An Illustrated History of Me Not-Vomiting

Posted on March 24, 2014

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I haven’t been sick in so very long. I was sat in Brod, a pub someway down Bulevar Despota Stefana that has an indie-centric musical leaning. Sometimes this works and you hear Pixies. Sometimes it doesn’t work and you hear Jet. Usually it leans towards the not working with Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian or something. I sat upstairs because I wanted to use the toilet and didn’t push the door hard enough for it to open. The inescapable British desperation to always look entirely natural kicked in, and I made as if I preferred to drop my bag and coat upstairs before using the toilet. I’d ordered a beer, despite not really wanting one, and was settling into a Kurt Vonnegut book that I already realised was going to be my least favourite of his so far. ‘Player Piano’, by the way. Me, an ordinary man lit up by the spotlights of a romantic city. I felt sick, acutely aware of how long it has been since I physically vomited.

The last time I was sick was in this city. It was the second, maybe third day of Belgrade Beer Fest 2012. It was the night Eric and I ended up in Tijuana after almost getting backed over by a taxi driver we’d accused of fleecing us. As Beer Fest would imply, we drank a lot of beer and my stomach couldn’t hold it. The toilets felt my bile-centred wrath. Fourteen months have passed since then, vomit-free. Maybe that’s something to celebrate. 

As I sat in Brod, I began to wish I’d been sick. My stomach felt bloated, bloated not with air but with mush. Being the well-trained bum that I am I finished my beer and made my leave. Everything on the street felt like a contradiction. A strong wind was blowing but it was keeping me warm. The lights on the street seemed blindingly bright, punctuated the night-time darkness. I crossed the road, waiting for a green man to appear despite no cars coming in either direction. The British desperation to be polite. A couple, hand-in-hand, were making their way down the street, becoming quickly apparent that either them or I was going to have to make way for the other. They stopped, indicating I was being given right-of-way. I strolled past, let out a quick ‘hvala’ (thank you). They were too busy kissing to notice.

My legs were in control now, dragging a mind around vast streets knowing that if the legs stopped they’d struggle to start again. I haven’t been sick in so long. The mind clicked into reality as the legs continued their march towards Kalemegdan. Ignoring the legs for the moment, the mind had only two wishes in the world; to be entirely anonymous and to have all the attention in the world. To be alone in a crowd. To be surrounded by nothing. To be alone in a mass grave, to quote the song. And to be sick. That was less the mind and more the insistence of the stomach, an insistence that it would be for the long term best to get rid of the last 14 months worth of junk that is plaguing my belly. 

By then, the legs were heaving the conflicting mind and belly through the park. A procession of couples, hand-in-hand. Girls sitting on the laps of boys on benches. The most public displays of affection. Kissing, cuddling. I haven’t been sick in so long. 

The legs stopped at the edge of the fortress. New Belgrade and Zemun, lit up like an exposed circuit board. I’d like to say the Danube and the Sava, two great European rivers colliding at the crossroads of a continent and in the belly of a city, looked as elegant as anything, but the truth is the night hid them. The twinkling lights of a new city, an old city and a middle city were the only thing visible to my four eyes. That and the fireflies, which might just have been ordinary flies lit up by the spotlights of Kalemegdan.

I haven’t been sick in so long.

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