Day Two: Evening, Day Three: Morning
A firm open-handed crack across my face had taken me away from my lovely wife, my cuddly dog, the comforts of familiar Canadian soil and dropped me pitifully drunk within the walls of a eerie fortress in a remote part of Northwestern Georgia. Chris stood above me pulling me up by my shirt telling me it was time to go.
I just laid down.
That was almost an hour ago.
Well, did you slap him too?
No, he's beyond being slapped. It wouldn't have any effect.
I strongly disagree.
We tried to shake Derek, but he wouldn't wake. All of our attempts failed, so we each grabbed an arm and threw it over our shoulders as if we were saving a wounded soldier. We took turns pleading with him to walk himself, and if not, at least occasionally support his own body weight. The three of us greatly misjudged Noam's homemade vodka, but seeing Derek in such a state seemed to sober me up, but only a little. The sun felt less strong and was threatening to begin its descent. On our way along the road Chris explained that the fortress, as it turned out, was in someone's backyard and the man who owned the property had arrived home to see three drunk 'Americans'; two of which were passed out while the third was talking casually to his young wife. This made him uneasy and he kindly asked us to leave. Irakli had left sometime before, so were left to our own knowledge on how to get home. The road, we later found out, forked many times and when it did, we managed to choose the wrong turn on every occasion.
We stumbled down the road, Derek's condition persisted and mine was only slightly better. Chris was the best of us but I couldn't imagine he was significantly better than I was in comparison to Derek. We trudged in every sense of the word. It was a slow, melancholic walk at a snail's pace. For every step forward we took two or three to each side. We had become a three headed, two armed, six legged (though only four worked) organism consisting mostly of alcohol. We were a pathetic mess.
The sun made good on its threat and fell first behind the tallest trees, then behind the clear horizon until we continued trudging by the light of the moon. The road had turned into a trail and we found ourselves in the sticks. Chris had stopped to ask for directions while I babysat Derek, trying my best to keep him upright and awake. After innumerable tumbles on the gravel road, where Derek neglected to let go of me and Chris was unable to hold the weight of two bodies, I fast became sick of falling. After struggling to keep him vertical for a time, I washed myself of the responsibility, let go and watched him wobble in the air before dropping to his side, stiff as a board and disappear into the the tall grass with a satisfying thud. When Chris came back with the most vague of directions and the knowledge of needing to carry Derek another four kilometers before reaching home, I sincerely doubted our ability to get back for the second time. We had lost Derek in the bush somewhere while we discussed our dwindling options, but found him soon enough. He'd mustered the only flash of self-propulsion in three hours to stumble deeper into the bushes to pee and after, had curled in the dewy grass to sleep. He wouldn't wake up and could only be coaxed to move forward by taunting him into a such a rage he'd chase us down the path, usually coming to an abrupt and brutal end as he'd fall on his face or disappear into bramble. It's hard to run in heels I am told. He caught on to our motivational tactics and reached a point of no return. He was spent and curled himself into a ball willing to brave the elements of a late October night in Georgia's wilderness. Chris wanted to press on but I knew it was useless. We hadn't walked more than fifty yards on the trail when I expressed this hopelessness to Chris at continuing. I became unglued and hysterical with our predicament. But credit to Chris who calmed me down with a firm and friendly hand.
We can't continue down this path, this is the last house we know of.
What choice do we have? We have to get him home.
We carry Derek to that last house.
And then what?
We get help, call your host-dad, stay there...
What if they don't?
They're human beings aren't they? They will at least give us a barn to sleep in.
Having won Chris over we hugged it out and went over to collect the lifeless body of Derek. He was far beyond sleep, in such a poisoned state of intoxication I truly believe we could've pulled out all his teeth with little resistance. Positive reinforcement, name calling, physical abuse wouldn't wake him up and we were both exhausted from carrying him as far as we did. I picked up a limp arm and began the fifty yard climb back uphill to the last sign of civilization. For forty nine yards nobody spoke a word. At the fifty yard mark Derek managed to lift his head.
"Come... on... maaaan! You're dragging me? Face down in the gravel?" As if we were bullying him and committing such a disservice. These were the last words he spoke for the rest of the night.
Chris did all the talking and half the carrying to the last house we'd seen before entering the trail. The kind strangers opened up their home to us and put Derek to bed immediately. I sat outside completely body-stoned with embarrassment and shame I had never experienced in all my life. All I could do was rest my head in my hands, mortified. After pleading with Chris to invade a strangers home, I couldn't walk inside the door frame myself. The woman of the house had to come out, wrap me in her arms and gently guide me inside. 'I am sorry, bodishi' were the only words I spoke for the rest of the night. On a separate bed near Derek, she fluffed a pillow and encouraged me to lay down, then draped a blanket over me much as she had done for our little bronze friend. I was asleep in seconds, I imagine, and she must've pulled off my shoes too, making the tuck-in complete.
While Derek and I slept, the woman stayed up and fixed Chris some food, let him call his host-brother, Matcho, to pick us up, gave directions and made him up a bed too, just in case. Matcho actually arrived at the house to pick us up, having driven the tractor to the next village, but to no avail as Derek was in too deep of a sleep and I was unwilling to come back from my laying in the park with the wife and dog. So he returned home in the tractor without cargo as it was decided we'd all sleep it off in the strangers home.
It was very cold that night, a hangover had set in firmly by 3 a.m. and the thin blanket wasn't getting the job done. At seven, Chris came in and our quiet talk woke the home owners in the next room. He got up to milk the cow while she went to work around the kitchen. I hunched over myself on the edge of the daybed wrapped tightly in my blanket, just as embarrassed as I was the night before, but their hospitality and warm, genuine smiles let me forgive myself enough to chat with our hosts a bit before leaving.
As we exited the house and made our way to the gate, we were stopped by the man of the house. He was questioning why we were leaving so soon and herded us back into his home. By this time his wife had set the table, boiled water for chai and was nearing completion of fresh-baked khatchapuri and omelette's. We ate, talked and showed pictures of our misadventure which incited laughs around the table. Only then, full-bellied, were they comfortable in letting us leave. Their hospitality magnified a deep sense of guilt and embarrassment.
We invade their house in a pathetic drunken stupor, and they make sure to give us all that they have and disregard our blatant ignorance, and even manage to share some laughs with us. What an unbeleivable display of hospitality.
What a country. What a people. What a thing to bring home.