On Drinking and Decisions
I have a heavy hand. I do not pause before I pour my drinks to feel the bottle’s sway and pull. I have seen my mother pour as though she were Justice herself — the bottle’s graceful tilt like a pair of golden scales. While I, instead, thirty eight years younger, tip the bottle with wild enthusiasm. She swirls her wine and disapproves in silence.
In college, I inundate all plastic cups, sloshing piss-warm beer onto musty couches, dripping jungle juice onto sweaty strangers. I cannot quite say why, why I am sloppy and wasteful, why I end every night with sticky hands and a speckled shirt. I think I find a certain private pleasure in it — the rush of tequila to the neck of the bottle, the splash, the twitch of the wrist. To pour recklessly is to relinquish control. Gravity and momentum waltz in, arm in arm, and for just a few seconds, they take center stage. I like that. And so I fill and spill and refill endlessly, compulsively. I’m a lush.
I first puked up vodka and rum at the end of tenth grade. It was an unsupervised cast party and The Boy was there, wearing ripped jeans and flannel. (Only later did I learn — The Boy is always there.) In brief, the cards were stacked against me and suddenly, I was sitting on the curb and retching. Though I don’t remember much, I *do* remember the ease with which I poured the vodka. At sixteen, I believed reckless behavior required more cunning, more thought. I was shocked when liquor simply splashed into my mason jar. Shocked and then relieved.
Really — I drink like I pour, with a desperate and sloppy enthusiasm.
I remember too that we shared a bed. The Boy and I, after we’d both puked our guts out and into the gutter. We puked together under an indifferent lamppost and later shared a bed that smelled of sour bile. I was trashed, sure, but still myself, or at least enough myself to want him desperately and painfully. Our bodies never touched and I ached in silence until morning. The hangover was crippling.
Recently, wearing a pink miniskirt and combat boots, I threw up some half-priced margaritas and a gin and tonic. A Different Boy and I went to a shitty bar and then stumbled back to his apartment, our bodies clumsy with drink and desire. We were giggling on the couch and then suddenly we weren’t and I was hunched over the toilet. He held back my hair.
I didn’t even pour my own drinks that night, recently, in early spring. But at the bar, a Sunday night I think, I was drunk and dumb enough to kiss him. A wild, stupid enthusiasm: I wanted to kiss him and so I did and he smiled. Reckless behavior requires more cunning, more thought, I must have told myself as I licked the margarita’s salted rim. I know now that I was wrong. I’m almost always wrong. But at the time, I felt only a surging, warm affection. The rush of tequila to the neck of the bottle.
All this to say — I have a heavy hand. I spill and drink recklessly. Or rather, all this to say — I never learn my lessons. That the vodka pours easily, for instance, or that I am quicker to kiss than I am to forget.
written in russia, at dusk (11:45PM)
i left the way i learned
to leave that
is — i didn’t leave at all
i’m sorry i love you — the magnetic fields
( let’s pretend it’s a work of art / let’s pretend it’s not my heart )
I needed something from the world I didn’t know how to ask for. I needed people—Dave, a doctor, anyone—to deliver my feelings back to me in a form that was legible. Which is a superlative kind of empathy to seek, or to supply: an empathy that rearticulates more clearly what it’s shown.
Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams
Three Scenes with Men
1. You’re sitting in Sarah’s living room, sipping coffee. Sarah’s your best friend. Though you’re both in college now, three thousand miles apart, you’re home for the summer and spending every other day together. You watch shitty movies on an overheated laptop; you whisper dumb secrets in the dark. So now you’re sitting in the living room, drinking coffee with her family. You didn’t sleep enough and your hair’s a mess but you’re happy to be there, in the morning sunlight, home from college. You put the coffee down and stretch. Sarah’s mom sees your arm and exclaims — did you get a tattoo? And then you pause, amazed you forgot your own skin. Yes, you got a tattoo. Sarah’s dad clears his throat and asks, in that particularly paternal way, what it means. Mocking and stern. Almost flirtatious. (The fathers of friends have always made you squirm.) You tell him that it’s a Latin memento mori, a line from your favorite play. Even in arcadia, there I am. It’s just a reminder, really. A reminder that death is built into your body. Ruin into creation. I’m living in a tomb, you mutter, blushing, scrutinizing the persian carpet. He clears his throat again, sips his coffee. The room is quiet, chastised. In the silence, you resent him, that particularly paternal power he wields. Finally, he declares: That’s brilliant. Honestly, I don’t think you really understand permanence since you’re only a kid, but still, it’s brilliant. You think — fuck Sarah’s dad.
2. Now, you’re in a coffee shop, talking to your TA. Douglas. Even sitting down, Douglas is tall as a drooping plant, shoulders hunched beneath a rumpled button-down. He looks down at his coffee, mulling over the question you’ve asked. The question is — I hate my classes this semester and I can’t remember why I want to study literature. Why do I want to study literature, Douglas? Why does anyone want to study literature? He asks — well, how did you feel last year? Why did you pick literature last year? And so you tell him about a lecture that changed your life. Free indirect discourse in Madame Bovary, you say. And when you read King Lear, of course, and realized — life is suffering and literature the study of suffering. I am eighteen years old and suffering, you thought. Douglas looks a little perplexed, staring at his coffee. You also stare at his coffee, the faint, oily film at its surface. The film iridesces, eddies. You try to explain, and grip the edge of the coffee table. Startled, Douglas looks up from the coffee. His eyes skip down to your tattoo and back to your face. You flinch. The edge of the coffee table pushes into your forearm, underlining the memento mori. He glances down again, then back up. Why do I want to study literature, Douglas? He droops. You think — fuck this.
3. You’re kissing Sam and he is the eighth boy you’ve ever kissed. You’re twenty years old, really confused, with a life that swings from tragic to comic in seconds. Two weeks ago, the boy you were dating told you he didn’t want to be the boy you were dating. For a while afterwards, your smiles were grimaces. You could only eat crackers. You fell asleep sobbing. But now — Sam has put his hands under your shirt. You’re on the couch in his apartment, straddling him. The walls are red and the kisses taste of sticky sweet sangria. He’s really good at this, not too much tongue, not too much spit. You give him a hickey and he moans. He says your name just to say your name. When you stop kissing, your hands are around his neck. You bite your lower lip. He looks at you and says — I like you. You blush, respond — even my tacky tattoo? Even your tacky tattoo, Sam says. You think — why do I always make things so fucking complicated? He kisses your forearm. You see his lips on your skin and feel so fucking light. You’re twenty years old, trailing painful memories like a shoe that’s stuck with toilet paper, but suddenly you’re fucking light.
a text message to read when you’re crying and alone and suddenly 20 years old
"Do sob your heart out whenever you can and pull yourself together when you can’t. I wish I could be there to offer you wine and a hug at least. Have fun with your friends whenever you can and devise as many mean jokes about him, with them, as possible. I know it doesn’t help to say he’s not worth crying over because you probably already know it and anyway that’s probably not really why you’re crying. Be patient and wait to give your love to someone who deserves it. Learn to do something useful and self satisfying while you wait. Or something escapist. Either/or — anything that brings you to another place."
Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.
George Eliot, Middlemarch
dreams — wet
lyrics to repeat as you walk to class: “say it enough times && god will set you free.”