Right, I've got one hour before I have to leave for my au pair job, let's see if I can fill you in on everything that's happened in the last seven days, I've been up to rather a lot and I can't say I'm very pleased with myself. I was speaking to Georgie on the phone this afternoon and she said she's scared to go out tonight (we were supposed to see Ben U.F.O at Social Club), because she doesn't know what she might do and I feel the same... we've been hedonistic, on the precipice of something but I'm not sure what. It all started last Wednesday...
This really lovely French girl at the resto- let's call her Cleo because it's similar to her real name but her real name is so unique that all my many, many murderous stalkers will be able to find her on Facebook just by searching for her first name- was leaving today to go and stay with her long-distance boyfriend in America for a month. A few weeks ago, back when the weather was sunny and nice, we started hanging out together after work, drinking coffee and speaking in French for an hour or two when I didn't have to be at my au pair job until half six. Anyway, the last couple of weeks Cleo has been working evening shifts and I've had to rush off to my au pair job, but we kept saying we were going to have a night out together before she left for America...
Last Wednesday the plan was for me to meet her at the restaurant at midnight when she finished and then go out for drinks somewhere. I invited Julia as well because I've not seen her for ages and I thought her and Cleo would get on; they're both easy-going and the type of people that will agree to any suggestion with a Gallic shrug and a 'Pourquoi pas?' kind of attitude.
But when I got to the resto, Cleo told me she'd swapped her shift and had to stay until close, which could be as late as 3.30am. I was working in the restaurant the next day at 11.30am, so I wasn't sure if I should really stay out that late, but I'd already made Julia drive all the way to my restaurant from the banlieu, so I decided one drink wouldn't hurt...
There were a few other worker-people drinking in the resto (at night time it's more of a pub really) so we joined them and one drink turned into a lot (not for Julia, who was driving) and then when Cleo finished we somehow reached the decision to carry on drinking back at Julia's flat. SEVEN of us squeezed into Julia's car, the six of who weren't driving were all drinking beer we'd decanted into plastic cups and singing along to Katy B at the tops of our voices.
By the time we got back to Julia's it was about 5am and I felt vaguely panicky, knowing that in five and a half hours I had to be in work. If I'd gone to sleep then, I probably would have been all right- I hadn't even drunk that much by that point- but I couldn't really go to bed after dragging everyone halfway across Paris on the pretext that we were going to carry on drinking and have ourselves a little after-party...
We all ended up getting very fucked, I can't think of a nicer way to say it. One of the girls (who was only twenty I think) started throwing up in the toilets and had to be put to bed. Her two friends got locked outside the building when they went outside for a breath of fresh air. We didn't notice because while they were locked outside, I was making Julia, Cleo and this frightfully posh English boy called Richard who works in the kitchen watch as I improvised a ballet/tap routine to Singing in the Rain. I can't remember exactly, but I'm pretty sure they sat there in Silent Awe the whole time; amazed and dumbfounded that I had kept such a tremendous talent hidden for so long. Either that or they were passed out and not really watching me.
Actually, Cleo wasn't very drunk at all and I felt really bad the next day because I had invited her out for a last chatting/bonding session before she left for America and ended up forcing her to watch me twirl around to Gene Kelly.
When we eventually noticed that two people were missing, I looked out of the window and saw them shivering on the steps, so we let them back in and by this time it was about 8.30am- everybody was ready to go home. I suddenly felt sick with fear- I had to start work in THREE HOURS and I was still very much 'off my tits' as a certain type of person might say (certainly not me). Everyone apart from the girl passed out on the bed decided to get the RER home, but I thought I'd be better off staying over so I could get to sleep straight away and Julia said she'd give me a lift to work in the morning. Well, it was kind of already the morning; outside the sky was powder blue and bright and it drove TERROR into my heart.
I jumped into bed, trying not to think about work, willing myself to fall asleep, but the dreams didn't come. Instead I lay awake for what felt like hours, checking the time every ten minutes, the panic building up inside me until I thought I was going to explode. I couldn't sleep. I had to start work very soon. How the hell would I be able to work? WHY WHY WHY had I stayed up so late, drinking and being a DICKHEAD, instead of going home after a couple of drinks?
Julia's pet rats scratched about in their cage and I lay there listening to them, worrying and feeling sick, having mad conversations with myself in my muddled head.
It was almost a relief when my alarm went off: finally I could stop panicking about going to work and just go and see what happened. Now that work was almost here, I could see the end in sight, finally. I got up straight away and had a freezing cold shower to wake myself up. I didn't feel that bad actually... I couldn't find any light switches so I hunted around in the dark for some water and luckily stumbled across some chocolate as well. Sugar Rush. I paced around, not knowing where to sit down, not knowing what to do with myself. I was waiting for the tiredness to suddenly come like a wave and knock me over into Hangover Hell. I thought if I pottered about and kept my mind off it, I could keep The Terror at bay, at least until work was over. Three hours- just three hours and I could go home and nap. (I didn't have to go to my au pair job that day because all three kids had gone to the country house for a long weekend, I was SO lucky.)
Julia didn't drag herself out of bed until ten past eleven and I felt so bad for making her drive me to work, but I'd left it too late to get the RER. The girl who had stayed over in Julia's flatmate's bed woke up and I tried to chat to her in an attempt to keep my mind off the horrific fact that I was going to work after an all-night bender. It was so random seeing somebody from work in Julia's flat, especially because she's not one of the people I ever really chat to. The whole night was random though. I'm random. I need help.
No, I just need to stop drinking.
I got to work about five minutes late which wasn't too bad, considering. I ate my Staff Meal and drank two coffees and a coke, praying I'd be o.k... But then I put my uniform on and stood behind the bar and I felt dizzy. I felt like I was made of ash; dirty and floating, not seeing anything clearly through my own eyes, clouded and hot.
"I can't do this," I thought with horror, "I can't work, I can't work..."
But somehow, I did work. As the restaurant got busier my mind was filled with drink orders and repetitive tasks... slice lemons, pour a beer, put beer on tray, take beer to customer, look at ticket, make drink on ticket, put drink on tray, take tray to customer...
I got through it. I got through the three hours without any mishaps or mistakes. I felt SO smug that I didn't even go straight home to nap; Julia was at Georgie's flat because Georgie was photographing some of her work for art school application, so I went to join them and we had a nice afternoon, reading each other poetry and drinking tea.
At about 5pm I went home for a much-needed nap and later Georgie came round for tea to celebrate the fact that my room was finally tidy. We spent the evening working on our application to provide an art installation for a storytelling festival in Wales. Unfortunately Georgie can't do the dates anymore, but we were Very Inspired, thinking of ourselves as a photography/storytelling art collaboration. (Maybe I will become one of those people that lives in a yurt and works in 'the narrative description of visual and creative spaces' field?)
I might have got away with it (just), but I knew I'd been a bad, BAD idiot and I vowed to never again put myself through that again. I had learned my lesson. At least I thought I had, but I couldn't imagine then that Wednesday night/morning marked the beginning of six days of insanity. But now I have to go to work so I'll tell you more about that later.