If I could turn back time, if I could find a way, I'd probably be approaching 32 as a quiet, inspiring (read: gay) history teacher, assigning graphic dioramas of Dorothy Parker's vicious circle to cute boys in Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts. I'd soberly plod my way through the workaday, finding small pleasures in crickets and theses, finally ending up smiling, eyes closed, on the couch while McNeil and Lehrer tell me about Howard Dean's presidential victory.
Instead, the Stevie Nicks landslide has brought me to a life of corked, isolated displeasure. Heartily aware of my divergence from productivity some 13 years ago, I nonetheless go on, still picking at shag carpets for the cheap and banal, and crying all the way to the blank.
And so it is that I find myself on a Tuesday night throwing back a couple at the Peacock Room in preparation for a dive into the Wally's mystique. I was hoping to simply peel back the naked-lady wallpaper to find a blinding light of justification for staying drunk all the time. Oh, and eavesdrop for some cutting commentary on how the other half (OK, my half) live. Intentions be damned, though, as I'm approached by -- get this -- a history teacher. He's working on a project involving gay Orlando, although he's not gay.
"My dream job!" I Barbie.
"You might want to rethink your dreams, then," he stares wanly into an empty martini glass.
He knows who I am, which will probably work against him someday (it usually does), and we set to talking about dreams, being gay and history.
"I'm jusht too thynical," I slur, or lisp.
"Yeah, it must be hard for you, always surrounded by drinks."
Oh, very. And then he busts out with The Best Buzzkill of All Time: "I just saw this thing on the news where they say that if you drink 100 drinks a month, you've probably sustained more brain damage than a seasoned alcoholic."
Then he raises a brow as if counting his own brain cells, while I struggle to factor the difference between 100 drinks a month and alcoholism. Math is hard. Anyway, I seem to recall Oprah this week actually pulling out hidden-cam videos of drunk viewers to make them feel bad, and it gave me the sweats.
So I got to wondering, what does it feel like to actually experience pain? I haven't not numbed myself in, gulp, 12 years. Wow, I thought, this could be really funny ... if you like skinny Ewan MacGregor movies, or any and all Jane Fonda vehicles (and I do).
So I go home to dry up, all empty hands and a broken heart. Poor me. Maybe I'll document the whole thing. Maybe that will be funny. Oh.
Wednesday, 6 a.m.: I wake up as always, sweaty and smelling of a bar. I decide to go back to bed and pretend I am at a bar, but only after smoking three more cigarettes for suitably tar-drenched appeal. This is working out great. I'm terribly optimistic.
9 a.m.: I wake up, again, having just dreamt of being immobile at work, stumbling and not being able to make it to the front door. In the dream a friend brings me a "healing" drink in a Mason jar, which turns out to be peanut butter, warm water and a dead fish, all topped off with whipped cream and chocolate chunks. Yummy.
10:15 a.m.: I catch Britney Spears' scandalous new video where she kills herself in a bathtub for Stephen Dorff, only doesn't, and I contemplate the same for myself. Y'know, for simple drama and that intangible teen demographic.
10:20 a.m.: The water's running, I'm naked and definitely not Britney Spears.
11:57 a.m.: But I am Kelly Clarkson, who's currently singing her nonhit "Beautiful Disaster" in tune (sorta) with me living mine. I'm slowly going crazy, and remembering that my therapist told me that, hey, maybe cold turkey could cause me to have a seizure, and that I might want to "watch that." Watch what? Kelly Clarkson? I'm so confused. "Take lots of thiamin," he suggested. What's a thiamin? Does it hurt?
12:15 p.m.: More hummus and crackers, sir. Thank you.
12:54 p.m.: I just cried during the last 10 minutes of "Roseanne." Seems Becky wanted to go on dating Mark, but Roseanne and Dan wouldn't have it. I look over at the answering machine, look at the clock and slowly decline into the fat housewife that I really am.
1:23 p.m.: Michael Damian's "Rock On" video just bled into Tone-Loc's "Funky Cold Medina" on VH1 Classic. I'm having chest pains. I'm trusting that's Damian's fault. I'm also starting to think that the symptoms of withdrawal -- probably premature here, mind you -- are more an anxiety against the norm. Do I not drink to make these things palpable, even funny? Isn't withdrawal just an exaggerated form of cabin fever? I check my temperature. Nope. Still good. And sober. Sadly.
2 p.m.: Following a typically indulgent stint with Trio's reshowing of a Eurythmics concert, I decide to go take a nap and make, well, sweet dreams. Instead, inside my eyelids are reversed images of little bowl-cut, black-haired girls, like Velma, or Scout. I sweat, toss and turn, and am starting to wonder whether I'm just acting this all out psychosomatically for effect. I lean toward drama, you know. Oh, you haven't heard?
3:17 p.m.: I give up on this notion of sleep, realizing that it's something reserved for those who are allowing themselves to drink today. No no, not me. I grab the dog, who shows no sign of sympathy, and head out towards Lake Eola, thinking that maybe if I walk around it backwards three times, like Superman (or Cher) might, it'll still be Tuesday ... meaning I can drink. The dog poops, I'm pooped, we go back to the couch.
5 p.m.: I'm racing around Publix like a junkie at a soup kitchen, trying to figure out just what sustenance goes well with miserable. Deep inside, I know I'm circling the wine aisle like it's the nucleus of my being, but I try -- and I mean try -- to avoid it, pulling some baked beans (very "Trainspotting") and some salad fixings (very "Klute") off the shelves. But it's that bottle of chardonnay that I eventually prescribe myself for medicinal purposes that will soon break my resolve.
Hello, my name is Billy and I'm an alcoholic. So what.