay there, in our twist-tie of limbs, love, and morning breath. We'd chat about the fun we'd had the night before. Because we always had fun and we always fell asleep happy. Therefore, even with the cloud of a hangover, we still woke up happy. Foggy, but genuinely happy.

We would stay in our pajamas all day on hangover day. You would make us breakfast while I dramatically allowed you to wait on me. I would sprawl across the wood floor and moan about being in a hurt box. You would pop vitamins, make us fresh juice, fry bacon, and tell me about the most recent nutritional hangover cure you'd read about. I'd moan for coffee. You would make it, pour in the perfect amount of almond milk, and bring it to me in my favorite over-sized mug, setting it next to my face on the floor. You would bend down and give me a kiss and I would say, "Oh! That made my headache a bit better. Can I have another one?" You would kiss me again, "Gladly," you'd say.

We'd retire to the couch, where we would intend to stay all day. Hangover days were permission to put the real world aside. We'd switch on the Netflix or stolen HBO Go and catch up on the shows we liked, but rarely watched – The New Girl, The Mindy Project, Modern Family, Trophy Wife, or Hung. You'd man the remote, because I never really got a grasp on how it worked. "Just press all the buttons until you get the desired results," you'd joke about my remote-control tactics. I'd fall asleep a couple episodes in, my head in your lap. When I would wake up an hour or so later, I would hear The Simpsons or American Dad on in the background. You would watch cartoons when I slept because you knew they weren't my favorite. We'd watch the rest of the animated episode and you'd be stoked when you heard me laugh. "See! Cartoons are good," you'd convince me.

After a couple hours of guilty pleasures, we'd each take some time to accomplish something. You would bring your gear in from your last show and set up your drums. I would attend to emails and get ahead on the upcoming week's designs for the magazine. Within an hour or so, though, we would be back in the den on the couch, tying our bodies into a pretzel, once again. You'd switch on the Wii and we'd play Super Mario. Your Mario would race through world after world while my Luigi stumbled along behind you, falling in holes twenty times per level. You would take my controller and go win me a few dozen lives and then hand it back over for me to lose them all again within ten minutes. Our Nintendo games were immortal.

I would get frustrated and my thumbs would start to hurt from my exaggerated button pressing so we would stop playing. You would be hungry and we would pull up the menu for sushi delivery. There was no question about food. It was always sushi. Friends have questioned our love for sushi during a hangover, but sushi it was, every time. We had a system: you choose the sushi, I called to place the order, you would pay, I would answer the door, and you would hold the dog back. We would always order too much food and have sushi for breakfast the next day. You would plate dinner while I made us whiskey sours with organic maple syrup and lemons from our tree. We would feast.

We would watch some more TV during dinner. We didn't watch much TV in general, so hangover days (along with airplane rides) were a special treat. We generally chose comedies because we both preferred laughing to crying. But neither of us were afraid to cry. In fact, most likely at some point throughout our hangover day, we would both cry over a bittersweet video on social media. We'd kiss and our tears would merge as our faces touched.

Fat, happy, and minds abuzz with media overload, we would put our dishes in the sink and leave them for the next day. We'd head back to the den and boot the Wii back up. We'd play a few rounds of post-dinner Just Dance 3. We'd laugh and say it counted as a workout. You would win every time. I would scoff and say, "How is that possible? We both know I'm a fantastic dancer!" Then, I'd blame it on my controller. We'd swap controllers and you would win again. A not-very-sore-loser, I'd grin and decide I was over it. We'd strip down and get in the hot tub for a pre-bedtime soak. We'd finish our martinis as the bubbles surrounded us and the water massaged our lazy bodies. You'd turn off the jets, knowing that we both preferred the silence and stillness. We'd sit next to each other and laugh at jokes and replay stories. We'd chat about our upcoming week and we'd plan our beautiful lives together.

Fresh out of the hot tub, we'd head up to bed. I would splash water on my face and brush my teeth quicker than my electric toothbrush recommended. Still soaked in chlorine and too tired to care, I'd slide into a negligee and prance into bed, excited for you to join me. Most likely, I would usually be asleep by the time you finished your diligent hygiene routine: shower, towel-off, 2-minute toothbrushing session, floss, mouth rinse, fold clothes you'd worn, pee, drink water, and put on fresh pjs. You'd arrive in the bedroom and close the blinds, but when you got to the last one you'd gently wake me up and say, "Babe, what are you grateful for?" I'd half open my eyes and mumble "Your love. You?" "That's a good one, I'm grateful for your love too. And also for lazy days," you'd say. You'd climb in bed beside me, I would snuggle close to you, and murmur "mmhmm" from my slumber. We'd fade off together, happy.

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