by Matthew Novak
I only vomit when Jay Leno does his monologue. I only actually puke every three or four years, and this is always what happens. Usually my mom will make me Mrs. Grass' noodle soup, because I'm feeling under the weather, and I'll go to bed right after I let my stomach settle. Three hours later, when Kevin Eubanks and The Tonight Show band begin playing "Back in Black", I'm bending over a toilet seat, vomiting my insides into a pool of piss-colored water, now infested with the pallid, floating corpses of what used to be chicken-flavored leeches.
The first time it happened, I was eight. I hadn't puked since I was a baby and you can imagine how hard it was due to the fact that my brother and I had bunk beds. I was on the top. The reason behind my vomiting that night: my friend Bryan had started to hang out with other people and he was my only friend. Mom had been standing by the bed trying to talk me down, as I cried and cried and cried. Halfway through she said, "you're letting yourself get all worked up." If only I had listened to her advice. After she left, I tried shutting my eyes in the dark room, the only source of light a dim nightlight right next to the closet. I was still sniffling when I felt a rumble in my stomach and an acidic feeling in the back of my throat that tasted like licking a battery. From the family room, I heard Jay Leno discussing Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski and I was on the move. I took one step at a time as fast as I could down the short ladder of the bunk, then ran to the bathroom. When I passed the family room out in the hallway, I muttered, "I gotta puke." Dad sat up in his recliner, rusty springs creaking as he levered the foot rest in.
Hadn't barfed in the new house's bathroom yet. We had moved two years before. Our new bathroom was spacious and beautiful. Echoic. Guests would compliment the astrology-themed wallpaper and smooth gray tile.
I could hear Dad jogging down the hall, but the vomit was going to come any second. "The sink?' I thought, walking over to the basin and planting my hands on the porcelain like I was about to do pushups. "Not in the sink! Not in the sink!" my dad yelled, kicking in the door like a fireman. So I ran over to the toilet and hovered over it, my spicy insides about to be discharged like the back of a garbage truck.
And then it spewed out.
Crying so hard made me puke even harder, and I could feel my mother's hand patting my back as she said, "That's it, get it out. Get it all out." Dad leaned against the sink stroking his beard as he kept pulling on the Chicago Bears 1985 Champions t-shirt that he wore to bed every night.
Dad went to bed because he had to get up at six, but Mom sat on the side of the bathtub with me for a while, still rubbing my back. I was done vomiting.
"All that because of Bryan?" she asked me.
"Yeah," I said.
"I don't think you should tell him."
"Was I supposed to?"
"No, it's just that, if you do, everyone will laugh at you. You don't want that, trust me. Bryan will come around. He's just going through a phase. He wants different dishes to sample."
"What? Ew," I said, squinting my eyes and finally breaking a smile.
"Come on," Mom said. "Let's watch the rest of Jay Leno. You'll feel better in the morning. Plus, Paul Reiser is on!"
"Really? You'd let me stay up?"
"Yes. I mean, I can't expect you to go right to bed after that."
Mom walked with me into the family room. I laid down on the couch and she threw me a blanket and I pulled it over me. Jay Leno sat at his desk and tapped a pencil, accenting some joke. His large chin and beady eyes stared at me like I had just made his day.
I used to like his Headlines bit when I was that age.
I haven't watched him in years.
Matthew Novak just graduated from Columbia College. He makes comics in his spare time and enjoys the Marx Brothers.