Tonight was one of those nights when I tried to make myself puke, but couldn’t.
It’s a strange mixture of pride and desperation, really, reaching this point in so-called adult life. The detestable ‘black out or back out’ credo is apparently beyond me, though its fans might herald me as some sort of alcoholic god. It’s not even midnight and the bars are reluctant to serve me anymore because, holy shit, how could anyone drink this much and still stand still? Drunkenness decides that place between depressed and completely ecstatic, like an energy I have little control over. Somehow, this energy is my own, like something I hold prisoner until that next shot says ‘oh, hey, come on out for a bit’.
This is not a unique phenomenon, just a rarely-explored and less often admitted one. Many will feign blackouts, or perhaps actually have them. It’s a childish point in that I want so many things that pass by me; women and their unique vaginas, glasses and their varied booze, smiles and their enviable naivete. Make no mistake, a drunk is not a happy person, no matter how capably they pretend, or how many great jokes escape their lips. To those who don’t know better, they can be pretty fucking hilarious, though, making an ‘oops’ sound innocent and entertaining. It takes practice to reach this level, believe me.
As a drunk, I will take chances I wouldn’t otherwise, because I’d know better. I will spend money I shouldn’t, because I’m thinking about it less clearly in the moment. I will get in fights I wouldn’t otherwise with people I love, because I can excuse myself with ‘oh, but I was drunk. What did I say?’ It’s a perfectly acceptable excuse, too, because others don’t drink like I do, couldn’t possibly understand how my half of a bottle affects me so much less than it does them. These are not bragging rights anymore. We are not in our second year of university. It’s at the point where it’s a race that was over long ago. The only person who can accurately assess my drunkenness is the twenty-four hour convenience store clerk I see on my way home nine drunken nights out of ten.
None of this comes to the surface, because I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Meeting someone else for a drink after fifteen the night before becomes a norm. It’s just the social standard, and the friends are all separate from each other; most likely because they were met at different bars. None of them see me often enough to realize just how much I put down, how hard my liver must be working; and they wonder aloud if something is wrong with me the days I say no thank you. ‘Are you feeling ok’ ought to be reserved for days when one is not actually feeling ok, not when I don’t actually want to drink but it will only take that first beer to change my mind.
When I take a break, fifteen people all comment on how that week away must have been strange, or a cleansing, or something out of the ordinary, like taking time to possibly restore myself is unacceptable. I will laugh, briefly and with convincing humour, but worry secretly about how I look. These are, after all, the people who accept me at face value, drunk as the day is long, week after week. They listen to my stories and accept me as if I’m distant family; reward me for buying them drinks out of generosity with drinks in return, so my generosity becomes much more mercenary, and this is expected and accepted.
No one says I’m an alcoholic, because I laugh and seem happy and take breaks of my own volition. I always seem to have money to spend and never extend upon my bar ‘friends’ for free drinks. I must be doing alright, yes? Fuck, I’m even better at being drunk than most alcoholics. I’m a voice of reason, by going farther than they are and ever will; an unconscious warning sign. For some, even a badge of honour, to say they kept up with me for a night. To say their bar tab was as high as mine for once.
Is this achievement on their part? Even more so, is it on mine? To be beyond even the regular drinker’s extreme? As in tonight, when I actually wanted to vomit from mild alcohol poisoning, but couldn’t put enough of the poison in to my body to achieve this. It almost feels a form of invincibility, having people around me gaze in wonder that I don’t need salt or a lime to shoot the tequila backed by another double of Irish whiskey, as though I’m doing something they would never dare to. Women approach me because they figure I’m getting towards whiskey dick and won’t be able to fuck them. Men approach me because they can exaggerate their own intoxication and wax repetitively about how drunk they are and how amazing it is that I am not. Whether or not it is an achievement, it feels so in the moment.
Truth be told, I set out to drink for myself, and no one else; but this drinking and level of it has become an external identity, a thing I can wear around these people who see me twice a month tops as the be all end all of intoxication, an urban hero for those who get to go home and say ‘well I’m not as bad as THIS guy’ in their own defense. It becomes, even, a role I play well, knowing that only I can fulfill this spot out of them all. No one has to invite me home to continue drinking, bartenders know they can ask me to leave early to start the closing time trend and I won’t make a fuss, and everyone expects to see me again in a few days.
At the end of it all, I LIKE being this person. This indestructible, entertaining booze-hound, who by anyone outside of a bar would be judged harshly; but I am never seen outside of a bar. Perhaps I am providing my own sanctuary by spending too much time and too much money among these people who I do not look down on, yet they look up to me. I may sound cocky, but this is as depressing as cocky gets, in the sense that I am the worst of a wastrel crowd.
I honestly mean it when I say ‘to your health’ in the myriad languages I know the phrase in. It sure as shit isn’t to mine.