People who don’t really drink DRINK, but people who drink, who might get drunk even regularly, just not heroically, people who have a beer when they want to, and a perrier water when they don’t, people who sit in bars, drink their allotted six shots and two stellas get loud and happy, and tumble home fumbling the keys in their doors, they are not really drinkers. They are imbibers. Fun -havers. Part timers.
People who drink Drink are a different beast. They had that first sip, that first dab into the poisoned chalice and came up with gold. It hit all their receptors just right, it rang their bells, it made them bold, it made them loose, it made them want it, and want it more. They don’t have to work at it, like I did. My alcoholism was hard won and came only in early middle age. I was a sometimes binge drinking wild cat, who never danced on tables, but instead drank seven or eight shots, and went home with some girl called Cecelia who didn’t speak much English, but had beautiful dark eyes and long black hair, and grabbed me by the waist kissing me hard in the city summer air, as some bulldyke who reckoned I didn’t look gay enough for the bar wolf whistled and yelled after us “OK! So sometimes I am wrong!” Cecelia broke my heart, but not after making me fall to my knees in the sheer wonder of her beauty. “Baby, I’m home!” Her skin was softly tanned, her fingers traced inca dreams upon my skin, and she glowed with the light of youth and health and an indignant rage aimed mostly towards men. I didn’t understand the words she was telling me a few weeks into our fling as she took both my hands and stared into my eyes, and the fall and rise of the cadence of her speech, the wild fear in her eyes, the grip upon my arm, the softness of her tears, told me everything I needed to know. It was easier that she could tell, over our two bottles of thickly viscous red from the country she was born, and I didn’t understand. The power was in the telling, not in the receiving.
She stopped. Poured herself another glass, draining what was left of my bottle into her chipped white and blue mug, took a long gulp, then threw up her hands alarmingly, spoke six or seven more words up to the sky, then told me in her broken English that was so sweetly expressive, that she had to go home. She had to leave. Get on a jetplane. And that she was sorry. She asked if I would write. I said probably not. She asked if I would call. I curtly told her no. She asked if I might visit. I told her it was impossible. I was a brat. A selfish young woman with no soul worth saving. A brute playing at bottles of wine and a throwaway reality. I was numb. “There was nothing you could have done differently that would have had it ending differently, Cece. When they decide they are gonna take, they take. It’s all about the mighty dick, baby.” We moved to her sofa, dragging her half filled cup with us. She poured a little on me, and I laughed, she panicked and dabbed. I told her Johnny and Joey and the boys had seen worse than a little red wine. I remember looking at her face, for one moment smiling and laughing and free in the glow of the lamp with the red bulb in it and my best scarf draped over the glow. She curled herself around me like smoke, rested her head upon my chest, and there we sat, silently. The record player was going round and round hissing, the needle long since returned. I found myself wondering if there was a honest human reaction left in the world that was truly compassionate and non self serving. In my youth I came to the conclusion it was all shark grins and dog eat bitch. Now I am not so sure. In our silent sitting, our quiet holding, in her head on my chest and my hand on her thigh, there was something so real it seemed like a mirage.
I never saw her again. She left the country and I left the booze. She didn’t really love where she was, and I never really loved where booze took me. I never again sat in a bar getting drunk and loose and flirting with pretty girls with long dark hair and eyes like obsidian, bold and cold and hardly regarding. What was the point. I would never get to go home.