He wasn’t sure that he’d been dreaming at all; he could only vaguely recall muffled voices. But his alarm started sawing into his ears, and he was defibrillated back into his own mind. He didn’t remember going to bed. For about half a second he couldn’t remember anything at all- where he was, what time it was, what he was doing here; for an even shorter while (a stuttering and confused blink) he was slightly unsure even of whom he was. In the next instance, this data fizzed back into memory: I am Howard; I am in my underpants, in bed, in my apartment, which is in Iowa; it is Sunday morning; I have to work this morning; I’m still pretty fucked up.
He was very drunk, he could tell. The periphery of his vision blurred in and out of focus, a lens becoming smudged then clean, with each surge of his pulse. He felt his forehead stretching upwards from his skull, which, he half-imagined, was rattling around his brain, battering and bruising it. As he sat up, it seemed as though his vision adjusted to his body half a second too late: horrid nausea. He brought his knees to his chest and lay his head down for a moment to stay the urge to vomit even though he knew it didn’t matter: he was clearly going to puke a lot today.
He leaned back on his arms and looked to his alarm clock, still making that disgusting dead-cat chime: 7:47. He wondered briefly why setting alarms for times like 8:02 or 7:24 felt better to him than on the hour, but he knew there was no clear answer. Thinking too hard made him feel that his oscillating skull was being whipped into a paste. And, anyway, the only thing to think about was getting to work.
He stood up and noticed a dull searing in his right foot. He’d fucked shit up last night big time (as Wes would say), probably kicked a door or something: actually, he probably just tripped up the stairs to his apartment. The washroom light was still on, a pale lighthouse in the hall, and in his semi-conscious stupor he felt the lighting in there would be superior for investigating foot injuries. His bedroom was covered in clothes, books, and paper, his demented and silly writings crackling under his limped and drunken shuffle. He left the alarm babbling to itself.
He looked down in the washroom doorway and examined his feet: right foot very fucked up: middle toe colored like a rotten plumb and bloodied, the nail cracked: couldn’t move it for the pain and because it had stiffened up as though in a splint. He raised his gaze towards the toilet; he had already puked, it seemed. Long streams of a frothy orange had streaked and dried down the side of the bowl, little chunks of what he had to assume were tomatoes speckled among the filth; the seat was similarly dirtied. Crumpled streamers of toilet paper hung from the lip of the wastebasket like the mangled limbs of strangled animals. A haze wafted up his nose, pushed by the washroom fan in clunky gusts, as though it were attempting to hold its breath: bonk and piss.
He looked to the mirror on his right and saw his slobbering, bedraggled mushy form leering back at him. His hair burst out from his head in uneven clumps, a botched attempt at pigtails with glue, perhaps; his straggly beard had little bits of the same orange gunk around his chin. It was definitely his bonk, then. His bare upper body looked haggard, chest hair resembling to him soot and ash, his skin uneven on his frame, like a shirt that doesn’t seem to fit quite right. Poking in his belly button yielded magenta coloured lint.
“Jesus,” he slurred to his reflection, “look at you, huh? Look at you: eyes all raw and bleary: weeping in front of your friends again, I suppose. Fucking hell”. A burp followed.
He splashed hot water into his face, cursed, then batted himself with an orange hand towel. This was the surest sign to him that he was still fairly intoxicated: he and Wesley and Allen had developed certain irrational beliefs while drunk, one of the more foolish being that dousing their faces with warm water would have some affect of sobriety. Of course, being drunk enough to think that usually entails a certain lack of coordination, warm water more often than not becoming scalding water, making them look decidedly un-sober, three lobsters fresh from a boiling bisque.
The alarm continued to harry him; it would do so all day if he left it. But it was correct in being so insistent: 7:57; he had to open the store at 8: no time to pause and feel lowly- move on. He lurched back into his room and silenced it. Yes, just get the fuck out of here and get to work.
He had done this before, was all but without the crushing and all encapsulating dread of the first few times an evening had gotten away from him and stayed with him into the next day. Besides being downtown at the Deadwood, drinking whiskey with Jenny and Allen, he had no memories at all of the evening: he had no idea how he’d gotten home. But he trusted himself to have been responsible, even if he blacked out, so as he stumbled into his living room, loafing through without a glance or a thought, past his rumpled up clothes from the night before, past a pyramid of glasses in his sink, past the grey and tattered chair where Wesley used to pass out, and past the old blue, lumpy couch where, for a brief and lovely time, he and Jenny would spend nights laying together, entwined in arms and kisses and imaging their future lives, he remained grittily calm and was rewarded for it by finding his work clothes in a lump by the door, atop which rested his wallet, keys, and phone: never worry, never panic. After taking a moment to fight off more horrid nausea brought on by bending over to tie his shoes, he flung open the door and shambled into the damp and murky world outside.