When we drink


I embarked on my first week-long bender because I got dumped. Even when you know it’s coming, when you’re young—or maybe, also, when you’re not—it sucks. Really bad. After pleading and crying and many empty threats, I called some friends, went to the Greyhound station, got hit-on by some dude on his way to a Job Corps forestry program, and tearfully rode the bus to Santa Cruz, where I wallowed in cheap vodka, puked up cheap vodka, and might have eaten a burrito at some point. I stumbled through five misty, hazy days of drunk before catching a ride home. Splitting headache and trembling hands aside, I felt much better than I had before I left. I felt cleansed.

For every graduation, promotion, win, completion, or triumph, I’ve celebrated with drinking. Birthdays and weddings and new apartments in San Francisco with working fireplaces and picture windows with crane-necked views of the Bay Bridge and the bay (happy housewarming). Some of you may have read our post about enthusiastic weddings: When Christian and I tied the knot last year, we toasted with guests, and shots of Black Maple Hill bourbon poured into square glasses printed with our initials and anniversary. I celebrated with white and red wines, and club soda and juice spiked with vodka or bourbon, through the midnight reception, and until almost sunrise. We drank and cheered and spilled and sang and shattered glasses because we were happy.

When you learn of a death, and after the blood drains from behind your eyes and the world rushes past and is frozen at the same time, there are drinks. Numbing the exposed while hugging the fresh pain close. Memories and tears cascade steady with each swig, the glass bottle bottom a story’s end. Pour a little out on the asphalt or the dirt.

This couple I know, made of two beautiful and perfectly-matched people, asked me to officiate their wedding. Of course, I was honored. Sober me is not, however, a confident public speaker. But before the ceremony there was white wine, wrested from between floating ice cubes in a cooler and sweating in Oregon’s August, sipped slow from a plastic cup.  And then, there was courage. (Super) nervous doesn’t live here anymore.

Wit chases drinks. Now there is talking to strangers who are no longer strange. There is that song, that one song, and that thing that happened that one time that you both think about a lot when your minds wander, when you are alone. And there is far, far less fidgeting, and arms uncross and hands gesture loudly. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’ll know, too, without my words, that pressed-into feeling of no air. And you’ll know that sweet booze is the deepest and most peaceful breath.

When new love is found or fake love is lost or decayed love falls away completely and our raw, wet self is exposed, when we are lost or have discovered exactly what we are looking for—this is when we drink. When we must drink.

And sometimes there is nothing. There is the morning. Or the sunset, or the almost-sunrise. 12:34 or 5:13 or 7:06 pm or am and it is not-bright or too-bright in the dim room or not in a room at all. There is an outside your fluttering blinds where it’s warm but not hot, or it is raining and maybe there is thunder, or there is that one weird week of sticky Portland December snow, or there is fog, because it is San Francisco and there is always fog. Blinking away last night, or the last 10 hours of crisp-awake, or the last-seen 10 am, you press your neurons to spark and feel the day or night ahead and still there is nothing.

But there are always drinks. And after drinks possibilities rise like after-rain steam on sweaty sidewalks from your warming body in the dark or the sun or the dim room with the blinking bright numbers. And you are alone or you are with someone who is so a part of you that you are basically one, you are one, or you are alone and you don’t feel alone. The sweetest smoke spilling from the coldest fire that grows as you sip, and then you swig, spilling.

Not enough alcohol picture courtesy of quinn.anya (flickr).