When I’m nervous I take mental notes for writing material as a way to tell myself, “I’m not really anti-social, or uncomfortable, I’m a writer and am here for research purposes only”. It’s my way of dealing with anxiety when I’m not physically near my laptop to write. We all have our vices for dealing with the hum-drum of life, but what do we do when someone’s “vice” becomes self destructive? Do we accept it as part of who they are and how they struggle with the world allowing them to sink, or do we drag them to shore before they drowned?
He sat next to me staring at the glass in front of him. “I don’t want to drink it if I can’t have another one” he said as he looked up at me, an uncomfortable smile appeared on his lips. “So drink it slower” I said back to him, bossy, void of sympathy. The light brown liquid in his clear round glass appeared to dance as the light reflected from the five ice cubes drowning inside of it. In distress the ice called out from the glass using light, manipulating it, grabbing attention from every direction. The contents appeared jolly, disguising its poison in pure incandescent allure. “Drink me” it said to him, “please” his eyes said to me, “no” I whispered back. He picked up the glass and twisted it, clockwise then counter-clockwise inspecting it, and with a sigh rested the rim on his lips, slowly tipping the glass up enough to trickle a few teaspoons onto his tongue leaving the glass mostly full. He looked at me again, head down, arms on table, eyes confused. Wanting more but knowing it wasn’t ok. For too long he had been floating in a place of wet suspension, waiting for a time when he could deal with his problems, instead he was nearly drowning; I was pushing him to break a habit that in his mind had been sustaining him for a long time. “I’m sorry but no” I lipped to him. “I know” he said as he put out his bottom lip to pout like a child. I hated him and loved him all the while even though I hardly knew him.
Only friends for a couple months, I saw the potential for something that I selfishly needed, which is also why I wanted him sober. I needed him sober for me. I put my hand on his leg and pinched it hard until he winced. The fact that I could see him struggling not to drink made me happy, it took strength for him to resist ordering more alcohol and the strength was oddly beautiful, as was the desperation in his gaze. Sadistic by nature, he made me want to hurt him, to kiss him better. I kept staring at him, enjoying his discomfort, proud of him for the attempt at being “good”. We had agreed on him having only two drinks and surprisingly he had only ordered two. One, a tall beer that he had already drank, and then this one, the one in front of him, the brown cognac with it’s potent smell and numbing deliverance.
Shy by nature, alcohol bridges the social gap for him, making it possible to exist as he pleases, a form of liquid confidence, cold escape, a shot of freedom. Popular among his peers, praised for being “that” guy, the one that you could always depend on for a good time it was almost impossible for him to avoid drinking on any given night. “Excuse me honey” I heard from behind me. A small framed blonde woman walked behind me pulling up the chair directly to my right, opposite from him. He looked uncomfortable and it took me a minute to realize she was a bar tender at this particular lounge, and they had dated a while back. “Hey sweetheart how are you?” she asked with a genuine smile and tilted head. “What would you like to drink? It’s on me”. He said nothing at first, then after a moment looked at me and then her. “No thanks, I don’t want anything”. She sat up straight and her eyes widened, “what? Since when do you turn down a drink?!”. He shrugged and looked at me again as if to silently gesture “she’s making me say no”, then looked back at her smiling sheepishly while saying, “I’ve got to stop spending so much money at the bar”. She looked uncomfortable. Self destruction is more fun in groups. “Well I’m going to step outside to smoke, be back in a minute”. With that she grabbed her bag and headed to towards the door. I smiled at him. I was happy that he had turned down the drinks, and even happier that he had kept to himself that I was pressuring him to decline. “You’re much more attractive when you’re sober. It’s not ok to be a twenty-four year old alcoholic. You’re going to get liver cancer. My god, I think you might already have jaundice, yeah, your eyes look a little yellow…hmm” I said jokingly. He smiled and lowered his head. He had never hung out with me before on so little alcohol. Liquid courage was not acting as a social crutch right now; he standing without it. When used to stumbling, it can be harder to walk tall. “You know something, whenever I am dating a girl I always feel like some unshaped ball of clay that she is trying to mold into something”. I felt defensive. “I don’t want you to do anything besides stop being an alcoholic, other than that do whatever you want, and we’re not even dating I’m just a concerned friend”. The thought of committing to one person for any reason made me throw up a little in my mouth.
Dating, committing, takes away from writing which is my crutch. Immediately I panicked at the thought of a life without my words on paper, my happiness, gone with a boyfriend. I must have looked sick because he asked if I was okay. “Yeah, I’m fine. You know, you have to get out of this while you can, you will end up screwing up your entire life and dying alone. Foreshadowing my future, me, the cats, and a typewriter. I don’t want him to be “that” guy in the future, the old party guy, wife beater stretched over a round stomach impregnated with beer and T.V. dinners, remote in one hand, beer in the other, miserable, regretful. “Have you ever had alcohol poisoning before?” I asked him. “yeah, I used to get it almost monthly” he said. You know you can die, you can suffocate, drown in your own vomit. He just looked at me. I told him he worried me, that in the end he would need someone that could save him from himself. “All I can do is be annoying, be supportive, but when it comes down to it I can’t swim for you, and at this point you’re barely treading water”. He didn’t say anything, only looked at me as if to agree. Finally he said “I’m trying”, and with that I had finished penning the situation in my head. “Let’s go” he said standing up and walking towards the door. I followed feeling hypocritical and sad, yet thankful that my vice didn’t require a vest yet.