26 February, 2020


It was the time I staggered up the cracked and buckled sidewalk, having just drank too much Congress vodka and Coca-Cola in the backseat of a friend's VW, and strove to keep my steps straight until the police cruiser passed or turned the corner. It was a miracle that the three flights of steps to my apartment didn't involve a tumble, and doubly astonishing that I successfully found the toilet in which to experience my first glorious, life-altering purge.

Or it was the time I occupied a Formica-topped table at Sydney's, with a rotating cast of the diner's regulars, for seven straight hours, drinking cup after cup of brackish coffee and excusing myself every half hour to "powder my nose." The lights there might've seemed too bright, but I felt incandescent. At dawn I couldn't find a toilet fast enough.

Or it was the time someone's mother asked me, after I inadvertently broke her backyard fence and terrified the family dog, to take my cocaine and devil-may-care attitude out of her house. Her daughter, the girl throwing the party, wasn't pleased, either, and would've given me an earful at school the following Monday, had I not dropped out the summer before.

Or it was the time I was a drunk (not to mention very high) passenger in the woefully inadequate backseat of my friend Abraham's old Datsun, singing "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall" all the way through. In a British accent. While sitting upside-down.

Or it was the time I walked to work, in wrinkled chinos, from an acquaintance's apartment, the thick taste of the night before still at the back of my throat, then spent eight hours shilling Barbie dolls and remote-control cars to parents whose children's allowance exceeded my own income, even before you deducted for drugs.

Or it was the time I awoke fuzzy-headed on the floor of a bedroom belonging to a girl I didn't remember meeting, in a different city than the one in which the excitement of the night before began. Her pretty sister drove me home — a great personal inconvenience about which she didn't try to hide her vexation. I never saw either of them again.

Or it was the time Jason and Ash, humming in their respective intoxications, laughed in giddy falsettos at my tissue-plugged nostrils. They pointed out to me the blood-spattered carpet all the way to the bathroom. We resumed band practice once they caught their breath, forgetting my bloodstains on the basement floor, which had, by the next time we played together, darkened to resemble soy sauce, brown calligraphy ink, or oil leaked from a slowly dying machine.

Or it was the time I blacked out at an illegal warehouse party and came to on cold concrete, staring up into unfamiliar flashing multicolored faces — none of whom I recognized — and believed that my pathetic life was not my own.

What do these sad instances, and countless intoxicated others, add up to? How many years of ignorance before I reached this point! How much suffering! And while I might sometimes wish that those regrettable years had gone differently, that I had found a way to avoid so much more — and more enduring — agony, I always remind myself of their necessity. Without them, I couldn't have arrived at the mental peace I now know, free to live a life of deeper meaning, where the importance of certain things previously taken for granted has been rendered as clear and as bracing as cold water from a deep spring. That's well worth the streak of sad senselessness.

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