Saturday, November 3, 2007

Friends help friends throw up.

Friends help friends throw up.

In college, if my friend Carsten thought of something gross, he’d throw up.

Now clearly, if he smelled something gross he’d have the same reaction, but it was the throw ups that resulted from thinking that proved to be the most entertaining.

He was a big, goofy German with thin balding blonde hair and a linebacker’s body. In high school his parents went out of town for a month so he did an experiment. He urinated in the same toilet for 30 days straight without flushing. He didn’t throw a party. He didn’t get drunk. He didn’t break anything. He simply went to the same toilet for 30 days. When his parents came home they had to throw the toilet away.

This was the kind of thing Carsten was known for, but it was his weak stomach that made him famous on campus. If you were ever at a party that was boring, all you had to do was tell Carsten a story about rotten food, within minutes the party was exciting again. It happened dozens of times but my favorite was the night we drove by the paper mill.

Usually, if you didn’t want Carsten to throw up, you could talk him down. If you berated him enough, “Oh stop, that’s not even that gross. It smells fine. Give me a break,” he would calm down. But that wasn’t going to work that night in Pensacola, Florida.

By the time I tried to talk him down it was too late, he was already dry heaving. I yelled at him, I pleaded with him, but momentum was clearly not on my side. He grabbed an open bag of candy corn from the floorboard and put it over his mouth in hopes that it would block out the smell. (Since candy corn is so fragrant and what not.) Seconds later he screamed, “it’s getting through the corn, it’s getting through the corn.”

Within minutes we had to pull over on the side of the road so that he could empty his stomach.

I think about Carsten sometimes when I face temptation. He had a visceral, full body, completely committed response to things he thought were gross. It wasn’t soft, it wasn’t casual. It was big and loud and final. And it doesn’t feel like how I respond when I’m tempted by something.

I’ll usually hold the fire for a few minutes. I’ll usually explore just a little, or taste just a tiny. I’ll take my time. Sometimes I’ll seek it out. I’ll be the one setting up a tent in the parking lot of the paper mill all the while pretending that I’m trying to avoid temptation.

More often than I’d like to admit, I react to temptation a lot like I did in the eighth grade.

There are certain chapters in my life that my friend in PR would advise I be careful about sharing. He’s smart and most times he’s right, but sometimes people blog their ideal self and not their real self. The truth is that my real self used to spend Saturdays in the eighth grade at the dump digging around in trash and looking inside tractors in hopes of finding porn.

There were even a few snowy days when I brought my sled, thinking that my parents would find it perfectly natural that I was sledding down mountains of trash. Although my approach to temptation is perhaps less obvious now that I am 31, it’s often just as stupid. I keep secrets. I create shadows. I try my best not to have a Carsten reaction to something that I know should make me sick.

I hope God will show me how to throw up more. I hope that he’ll give me a weaker stomach and a stronger heart. I hope that the next time you face temptation you’ll act like Carsten instead of going sledding at the dump.

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