by Ben Dickenson Bampton
Oh no – it’s here. I need to vomit. It’s true; it’s really happening. The apocalypse.
Oh wait – it’s passed. And you never throw up, Ben, so that’s all right. It shouldn’t happen. Actually, I know it won’t. Just don’t relax too much.
Was that a lurch from the great monster indoors, or just a burp?
So the internal monologue continued, passing from viewpoint to viewpoint as rapidly as the ever-quickening rumbles of my stomach.
I should set the scene. Here I am in Poland – a land renowned for sausage and cabbage and sugar-stewed meats – and I think a food bug has got me. Why am I even surprised?
Here’s where it gets interesting. We are currently in a steak restaurant – well-respected in the area, I’ve heard, although I’ll let my stomach be the judge of that – and I’m sitting with my girlfriend and her family. Now we get along well, but I have a feeling our relationship might stutter if I were to share the little beauties my insides are so keen to release. Maybe I should stick to conversation rather than anything more far-fetched, literally speaking.
It would be best to pop to the toilet, just in case, I think to myself in the meantime. Oh fuck, look who’s just arrived.
A fat, juicy sirloin smacks itself down in front of me, peppercorn sauce filling my nostrils as bile gets at my throat. It’s not too late to go, my reason chirps up, but the irrational, self-conscious, inlaw-impresser says otherwise. So I stay put. Politeness is at stake (no pun intended).
I’ll pour the sauce over first, nice and deliberately, thoughtfully, even. This ten seconds of bought time might be all I need. I’ll feel right as rain after pouring some peppercorn sauce.
Of course that’ll work you muppet. No change comes over me, but a slightly thicker waft of peppercorn rises from my plate. My nose is really getting it now.
Slowly, I pluck up the courage to take a first bite. I chew carefully and swallow cautiously. Good luck.
As a tray of large tempura prawns are offered round, it’s clear the mouthful isn’t sitting. Moving my tightly clenched lips – anticipating the danger within – I manage to mention that my stomach doesn’t feel too good. It’s amazing anyone understands me. All I hear is a groan.
Worried eyes turn to me across the table.
“What’s the matter, Ben?”
I conjure up some sort of response, mumbling about stomach aches and not feeling great after having that milkshake with bacon at five (I still don’t know what I was thinking). I murmur something about how, lovely as the steak is, I might just have to nip to the toilet.
A huge gargle rises up from the depths, like an fat, ugly bird finally learning how to fly. My cheeks fill. I make awkward eye contact with just about everyone, and realise I’ve left it too late.
Adrenaline kicks up all over my body, threatening to bring bits of milkshake with it, and I dash for the toilets.
An extremely concerned waitress tries to help.
“Is everything all right?”
Through watering eyes and a mouthful of the good stuff, I shake my head. Then the second wave arrives and, along with the first, hurls itself out of my mouth and onto the floor.
I pause. Did that just happen?
That’s right. Not only have I left it late, I’ve not even left enough time for the dash of shame.
Running (or making a sort of bowel-heavy, wounded speed-walk) for the toilets, a third bucket’s worth of vomit plants itself at the feet of a toilet-goer, narrowly missing his loafers. I apologise as much as my rumbling stomach will let me then dash past him into the toilet corridor.
As I run up and down the corridor, pulling door handles way too keenly for the Polish poopers, each and every one is shut. I almost can’t see through my streaming eyes, but at least I can feel how shut each door is. Nice and wooden and shut.
Things just got a lot worse.
Thankfully, my faithful buddy the gut is sticking with me. The spasms come thick and fast now, and soon enough I’ve spattered the corridor with milkshake, Polish sausage and God knows what else. My girlfriend watches on, horrified. At least my buddy didn’t manage to spatter her.
Finally, a woman emerges from a cubicle down the far end, clearly terrified. As I approach, I expect her to raise a cross in protection but instead she leaps out of my way. I am now an official leper.
To my relief – and just in the nick of time, of course – my stomach decides that now is the perfect time to calm down. Yeah, now is the right time to just mellow out. Now that I’ve finally made it to the toilet, now that I’ve chucked my insides about like there’s no tomorrow, there’s no more vomit to be had. Panting, I catch sight of myself in the mirror – it isn’t pretty.
As I struggle to process what’s just happened, I wonder if my girlfriend and her family will ever see me in quite the same light. I wonder whether, if I just lock myself in this cubicle and never come out, then everyone will just forget it ever happened. I wonder whether I can close my eyes and wake up from this beautiful, beautiful dream. The only thing I know – for sure – is that I’m staying well away from bacon.