I often use this column to talk about subjects you may find interesting (“Did Diwali eating hurt your thigh gap?”) or important global issues (“Why Shia LeBouef should play ISIS in upcoming movie”) but today I’d like to keep this personal. I want to talk about a dear friend, someone I’ve known for 16 years. He has been with me through my worst days. His name is hangover, and even now, as I struggle to type this, he’s sitting here with me, one hand inside, I mean on, my head.
Hangover and I first met in London when I was sixteen. It was a meet-cute straight out of an Ashton Kutcher movie. I snuck into a bar, got really hammered, and while I don’t remember the details, I woke up in bed with him. After the first few minutes of awkwardness and shame, we decided to get breakfast together like adults, and after a round of eggs, bacon and toast, he got up and walked out of my life. Forever, I thought. But little did I know. Over the next few weeks in London, hangover and I met often. Some days we walked through the park, wondering who turned all the lights up so bright. Other times we just stayed in bed all day as he re-enacted 50 Shades of Grey, but only on my brain.
My parents weren’t happy when they found out, and they insisted I end the relationship immediately. Go out and meet a nice drink or two, but stay away from hangover. I was crushed, and forgot all about him. But when I got back to Mumbai, I saw him everywhere. For a few years we were inseparable. And while we had some good times, I eventually came to realize my parents were right. He was bad news, and I had to break out of this mutually destructive relationship.
And so, with the help of my friends, family and a rebound (I met this really hot buffet at the Taj), I got over hangover, and I moved on. I’ve spent the last few years in the wilderness, discovering who I am without him, finding other ways to define myself, but there’s always been just a little piece of something missing. And then just like that (cue autumn leaves and Lata Mangeshkar yodeling) hangover came back into my life last week.
We ran into each other at a wedding, at the cocktail party. A part of me was terrified when I woke up next to him, but another part of me (definitely not my head) was glad to have him back. And a strange thing happened this time. He didn’t leave after breakfast. He didn’t vanish after a fresh-lime soda. He stayed. We hung out in the pool together, took afternoon naps together, even strolled hand-in-head down the beach. This time, it was different.
I realize now that I was a fool earlier. Hangover wasn’t the one who abandoned me, or disappeared. I was the one who pushed him away. I tried to control him, to tame him, to bring him to his knees. I wanted him to define me, when all he could really do is remind me who I am. As a 16 year-old I couldn’t see that. As a 30 year-old, I do. And so now, when I pick up that Tequila at a bar, I know hangover will be around the next morning, but now he’s here as a friend, not a tempestuous lover. He stays for weeks, and we work out our differences. He keeps me honest, and stops me picking up another glass the second I wake up.
All friends fight, even the best ones. And if I can’t get my way, there’s always another tequila to drown him in.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi