God is where you find him.
I am in the men’s room of a trendy bar in Belgrade Serbia.
In my ear I can hear the voice of the bartender. “Oooh Daaybid!” he is saying, his timbre conveys concern.
On my neck I can feel the steadying grip of my friend and director of photography, Luis Marin. Somewhere outside Bob Wise is waiting to help get me back to the hotel. (The three of us were supposed to be in Afghanistan, but that’s a story for another day.)
I am projectile vomiting.
I am projectile vomiting because I have drunk many glasses of Serbian brandy, poured for me on the house by the above bartender.
Apparently the proffering of brandy is not an uncommon Serbian gesture of hospitality. Over the past week I have been offerer brandy by (among others): refugees living in shantytown, and orthodox bishop in monastery high in the mountains on the Serbian/Bosnian border, and a principal at a grade school.
In each case I sipped a modest amount, and demured when my host waved the neck of the bottle at my half-emptied glass.
But not tonight.
Tonight I’m one week into a two-week shoot that’s going very very badly. Our Russian guide, an employee of the agency I’m contracting for, has an entirely different agenda than my commission.
Tonight a week’s worth of frustration from dealing with a stubborn Russian is getting blown off.
Tonight I have no idea how much I’ve drunk, except that it’s enough that apparently before I was projectile vomiting in the men’s room, I was standing a top a bar table, stripped to the waist, and dancing like a go-go boy.
Back at my hotel room now. I am naked, on my hands and knees, on the floor. Dry heaves.
Somehow I’ve had the presence mind to put my own underwear down in of my face so whatever bile I heave up won’t end up in the carpet where it will be hard to clean up.
There I am.
Puking into my own jockey shorts.
I feel like I am going to die.
Actually I don’t feel like I’m going to die, I feel like I’m not going to die. I feel like it’s never going to end.
“God, if you’re there, please take pity on me. Please have mercy. Please make this stop.”
When I saw myself in the mirror the next morning I saw that the force of the vomiting had burst a blood vessel in my right eye. I looked like hell. Somewhere in one of my memento boxes I have a snapshot from later that day of me holding a young child on my hip, smiling into the camera, with one eye bloody red and wild hair.
If I can find it, I’ll scan it and post it.