I remember reading that despite the simple, imbecilic pleasures of alcohol, it rendered any sober function torturous in comparison. It seemed like a small price to pay for the joy I felt sitting in the driver’s side of my Honda Accord, my girlfriend right next to me gazing out the window with an idyllic, uncomplicated expression that months later would reveal itself to be the beginnings of manic depression.
My best friend was there as well, sprawled out in the backseat, singing along with me to an eclectic selection of Top 40, Neutral Milk Hotel, somehow Nancy Sinatra. It was the nascent stage of the hipster scene, and already that term was a pejorative assigned to everything and nothing. We associated plaid and irony with a falsified working class identity, instead of bored, lazy, suburban miscalculation.
We had just graduated from high school, and would spend that long summer parked at the liquor store adjacent to a gay bar, shoulder-tapping anyone who appeared willing to commit a culturally pardonable transgression. Some nights we got lucky, and once we were almost robbed. The binge drinking that continued was a celebration of an assumed invincibility, and we gained weight and several more insecurities.
This continued night after night, for weeks, possibly months. We soon moved on to more interesting concoctions. White Russians & The Big Lebowski marathons at some parent’s house, decamped in the living room, decorated with grade school memorabilia and new age literature about the power of ‘healing discs’ and reptilian conspiracy theories. One time we all smoked too much weed and watched in silent horror as the lone dreadlock amongst us got up, switched off the lights and informed us he would be treating everyone to a ‘glowstick performance. It was a treat, but for all the wrong reasons. It was when he intertwined the two cobalt blue bracelets just inches from my glazed pupils, I intently felt that the significance of this was being lost on me, and years from then I would recollect it with the same jumbled insensitivity and snark I could be counted on.
Someone would cry, someone would be put in a headlock, some nights I’d be the only one in the car bawling my eyes out to Bruce Springsteen and thinking about the time I wandered off with a stranger at the grocery store because the wore the same brand of stone washed jeans my father did. I probably cried more about the fact that at nineteen, I was prone to this kind of self-pitying nostalgia that rang mostly incoherent and theatrical.
Flash forward to years later and I’m at a bar, or a party, with friends, or random acquaintances. The night is in it’s second act, and the infinite supply of Tecate has less appeal as it’s staggering volume continues to multiply with each generous newcomer. At some point, probably around my fourth or fifth beer, every sip tastes like copper, a mineralized solution of dirty pennies and lint, and I want to ease my now distended belly. Someone takes out a bottle of vodka from the freezer.
The label is clever, but means nothing at this point. It’s time for heavy drinking. It’s time for the kind of boozing that functions like high speed travel, that takes you from point A to point B with little to say about the time in between, other than an acute awareness that it had to have transpired at some point. Soon everyone is attractive, every last word is fascinating.
“What?! You’re an International Policies Major? That is so cool. Dude. DeBiers! That shit is fucked up, amiright?”
“Yeah, my shoes match my belt. Oh, totally, it’s an accident. Haha. Yeah, I got these at TJ Maxx! I’d never admit that sober.”
“I’m thinking about joining the Peace Corp.”
“Werner Herzog is like, fuck, dude. He’s the last true artist.”
“Neck beards are where it’s at.”
Then the point comes when your friend takes you home. You don’t remember how you all decided it was time to leave, but likely someone invited you guys over to smoke weed and watch Welcome to the Dollhouse. On the way everyone stopped at Jack in the Box, and you remembered you were on a diet, so you just ordered two dollar tacos. You felt immensely proud at both your dietary restraint and your fiscal responsibility. An entire night passed and you might have consumed over a thousand calories in beer alone, but you only spent about $3.50. In the morning, when your raging hangover came to pass, and you made a visit to the coffee shop down the street to recover, you’d feel relieved when after reaching into your back pocket, a wad of salvaged, crumpled dollar bills would emerge.
How much longer can this go on, you wonder. Forever, if you’re lucky.