I woke up on a hospital gurney three days after Christmas. This was 2018: I was younger (a given) and dumber (another given). I had worn a black dress and heavy eye makeup to go out the night before. Now, that eye makeup was horrifically smudged, and the state of my face suggested that I’d taken a narrow strip of sandpaper to it. I came to slowly, with a growing awareness of the heaviness of my limbs, in a ward full of people older and sicker than I was. Eyes open, I didn’t move for the next hour or so. I wanted to fade back into oblivion. I knew full well what I, in my lightly blood-spattered black dress, looked like to the elderly man with the fractured arm in the bed next to me.
The day only got better from there. Someone called my parents. I was collected, driven home, then wrapped in a blanket and sat on the couch. At some point, I was given a stern-talking-to: They thought I was smarter than this—Yeah, me too. What could possibly have compelled me to—I couldn’t begin to tell you, dude. Don’t call your mother ‘dude’—Sorry. I’m really sorry, you guys.
Maybe said stern talking-to actually occurred a few days later. That week mulched and sagged like mush at the bottom of a garbage dump. I think, for that first day, my mother was still chronologically frozen at the horror of the hospital’s 4:58 a.m. phone call. My father’s tangle of fury and fear rendered him mute. That was the worst of it: discovering I had the capacity to scare the shit out of them with something as simple as a little too much of one substance or another.
I sat on the balcony a few hours (perhaps it was a few days) later, digging through my phone. Its scant archaeological record helped reconstruct a night in the life of someone who wasn’t me, with her own archive of memories locked by an unknown passcode. I found no texts, no voicemails—only a video taken by a girl I’d vaguely known in high school. Through shaky footage and audio distorted by the muted music from a nearby club, she stood on a street corner and explained to my camera that she had recognized me, called an ambulance, and prevented me from falling into the boat quay. Unfortunately, she had found me only after I’d already fallen into (apparently the correct preposition) a staircase; hence, my face.
It looked like found footage. It took every ounce of self-control I hadn’t had the previous night to keep myself from dropping my phone 17 storeys over the balcony edge. But I was so zonked out that I couldn’t have managed the action with any more violence than the 100-year-old Titanic lady used in letting go of the blue diamond at the end of the movie.
Instead, I deleted the video immediately, grossed out by the moment in which I saw myself in the corner of the frame, slumped back like a zombie victim in some B horror film.
For exactly a year, all I could tell anyone outside of my immediate family about that night was that I had had too much and had gotten myself home. This was half of a complete and total lie, which made it a full complete and total lie.
I still don’t know much of what happened: why I had bruises on my shoulder blades, when exactly I stopped being okay and how obvious it had been, whom I had spoken to and how I ended up where I did, forty minutes away from the location of my last conscious memory of that evening.
What happened to me that night happened to someone else who just happened to be me. That someone else was the Final Girl in the horror movie, the girl who survives after everyone else has been picked off. That winter night (don’t feel too sorry for me; it was a balmy 75-degrees in Singapore) the monster had gotten the rest of my intrepid pals, and I had been left, or had chosen, to face off alone. And like in all of the most predictable of the discount rack picks, the monster won, and I lost.
For days afterwards, I asked my friends to repeat themselves or drifted away in thought during the middle of conversations. I was starving but so nauseated that I couldn’t manage much more than soup. I spent a lot of my time dreaming up the food I wanted to eat to fill the pit, then allowing myself to become deliciously sickened by those imaginary meals.
Okay. Now imagine a calendar magically tearing itself apart, month after month, twelve times. I felt the scattered pieces come back together the same way one side of my face slowly knit itself up until I could stop jokingly insisting that my shocked friends “should see the other guy.” My appetite resurfaced, and I spent the night of December 27th, 2019, bingeing on horror movies and Christmas cookies.
The last six hundred odd words may have convinced you of my aggregate dumbassery, but something came to my attention whilst watching a Florida girl battle a swarm of alligators, a family hunt a bride on her wedding night, and Amy March fall prey to a Swedish death cult.
I’m a coward and can’t really watch horror movies properly. Jump scares get me; as do extended tracking shots that only serve to eerily build atmosphere. In either case, I have to take a few minutes to recover, moments of silence between me and my pirated Quicktime file. There’s a heightened pulse, dilated pupils, maybe a couple of involuntary snarls of nervous, breathy laughter. I cram my head with stories of haunted puritan families and sexually transmitted stalker-demons to spook myself back into my body for a bit. It’s not ideal, but a method objectively preferable to vacating the property entirely for a night or breaching consciousness on a gurney the next morning. I don’t think it’s an effective or truthful message to tell you that sweating through two hour blocks of cinematic dread brought me back. But they sure did pass the time.
Depicting Drunk Me and Me Me as separate muddled the horror-comedy genre lines of the Ballad of December 27th a little more every time I retold it. Listen, dude, I’ll tell you what I can, but it’s all second-hand information. I wasn’t there—well, yeah, I was. But only in the physical sense. That line always got a laugh. But telling the story as if the girl in the video is still some B-list actress I sort of recognize isn’t something I’m particularly interested in anymore. That’s me.
I’m well-acquainted with Drunk Me. I’m wary of her, though she’s often more fun than Me Me. I never thought she’d do something so recklessly harmful to us. I can relate to the terror of losing control of your body to some strange and powerful force you never saw coming when you texted your friends you were up for a night out. But to claim that Drunk Me, Hyde herself, took over the controls That Heinous Night shouldn’t absolve me of responsibility for the damage to our co-living space (a.k.a. our overgrown meatsack of a body, which I’ve definitely lost the security deposit on at this point), because depending on the extent to which you buy this extended Jekyll/Hyde analogy, I either ceded control to her, or never abdicated in the first place… because we are one and the same. (Here, if I were standing in front of you, is where I’d unfurl a banner with “THE DUALITY OF MAN” printed in huge Comic Sans letters.)
I hate that I’ve only allowed myself to write about this experience now that I’ve reached the proverbial “other side.” I didn’t tell anyone about it for a year because it felt like some overwhelming unknown force in my body (named Pazuzu or Paimon—take your pick and definitively out yourself as either a boomer or millennial) would consume me from the inside out if I ever opened my mouth to speak That Heinous Night into existence once again.
Now I’ll tell anybody willing to listen, and several people at parties who obviously couldn’t hear me over the pounding music but pouted sympathetically anyways.
With some horror, I can recall bragging once in a while that I’m “really good at blacking out, you guys.” It didn’t happen often at Columbia, but it did happen sometimes, and whenever it did, I always woke up in bed the next day, with my makeup off, my pajamas on, and my phone plugged in.
Until it didn’t end that way, because the universe is inexorably decaying molecule by molecule, and nothing good lasts forever. There’s no way to make myself comfortable with the fact that I definitely woke up in the hospital, or that I probably really only have myself to blame.
I started drinking again ages ago, so the moral of this story isn’t the power of teetotalling. I’m not sure there is a moral. There’s no real ending here, no clincher of a final shot that sends a chill running down your spine. I can only hope that I’ll never end up in hospital again, but I can’t say with any definitive certainty that the masked murderer won’t show up at my window late one night, years, or weeks, or months from now.
In the meantime, you’re welcome to join me for a horror marathon. I’ll bring the Christmas cookies, you bring the libations. Or—let me rephrase that invitation:
Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?
Enjoy leafing through our first issue!