Can you pray your hangover?

I had the kind of hangover that pinches your guts and scratches your throat.

I had been to one of MONA FOMA’s after parties the night before, drinking with the ferocity of a college student. My go-to poison: A smoky mezcal cocktail that a friend pointed out to me the next day actually tasted like poison. Something to do with the way the mezcal hit the plastic flute gave off a harmful palette. Luckily for me, I happen to be blessed with a stomach of steel or, more likely, an educated moron palette.

So I woke up, my eyes glued together with last night’s mascara, assuming I looked glamorous and messy in the manner of Effy Stonem, finding myself with something infinitely less rebloggable: cheeks swollen and mottled skin.

Conveniently I was about a block away from James Webb’s installation at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Pray. I was curious: can you pray your hangover? It had been a while (12? years) since I had been incorporated into any regular religious activity, so I was unfamiliar with the benefits of spirituality that you can access as an adult. I understood all “friends in high places” thing couldn’t be more applicable than it would be in this situation.

As I walked up to the gallery, I was coated with a new urban optimism. The day was clear and clean. The sun gave me a wink. The waves in the harbor were jostling, in jest. The hangover was present but not unpleasant. A courteous guest.

But in the gallery, shoes ripped off, kneeling on the carpet, I had a flashback: walking into the kitchen at 7, clutching the bible, my parents giggling: What is this? The Bible! Red outrage. I spat a mean, pious line about how comfortable they were in hell. A slammed door. The fatal puncture in the already deflated balloon of my spirituality.

It was more upsetting than that. The installation was a spongy red carpet, dotted with loudspeakers, playing pre-recorded prayers from around the world. Socks on, I hung around, the hopeful chants fading into a cacophony of voices as I moved through the installation. I knelt next to another speaker, hoping my closeness to the faith would absolve me of my sins, like sitting next to the smartest kid in class during a test you don’t haven’t studied.

But there is no mercy in cheating. I was caught red-handed. I felt flushed, my collar tightening around my neck. A headache had already taken over – a real hangover that rolled in like a late afternoon thunderstorm. Another speaker yelled at me, I put my ear to the carpet, my body in the pose of a child. The sounds layered, distorted, merged, a high-pitched cry like a microphone at a wedding. Bile rising in my throat.

I stormed out of the gallery: spaghetti laces, hair parted. I realized my mistake. I thought I had God in mind and she should be my redemption, but in my hungover state I was confused, the letters of the words jostling in my head.

I wanted to say dog, not God. The dog’s hair.

And so I went in search of salvation. Bloody Marys are always good.

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