I Was That Naked Guy On I-74 Who Was Covered With His Own Puke (Originally Published in 2008)

It was 11:12 A.M. The sun’s torrid rays impressed its power on the four-man dome tent I was laying in. My brow was moist with perspiration and as I slowly became coherent, I noticed my sweat had soaked into the hooded sweatshirt I had used as a make shift pillow during the night.

In my bag I could hear the faint but audible alarm of my Blackberry. It had been going off since 8:00 that morning but I had failed to act upon it. The events of the night had proven to be too much for my body as I was nothing but a hung over, crippled mess still trying to discern what had exactly happened.

I brought my hand to my face and touched the stubble on my neck and chin. My tongue glazed over my dry, gritty teeth. In the back of my mouth a piece of gum from the night before sat stale and flavorless. I crawled to the front of the tent, unzipped the door and looked outside.

A gentle breeze glanced over the tent and welcomed me to the dawn of a brand new day. I could already see that most of the equipment from yesterday’s party had already been taken down. Indeed the seventh annual gathering for New Life Tattoo’s had been a success. Matt and Joel walked back and forth through the huge backyard, moving objects and picking up trash. On my knees, I spat my gum into my hand and pitched it across the yard, watching it sail into a nearby set of tree branches. I continued to observe, focused on the team cleaning the yard and watched them working diligently like a bunch of crazed bees attacking Macaulay Culkin’s face in My Girl.

I started to crawl around the tent again, making sure I had my mentionables; cell phone, keys, wallet, etc. I ran my hands down my face, scratched my sides and dropped my hands over my ankles in an attempt to stretch my back. As my right hand grazed my calve I let out a small yelp as if I had hit a fresh wound. I quickly turned my head and looked down upon my ankle.

I sat there, stunned, gazing at my body with wonderment.

There on the higher portion of my shin was a tattoo. A tattoo that read “SPUN-IN” and underneath the lettering was two yellow and red twenty sided die.

I stared at the image some more, blinking my eyes in rapid succession, hoping that what I just saw was some sick mirage. This, however was not the case. I started to piece together the fragments of the night and suddenly realized that what was once a hilarious inside joke had become a permanent fixture on my body. And although I liked the artwork of the dice, I was shackled with the odd feelings of regret and delirious confusion.

I looked again at my watch and decided that it was time to move on. It was getting late in the day and I had told my team that I would make it back in time for a 6:30 softball game.We were in the hunt for the playoffs and with a 1 – 8 record I knew that I was the difference maker we needed. (Authors Note: We lost the game and haven’t made it to the playoffs once in four seasons)

As I started to pack up, Jeremy (New Life Tattoo’s owner and proprietor) stopped by my tent to check on me. He told me that they were trying to clean up as quick as possible so that he and his crew could leave for Cincinnati. More or less, a polite, get the fuck out of here, dude.

I threw some of my things into my bag and began changing out of the costume I had worn the night before during the pajama party. This get up consisted of a girls hoodie donning a light-up rabbit and a pair of women’s large, magenta colored, Hanna Montana shorts. After two or three trips to the car I started to break down the tent, quickly placing it’s myriad of pieces into neat piles.

Everything was perfectly fine until I had to physically fold up the tent. The hot sun continued to beat down on me while I struggled understand the basic principals of tent dynamics and their foldable dimensions. Within minutes I quickly started to deteriorate. The copious amounts of alcohol that my body was still housing from the night before began to stream from my pores. My shirt slowly formed unmistakable sweat spots while my forehead dripped uncontrollably. I felt ill and after screwing around for over 20 minutes I became horribly upset, picked up the mess of a plastic and nylon and threw it into the back seat of my Honda Element, vowing to deal with it when I got home.

After my hissy fit I began to feel horribly uncomfortable. My stomach felt like it was ready to erupt into flame and if left unchecked I could release a shit storm of a problem in my drawers. Yet, despite this, I decided to walk into the owners house, asked for a cup of water, and politely said my good byes to everyone.

I jumped in my car and hit the road, with the only desire of having a safe and uneventful trip back home.

Before I got to the highway I stopped at a Casey’s Gas Station off of Route 150. While I gassed up the Honda, I picked up two large bottles of yellow Gatorade in hopes it would settle my stomach, hydrate my body, and relieve me of a now body throbbing hang over.

After I finished at the gas station I jumped back onto Route 150 and turned the corner at University so I could hit Interstate-74. It was here that I was presented with my first challenge, eastbound or westbound? And since I didn’t know the area well enough, the wrong answer prevailed.

As I immediately joined the highway I knew I was going the wrong way. Already cursing myself for wasting gas, I watched for the exit signs. As luck would have it, the closest one was seven miles away. I found a long song on my iPod hoping it would cover me for the duration of the detour.

When I got the chance to turn around I didn’t waste anytime. I drove quickly up the ramp, checked left, checked right, checked left again, proceeded and tore back down the interstate.

And perhaps that was my second mistake. As I balanced out from my erratic driving my body started to break into a cold sweat. Nausea was starting to set in and I began panting quickly. I tried turning up the air conditioner, flipping the vents so they pointed directly into my face. I breathed in and out, switching from heavy gasps of air to performing the Lamaze. I was trying to stabilize myself from the inevitable but it was too much. I had to pull over.

I flipped my blinker light on and began to slow down as I pulled onto the shoulder. I could feel the wump wump of the car as I drove over the grooved emergency lane surface. I reduced my speed from 80 mph to zero within seconds. Behind me, bearing down quickly in the right lane was a semi truck.

I knew that time was limited but I needed to keep my cool. Stressing out about the situation would only make things worse. I had to open the door yet I was too scared as the semi was close in proximity. Regrettably, I decided to hold it until the semi had passed.

Key word: Regrettably.

My left hand clutched at my mouth but much like the events of the mighty Hurricane Katrina, my hand proved just as weak as the levies of New Orleans. The flood of vomit was just too much and began to spray in every which direction. Without following any specific pattern, the puke lashed out at breakneck speeds, shooting at all angles, attacking everything my car had to offer; windshield, dashboard, steering wheel, radio, windows, locks, handles.

And of course there was me. I appeared to bear the brunt of my stomachs violent force. The insides of my nose were dripping, my mustache dampened, and my t-shirt, shorts, underwear and shoes had become a victim to the “Free Gallon Water Night” my stomach provided as a parting gift.

I hacked and coughed and slumped back into my chair. I looked at myself in the makeshift mirror on the driver side sun visor and said aloud, “What the fuck. I’m a twenty six year old male. How can this happen?”

And it was after this statement the ever-present odor of fermenting puke hit my nostrils. I kicked the door open and started the process all over again, spilling bile all over the emergency lane of I-74.

I unhooked myself from the seat belt and stumbled out of the car. I clutched at the body of the Honda, hugging the back and finally staggering over to the passenger side. I dropped to both knees and started retching again. My head and stomach kicking wildly while cars drove past, slowing down one hundred feet before and speeding up twenty five feet in proximity so that they needed not bear witness to the soaking wet twenty-something male acting as momma bird to a hungry highway.

When my stomach had finished playing it’s game of Sorry with my life, I looked up at the sky and took a heavy breath. I was relieved. I had coughed up what appeared to be two days worth of the recommended daily amount of calories. And at this point, realizing that I was just happy to be alive was quickly erased when I looked down upon myself. I was covered in head to toe with my own sick.

I had become my own personal bacteria farm.

I took off my shirt and threw it onto the passenger side floor. It was one of my favorites so I decided that I wasn’t going to let a little (or a lot of) puke sully a good piece of attire. I began to rummage through my bag of clothes. I removed my Hanna Montana shorts and decided that this would make for an ample rag. I started to dry off what I could in the car. The steering wheel, the chair, the windshield and the dashboard were my primary concerns and the magenta colored crap magnet proved to be a viable component to success. The rest of the car clean-up was managed by my underwear and my extra t-shirt acted as a towel for my body.

Which brings us to an interesting problem. I was plum out of clothes. Clean clothes at least. At this point it really shouldn’t have mattered but I still had the preference to at least try to keep as much bacteria and viral matter off of me as possible.

So, after much ado, I somehow was able to find two pieces of attire. A single white Hanes tank top and a pair of silver mesh shorts I purchased from the American Air Force Academy in Colorado. This was the end of the line in terms of my fashionable men’s clothing.

I took my remaining garb in my one hand and looked at the space available in the car and much like my clothing, it too had reached its limit. There was no where to change. The drivers seat was drying out, the passenger side floor was occupied with puked covered clothes while the seat was filled with electronic devices I was trying to dry off. In the back of the car were posters I wanted to keep mint while the other chair contained my bag and a large unfolded dome tent.

I lowered my head, sighed, and walked to the other side of the car. The dry wind of the Midwest whipped past my face as stood facing on coming traffic. As I watched and timed out the best possible moment, I unfastened my belt and let my pants and boxers hit the asphalt.

It was there at 12:05 p.m. on September 22nd of 2008, the whitest, sorriest sack of shit ever to grace Gods green Earth stood bare ass naked on the shoulder of I-74.

And with that I got back into my puke-covered cavern of a car and continued my trek down the interstate.

As I made my way down the road, I relaxed and tried to logically sort out my problems. First of all, I was still bothered by the fact I had to hit a toilet. Despite my stomach’s relentless oral assault, I didn’t want to chance it’s ire with anything from the anal cavity. To be cliché about it, he had already won the battle and I sure as shit didn’t need him to win the war. I also needed to get some kind of food into my system to at least make me feel normal again. I decided, that my best chance trying to clean myself up would come if I stopped in Champaign.

When I hit the more populated stretch of town I tried to figure out where to eat. I first pulled off on the Lincoln exit and quickly realized that there wasn’t much as far as chow was concerned so I hopped back onto the highway and made for Neil Street because I could at least remember there was a Taco Bell there.

However, the more I thought about it, the prospect of eating USDA grade D meat products when my stomach was already upset, along with the idea of bathing in the Taco Bell sink seemed to turn me sour. So I decided I would pop into the Panera. At least there was bread I could fill up on.

In the parking lot of Panera, I noticed that there was a lot of hustle and bustle. I glanced at my watch realizing that I had managed to land at the height of the noon lunch crowd. Despite this, I was able to grab the last available parking spot in the lot. Good luck appeared to be on my side.

Or not.

It didn’t take the thought process of a genius to deduce that my disheveled appearance would readily scare the denizens of Champaign, however when I passed an Army Sargent on the way to the bathroom I took special note of his facial expression – pure disgust. You could tell that in the back of his mind he was saying, “This is the America that I’m putting my ass on the line for? Fuuuuuuuuck That.”

These reactions were only amplified when finally saw myself in the bathroom mirror at the Panera on Neil Street.

My hair had become a wiry mess, the roots starting at the base level of the scalp and the ends criss-crossing to the point where it resembled a 90 car pile up on the Autobahn. On the right center of my head a ducktail stood up at a 45-degree angle, signaling to anyone who dare look in my direction that I had just raised my white flag to professionalism and dignity. My mouth was still covered with white crust from the 15-minute fight I had with my stomach, while my shoulders sagged to portray the image of personal defeat.

Top this off with the mustache, wife beater, mesh shorts, and a pair of puke covered sneakers and I looked like your run of the mill meth user who had just woken up from a night in the biohazard dumpster of an AIDS clinic.

And despite all of this, it wasn’t the worst part.

In my haste to get back onto the highway as quick as possible, I had forfeited the chance to adequately view myself with a reflective surface. Suffice it to say, because of this and my already hazy memory of the nights events, I hadn’t counted on the glitter.

As I looked at myself in the mirror, the small gold flecks began to sparkle with different intensities as the eco unfriendly incandescent lighting reflected and flared off of the various one-hundred flakes of pixie dust on my face, neck and chest.

The sentences, “possibly homosexual?” and “wanton crack whore” formed as captions under my visage in the mirror. I had gone from looking like a simple drug addict to what Bobcat Goldthwaits career has become: cheap, easy, an relativly unfunny.

Determined to rid myself of the past 30 minutes, I grabbed the sink handle and threw it upwards trying to draw out whatever hot water I could. I ran my hands through the stream and then took my fingers through the tiny Mount Everest in my hair. Like its big brother it stood tall and determined and refused to go down without a fight.

On my left was the soap dispenser, drilled into the counter next to the sink. I pushed down with my left hand and cupped my right hand underneath the spigot.

Nothing. Nothing other than the audible sound of suction, the sweet story of my life.

So I pushed again, harder and angrier. And after a litany of curse words left my mouth I walked out of the bathroom, past the everyday consumers, and into my car – dejected, rejected, and caked with puke and glitter.

I started the car and drove off from the Panera, deciding to wash up at the next best place a horrific stinking pile of shit might go to avoid all human contact – the mall. The mother fucking mall.

As with my previous encounter behind the wheel, this task proved to become a process as it took me over five minutes to find the mall entrance closest to the food court. However, after I parked, nothing could stop me from completing my goal of becoming 15 percent cleaner than I was just then.

I strode by the elderly climbing the staircase for their ride back to the home on their death house trolley. I passed up the mouthy young kids who had chosen a life of working retail rather than pursing the final two years of high school. All of them turning their heads as they watched the most determined man in the world bee line from the mall entrance to the bathroom.

And as I crossed the finish line, it was there that I could take no more. I glanced at myself in the mirror and instead of directly washing myself I staggered defeated and found the first clean stall that I could, dropped my mesh shorts and slumped down onto the toilet.

In my mind, I tried to conceptualize what had just happened. Not just the last thirty minutes but instead the whole weekend. What had I done? What had I learned? What will I just try to erase from my mind?

I let out a sigh. My hand caught my chin and braced it, and as gravity took my head my eyes became fixated on my newly minted and not so personally well received ankle piece. The words “Spun-In” completely visible. And slowly the terrible metaphoric irony overtook me – my day, much like others was just another hysterical, albiet painful unforgettable memory, much like my tattoo.

And as I sorted it out in my mind, a small smile crept over my lips and the tired faint sounds of my laughter echoed through the men’s bathroom walls.

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