Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It’s been 21 years since I last barfed

Picture it: Cedar Rapids. 1991.

I’d finished college and moved home with my parents that December and immediately got involved (natch) in the local theater community. By April I’d already done two shows (a theater revue called Follies and my first fabulous experience in A Chorus Line) and I was in rehearsals for an original musical based on the Madeline children’s books.

April 18 was our tech rehearsal. It was also my birthday. We finished teching the show that afternoon and the cast was noshing on a few snacks when one of the girls in the show hurled. Massively.

I was nearby, so I helped clean it up. No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong. My woeful ignorance of sports and their metaphors came back that night to punch me in the gut.

I threw a birthday party for myself that night at my folks’ house (where, you remember, I was living). I invited a ton of people I’d recently become friends with in my three shows, though I technically barely knew any of them. Granted, I’d seen many of them in their underwear backstage and I’d touched a couple of their boobs in the context of being dance partners, but any friend history we had went back less than four months.


The guests arrived. The party started. The presents were opened. The cake was cut.

And suddenly I didn’t feel good. I really, really, really didn’t feel good.

I ran upstairs to the bathroom and threw up so violently my toes were pulled inside out. And I didn’t stop. Whatever was in me that wanted out so bad was making sure it exited with high drama. And a full orchestra. And pyrotechnics. And a profound death wish deep in my soul.

I went downstairs to find my mom (because moms always know what to do in these situations) and once I told her what was wrong I had to run back upstairs and hurl again. And again.

As you may know, hurling is no fun. And hurling this violently can quite literally be the worst moments of your life. Especially on your birthday. Especially as your birthday party – filled with people you’re only just starting to know and your folks totally don’t know – dances on without you in your parents’ living room.

Finally empty, I crawled gingerly into bed … with a path of old towels between me and the toilet in case my inner demon reared its ugly head again in the night. And at some point the guests – apparently oblivious to my absence – packed up and left.

And before I drifted off I vowed I’d never throw up again.

And so far I haven’t. For 21 years. I haven’t even come close, in fact. So happy birthday to me.


EmilieGlynKaplan said...

I hope it wasn't me that barfed and you had to clean it up! I know I was, like, 10 years old at the time but I have such fond memories of you and all of our other cast members. I can't imagine what it must have been like to put up with a gaggle of 12 pre-adolescent girls:) Happy Birthday, Jake - I wish you your best year yet!
Love, Madeline

Jake said...

I'm pretty sure it wasn't you, Emilie. But little girls tend to look the same after awhile when they travel in a pack. I don't remember having to "put up" with any of you, though. I seem to recall you were all very sweet and professional about being in the show.

Java said...

Happy Birthday Jake! Glad to see some new posts.

Unknown said...

Bappy hirthday, Jake.

Anonymous said...

And let's not forget the 21st anniversary + 2 days anniversary of the last time you barfed. It's just as important a milestone and yet sadly, is so likely to be overlooked. Plus, happy belated birthday.


TED said...

Your not puking is old enough to drink now. Many happy returns.

James Greenlee said...

Lucky you! I had an unfortunate New Year's 2000, where I had moderate booze and zero food. Moderate--really, I still believe that--but enough to make me violently ill. Violently. Out of scale, supernaturally ill. My (still) husband laid with me on the floor of a friend's bathroom all night. I still haven't lived it down. But my partying escapdes have been few and far between since then. I may have thrown up three times since then, and only one due to over-imbibement. Even that one was goosed by being a passenger in a new standard transmission driver's car.

I'd be happy never to puke again. And I hope you never get there either.

rab marlow said...

18 April. Anniversary of your birth. Anniversary of your illness. Anniversary of my coming out to my (then) wife. These days, these stories, these turns again of the great wheel of the year . . . they leave their mark on our little lives. We do well to remember them.