THE HANGOVER

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Fragment from my volume: The Door and other extraordinary stories

I wake up with a bitter hangover-like taste, my head is heavy and I don’t know after how long, since high school, I haven’t had such a lapse; “I blacked out”, as they say, last night, with a little gleam of shame, I must admit, because I can only remember the first part of the evening. Or maybe I should be happy; does it mean I am still young?

The guests started to arrive around seven. I had already tasted two glasses of plum brandy, the first to check it out, and the second to make sure it was really that good. I was difficult to convince everybody to have this surprise party for Mihai, in fact, I wanted it to secretly be my party, the last one as a bachelor. It was difficult to convince Clara not to come, that it was not a real party, with music and dance, but more like a men’s gathering, where there will be a lot of drinking, smoking a lot of cigars and tobacco pipes, discussions about Philosophy and Literature: shortly, besides the fact that she would be the only woman, she would get bored first and, eventually, upset. Therefore, she should choose. However she was not convinced, so I had to raise the stake: it is not long until our engagement party, where you will be the number one attraction! Where not only will you entire family come, all women, but most of all Michaela. Alright, alright, but if I find out there were women, or that you brought strippers like in prom movies… Eh, women, come on, I told you. Don’t worry.

Now it was almost seven and it was only me and Mihai. I, the main planner, warned him, it was going to be tough, to carry this cross all the way. He shook his head, I don’t know, not even now, if he had an approval or not, what is sure is that he also liked the two years old plum brandy, from ’90, the year of all beginnings for us. Not only the first year of freedom, but for us, especially, the year when we graduated college and started to live in the present, to stand on our own legs and to rely on our own strength. At seven o’clock sharp, obsessed with punctuality, entered Ghiţă immediately followed by Stancu and Marin. The hall we rented could easily fit 50 persons, without them being crowded, but since we were going to be less and our party was, most likely a symposium, we arranged the armchairs and couches around some tables loaded with bottles. There was some music, however, but it was Bach, for now. We didn’t want to be different from others, but we did not want to be like them either. If Cristian would have entered, the faculty’s Don Juan, I think he would have laughed at us for months. He could not conceive a meeting without women, beautiful, desirous, conquerable, of course, by him. That is why he was not invited; too much frivolity could ruin our plans. Immediately, the other four arrived as well, Ioan, also known as Nelu or Jonny, Dorin, Dan and Carol. So there were all nine of us. The party could start.

I cannot remember the beginning very clearly, I say to myself as I wash my face with cold water. Oh, but you are so heavy this morning, I say in my mind. I put some water into the kettle, after I wash it well, the coffee grounds which remained from yesterday morning got hard as hell; a strong coffee, no sugar, can be the answer. It is good that I wasn’t sick; I wasn’t since I ate all the cherries after my parents put the cherry brandy from the demijohn into bottles. So sick that until college I no longer touched alcohol and, not even then, and never sweet alcoholic drinks. I would rather have a plum brandy, beer or wine, but not liqueurs or something similar.

Let’s sit down, I told the guys. I presented them the bar; everybody serves himself when he pleases, with as much as he pleases! That was how we all did. We talked until morning about everything, about time, in Aristotle, in Zenon’s aporia, in Einstein’s theories, about the bi-, tri- or four-dimensional space. We each had a personal opinion, which the others tried to expose to difficult probes. If it would pass, we would write it down on paper. Even on the new laptop that Mihai had recently received, of which he was so proud; I envy him. This taste lingers in my mouth, although the bitterness of coffee should replace it. It is an indistinguishable taste, I don’t remember ever having it before, no matter what had happened the night before, drinking or love.

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