There was a time, when I was younger, when I was fond of the alcoholic beverage. Well, OK. Let me be fair. I’m still fond of the alcoholic beverage, but there was a time when I was younger when I was excessively fond of the alcoholic beverage and would look for, and forward to, any opportunity to partake.
Maybe it was because it felt like a rebellion, or like a secret “naughty” action. As far as I knew it was against my religion (it’s not) and there would be no end to the lecture and grief from my mother. I never touched the stuff in high school and barely touched it when I was in college (all one semester of it.) My first taste of alcohol was when I was 18 years old and I took exactly one sip out of my of-age friend’s wine cooler. Woo hoo! Party time! On occasion I had a drink or two with this friend, always at home and never something I purchased. (I’ve always thought there was a bit of gray area about whether it’s illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol, or if it’s just illegal for them to purchase it.) The most I ever drank at that time was the day I wrecked my sister’s car and was sure I was going to pay dearly. I was panicked and freaked out and hiding at this friend’s house till I was sure my sister would be asleep so I wouldn’t have to face her. I had a couple of coca colas with some peppermint schnapps. (Just to be clear, the drinking didn’t start until after the wreck.)
This was followed by a long dry spell where I never even considered trying to purchase alcohol until I was 20 years old. I was managing a retail store in the mall in Oklahoma City and had my very first apartment. I was at the grocery store one day and as I was filling my cart I saw that the wine coolers were on sale and I was craving some. I put a couple four packs in my cart and decided on a plan. I’d act calm and collected and if the cashier asked for my ID I’d just tell them, “Oh shoot! I left it in the car. You know, that’s OK. I’ll just leave those here.” I’ve always looked older than I am and the cashier didn’t bat an eye lash when ringing up my groceries and selling me the forbidden nectar. After this it was easy. It was usually the same cashier and she’d ring me up and put my wine coolers through and move on with the day. So imagine my surprise when, on my 21st birthday, I put my wine coolers on the belt and she asked me for my ID. Same cashier who had several times sold it to me when I was under age.
I didn’t really start whole-heartedly drinking until I moved to California. My first full-time job in California, my office was in the Financial District of San Francisco, with lots of drinking establishments in the area and lots of co-workers who knew each of them. Many evenings I went for drinks after work with one friend or another and more often then not, I got downright stupid. I think it’s probably a good thing that I can’t clearly remember many of the conversations that took place on those evenings but the ones I do remember, I’d like to forget.
These days, my interest in the alcoholic beverage has certainly lessened. I enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner and the occasional cocktail in a more social setting. This week-end was a party to celebrate Michelle’s 40th Birthday, which is technically tomorrow. Michelle is my closest friend in California and I wasn’t going to miss the party but I had reservations because I’m not especially comfortable with most of her family and a lot of the friends that I knew would be there. One of the friends, a woman named Christina, moved to Las Vegas several years ago and I believe I had very limited interaction with her before she moved away. I wasn’t even sure, from the name who she was, though she turned out to be the person I was thinking of. She spoke to me, however, as if we’d been old friends. She said she asks about me on a regular basis, that she had pictures of me from a New Year’s party at Michelle’s sister’s house and that we were good ole buddies.
The liquor was pretty free flowing though I didn’t really have a tremendous interest in it. I had two margaritas before 10:00 and that was it for the evening. (It was nearly 1:00 in the morning before I drove home.) Christina on the other hand, had quite a bit to drink and around midnight she turned into the chatty, clingy “emotional/sensitive” drunk that I can only hope I never was. Suddenly she approached me:
“Why don’tchu marry Michelle?” she asked me as she was leaning on my shoulder.
“Why would I do that?” I asked, already knowing this conversation was going to be uncomfortable.
“Becuz you luv her,” was her slurred response.
I sort of shrugged and said, “Yeah, I suppose I love her. But so what? I’m not in love with her.”
“Yesh you ore,” she replied emphatically.
“I am? How do you know?” I asked smiling.
“Becuz. I know luv win I see it,” she said wobbly.
“You do,” I said smiling. This was not so much a question as a statement of doubt.
She replied, “Yesh. I’been ‘n luv lots of times.” How am I supposed to take this seriously?
“Well, maybe that should tell you something,” I replied. And at the same moment that she delivered her next line I said, “Besides, I’m gay.”
“Wut, that I shouldn’t shack up with every guy I fall for?” She hadn’t heard what I said.
“Well, that. But no. Michelle and I have been close for ten years and we haven’t gotten together by now, ‘cause we’re not in love. Besides, I’m gay,” I repeated.
“Wull, that doesn’t mean anything cuz—“ it sank in. “Wut?”
“I’m gay,” I said for the third time.
“Ore yew shur?” she asked, because, you know, ‘I’m gay’ is something we run around telling people for the hell of it, like we just want to try it on for size or something.
“Yes, I’m sure,” I told her.
“Now you have to hold my hand.” She said as she thrust her hand out at me.
“I do?” I asked as I took her hand. This was a big mistake as we were locked in a death-grip hand shake for at least five minutes. “But I wanted you to be my bruther-in-law.” There’s no in-law with Christina. She’s not a relative. “I wanted you to be part of my faaamily.”
“I’m sorry,” I lied.
“Well… You’re still faaamily. I still luv you.” Drunk love is the best! “You’re still my home skillit.”
“I am? You gonna use me to, like, cook breakfast in?” I really wanted this conversation to end.
“Yeah-uh. I’m gonna cook potatooooes, and ehggs, and pan cakes.” Kill me now! “I still luv yew.”
“Do you?” I asked sarcastically.
“Would you love me more if I told you the only other person in this room who knows it is Michelle?”
“Wut?” I repeated myself. “Yesh I do luv you more, ‘cuz that mean you respec me enough to trus I won’t tell anybody.” That’s not what it meant.
Yes, there was a time when—Wait! Did I just turn into Mary Alice Young? “Yes, there’s a certain time of day…” Never mind.
There was a time when I was excessively fond of the alcoholic beverage, but that time has passed. Dear God, I hope I was never the crunchy,
sappy, leany, over lovey type of drunk. More importantly, I’m never gonna be that guy again!