Céilí music jigs on outside, but I’m confined to the toilet. It’s barely 6pm and already my intestines feel like rusted chains, grinding against each other like pill-heads at a rave.
I glare down at my swollen, disfigured hallux. I pop another, but am getting nothing off these over-the-counter analgesics. Unfortunately they don’t prescribe morphine for a broken toe.
“Y’alright in there, pal? Missed you at the parade.” Jamie raps on the cubicle door, like a hammer against my skull.
“I know you’re in there, Paddy, I can see your feckin’ sandals.”
“I think I’m dying…” I manage to moan. My stomach moans in concert, emulsifying a sensory cocktail of acid, liquorice and broken glass. My heart pounds from the effort of its digestion.
“Stomach at ya again? Thought you were staying off the Guinness tonight…”
Suddenly I taste vomit, lurch forward and bang my head on the door. My expulsive tendencies are stifled, however, by the immediate sensation of a molten crowbar prying at my ribs.
“Didn’t take ibuprofen for that toe, didja? Y’know non-steroidals are awful for Crohn’s.”
“Duhhh!” I snap.
“Whatcha been drinking so?”
“Dirty Gandalfs. Tommy gottus a pitcher.”
“But they’re lethal!”
“I could’ve told you that,” I reply, lacking the strength to be sarcastic.
“Right. Open up.”
I wince as Jamie hammers on the door again.
“Open up now. You’re going to the hospital.”
“Don’t be dramatic. I’m just turnt like – I’ll be fine in a bit.”
“OR you’ll be in a coma… Lemme in!”
I’ve no idea what he’s on about, but Jamie’s a med student, so I’m inclined to trust him. Sighing, I finger the latch, but pause when the lobby door slams open.
“Well boys, what’s the craic?!”
“Here – what the feck you doing feeding him those?” Jamie rages at him.
Tommy laughs, zips down his fly. “The Dirty Gandalfs? Shur ’twas Paddy’s idea!”
“Are you actually stupid like – those could kill him!”
“So could unemployment! They’re testing him for THC at work. Gotta falsify the positives, y’know? Communion wine for the breathalyzer, like.”
“But you’re not meant to actually drink it – you just SAY you did!” Jamie shouts.
Tommy laughs again, and I nearly join him. His mirth is infectious. I can hardly feel my toe anymore. Finally, I think, the painkillers are kicking in.
“Stop feckin’ laughing!” Jamie roars. “Mixing drink and paracetamol is serious. Y’never heard of metabolic acidosis?”
“Relax, Doc… It was just cream soda and rum! I didn’t actually put paracetamol in it – he’ll be fine.”
I hear Tommy slap Jamie on the back. Then Jamie sighs in relief, claps his hands.
In the ensuing silence, however, a dreadful awareness afflicts me.
My liquorice-breath has become laboured, acidic… weak. I no longer feel anything below my knees, but my brain feels like it’s about to give birth inside my skull.
The hot lever prying between my ribs slides deeper and my vision starts to blur.
I struggle for the latch, but my leaden arms won’t budge. I flail my legs in vain to liberate the silvery pill-sleeve from my trouser pocket, to kick it in futility at Jamie’s feet so he can read what I know.
“C’mon now, Mary’s up dancin’,” urges Tommy.
‘Wait!’ I yell (Alas, only internally)
My friends cheer me goodbye and I want to cry out as their footsteps recede. But it’s all I can do to formulate the response in my head; to tap it out in a spasmodic seizure of sandals upon the ammonium-stained tiles:
‘But Jamie,’ I flap. ‘I took paracetamol… for my toe.’