The shrill ring of the phone went through my ear and rocked the core of my sleepy head. ‘Good morning, this is your wake up call,’ an automaton droned. The seemingly bleary alarm clock showed 10 after 7.
I stumbled out of bed and, wallop, it hit me hard. This was a hangover that only soju, the Korean national drink can induce. In one word: epic. My mouth was drier than a birdcage, my legs barely strong enough to allow me to walk and my head felt as if it was wrapped in cotton wool. Tsssssk, I tut tutted myself and made a mental note once again never to touch the stuff.
Where had I been? What had I been doing to suffer such pain? Total memory loss from about midway through last night’s dinner – not a good sign.
I shuffled meekly into the toilet, dispensed with the previous night’s barbeque, mused as to the incredible shredded state that kimchi brings to one’s ablutions, noted the familiar post-heavy-soju-night shaky hand and got up to brush my teeth. Big day, big day, I was saying to myself, annoyed that I was in such a state with so many interviews to carry out all over Seoul for the next 12 hours, and then I peered, eyes barely alert, into the mirror.
From deep within my muffled head alarm bells started to ring LOUD. Panic, horror, shock! What the hell was that on my face? Oh my God! A black eye! Nee na, nee na, nee na – alarms sounding off in my convoluted brain, urgently trying to rekindle any memory from the previous evening. Had I got into a punch up. Surely not, I figured, I am six foot six and it’d be darn difficult for a Korean to swing that high. Jesus, I thought, maybe I’d got into fisticuffs with my advertising colleague and friend, Victor. Soju does make you do strange things. But hold on, I reasoned, I don’t get into fights ever.
What on earth had happened? I desperately wanted for this elusive moment in time to return to me, but the power of soju had rendered my brain into a sieve. Another even more worrying thought entered my by now utterly bamboozled head: how, oh how, was I ever going to be able to conduct all these interviews with respectable captains of industry all day. I shaved, showered and dashed downstairs to find Victor and ask for some rational explanation for the dark swelling around my left eye.
Turns out I got up to leave from one of those minute stalls in the outdoor BBQ place we always go to and promptly the knees gave way and I crashed down to Earth with quite a thump. The interviews that day were horrendous.
Sadly, soju sorry sojourns have since reappeared though without such a serious unidentified drinking injury.
Zealots I’ve loved and lost
1 week ago