Contrary to most notions about my generation, I have never been drunk. Tipsy, yes. But drunk, vomiting, or making scandalous scenes? No. And perhaps never. Many of my peers have been, and I’ve seen more than my fair share of alcohol soaked behaviour – shouting, screaming, puking, sexual advances, and even a certain degree of violence. I laugh at them. I get scandalized by them. But I never want to be like them.
Perhaps it’s also because I’ve always been a light drinker. Although alcoholic drinks, like the solutions used to disinfect the skin, can also serve as an antiseptic of sorts for the non-external and perhaps more emotional wounds, it has never been an effective source of comfort for me. It may momentarily console. But its effects are not lasting.
I hate beer for one thing. I hate having to be forced by peers or cousins, friends and even bosses to drink beer. The bitterness of the beverage is something I cannot stomach, and when I am compelled to have a bottle or two, indeed it only ends up with two. Beer makes me feel bloated, and for a man who prefers lightness in most aspects of his life, feeling full in my gut is an effect I despise.
I have always preferred the harder drinks. The ones which leave you in the heat of a moment. On evenings after work, when there is still enough vigour to tackle the night, I go for something brown – a scotch or a bourbon, a few shots of tequila or something as frustratingly simple and unpretentious such as coke rum. It is a decidedly uneventful affair of steady, heady intoxication which I always manage to put off just before I find myself lost in drunkenness.
When my body is in a weaker state, I take a more predictable route – vodka tonic. Or just about anything with vodka. Perhaps this choice was partly influenced by Bridget Jones’ iconic statement, “I choose vodka”. But vodka, to me is the vanilla of alcohol, a base flavour, a canvass by which all other elements of alcoholic-tinged drinks can expect a warm welcome. Pure, diluted, in the morning or the evening, a shot can do wonders to both the internal appetites, and the more metaphysical hungers of the spirit.
I must reiterate I am no alcoholic (at most I have only a glass or three shots), and my knowledge of alcoholic drinks extend only to what I’ve tried, what I have read about, or what I have seen my father drinking. I have no idea about cocktails, and I won’t pretend to be a wine connoisseur. I have sipped some fine wines myself, but my palette is too middle-class to discern what is cheap from what is expensive, or to know which is the best pair for my overpriced, medium rare steak and caesar salad. Apart from the harder drinks, my affections have only been expressed to a few glasses of mojitos (a friend told me this was Hemingway’s favourite), margaritas, and martinis – which to some, perhaps say more about my virginity (in ways outside of sexual) than anything else.
There have been odd days when I found recourse in a glass of Jack Daniel’s my brother had sneakily hidden in the kitchen cupboards. A gift from an aunt in Baltimore. No ice, no fancy mixes. I pour myself a warm glass, head to the bathroom, let the shower run as I sit on the toilet, Marlboro Black in one hand and a bit of mellow on the other. Naked, wet, heady – it’s a simple portrait of sorrow which hopes to assume a poetically vivid stand against personal demons. If not a JD, then a cheap brandy from the local convenience store would do. Just a temporary escape from living’s constant pain. Not an excuse to be disastrously hungover the next day. That simple.
See, I don’t go to clubs or bars. I hate dressing up. I hate casual flirting. I hate going home late at night. And I hate having to worry about getting drunk. Most of my friends think I am uptight. And maybe they are right. I like to think I have control over alcohol’s powers, that I can resist it, and that I can restrain my own beasts. I’m not one to relinquish reason – and reputation – for the regrettable post-alcoholic binge headache, depression or even scandal.
They say to be drunk is to be liberated, to be free, to forget about your insecurities, to let down your guard, even if just for a moment. I’m afraid I’m more practical than they think. Not so much though, as to yearn for a life of sobriety. But not so terribly lacking in hope as to rely on a drink for the courage to face every day.
“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”