Some days I feel well. Some days I feel like I’m doing so well I should celebrate. I want to rally people and go drink Long Island iced teas. Then I don’t feel well anymore, because I realize that that’s still my go to. I feel angry, like I want to punish myself, and to do that I want to rally people and go drink whiskey. If I’m happy with myself, I want a drink, if I’m angry with myself, I want a drink, and the doing well feeling of not thinking about drinks is gone. The illusion of wellness goes boom and I remember that I’m only thirty-two but I can never have another drink again because I don’t have the gene for moderation. I didn’t catch myself soon enough to allow myself occasional drinks and now I’m stuck with this no drinking shit.
I’ve relapsed once. I was clean for four months and I was so proud of myself I thought I’d have some wine. Wine barely counts as alcohol; wine is a culture drink, an offering to the gods. How could wine be a problem when it’s deity approved? The gods know what’s good better than my counselor does. My counselor wouldn’t even argue. If I said, “Hey, Mr. Lahiri, who knows better, you or god?” I bet Mr. Lahiri would say god. So I had wine, because not only would the gods approve, Mr. Lahiri would approve, and these are the people with my best interests at heart. I had one glass of red, and then I thought I should have white too, and then I couldn’t decide which I liked better, so I had one more glass of each and decided I liked the red better, so I ordered a bottle of it, and the waitress was good at her job so she upsold me another bottle and I knew she was upselling me one but she said it tasted unique, she told me I’d never tasted another wine like this wine, she said it was peppery as rocket and sensuous as chocolate. I don’t know if it was the wine or the waitress, but I got so turned on I thought I probably had to order this bottle.
I was two thirds done the bottle when the waitress came back to check on me, and I was heavy tongued when I asked her if she’d like some. She said no thank you, and I thought I obviously wasn’t smooth enough, and I was mad, then, at myself and at her for declining my offer just because I was shitty at offering. I told her then, I told her that the gods accepted offerings of wine, and if she thought she was better than the gods, she was a heathen asshole, and she said she was sorry, she didn’t feel like drinking, and I don’t remember what I said after that, but I was mad as hell, because she thought she was better than me, and Mr. Lahiri, and the gods. I remember the manager came over, but I don’t know what they looked like, just their shoes, splashed with my vomit. The last thing I remember about that night is thinking, “Fuck, I guess this means I’m not at four months anymore” and my brother Frankie picking me up from jail.
So I know better about wine now, and I know better about flirting with waitresses because for the most part waitresses don’t want to get to know you unless you’re their age and good looking. But not just like, okay looking good looking, like good jaw and chin good looking, which I’ve noticed not many men are, and the ones who are always drinking beer and I get a little glad that they’re ruining their livers.
Today I’m feeling not so well, because the first month of abstaining is really hard, and I’m on my third week clean again, and the weather’s gone and turned nice. I keep trying to distract myself, but I can’t focus on the reading my brother gave me. They’re all shitty books with stupid self-help messages and too many adjectives. I hate adjectives. You know what has too many damn adjectives? Wine bottles. Oaky finish my left nut. Floral bouquet bullshit. If I want a floral bouquet I’ll go to a convenience store and get some of the daisies or whatever out front in the buckets. I don’t know too many flower names, but neither does anyone else anymore now that there are no more farmers, so I just call all flowers daisies. Anyway I want a drink and there’s nothing for me to do for distraction. I don’t want to read because of all the adjectives, and I don’t want to play video games because playing video games by myself makes me miss my friends who are probably out at a bar together because they can still drink. They don’t invite me because they “don’t want to tempt me” but I think they were happy for a reason to get rid of me.
I’d love to go show up at a bar and sit down at a table near them and drink a coke or something and slurp so loud it disturbs their drinking experience. Mostly what I want to do is have a long island iced tea, which is my favorite drink on account of it having so many tastes. Blew my mind when I found out there was no actual iced tea in it. It’s incredible how a bunch of tastes can end up mimicking the taste of something else. But if I could have a Long Island iced tea, I could probably still be hanging out with my friends. I think they don’t want me around because they liked me better drunk than sober. Didn’t have too many friends until I started drinking, because I don’t have a good jaw or chin. My brother’s wife said that weak chins are a sign someone’s inbred. She said it looking right at me, and I told her joke was on her because if I’m inbred, my brother is too unless he’s secretly a bastard. My brother asked where that was coming from and I left because I didn’t want to put up with any of his bullshit. My brother doesn’t like me better sober, but I cause him less trouble that way, so he pretends he does. It’s pretty selfish of him.
I keep thinking about my brother and about drinks and I think, fuck it, three weeks isn’t that great anyway, it’s not like I’d be blowing a year of sobriety if I went and had a drink today. That and I really want the company because I have been spending so much time by myself. I even got a fish because my three-year-old niece suggested I get one when I told everyone at family dinner how fucking lonely I was, and I thought her advice was pretty damn smart, so I went out the next day and got a fish. I even took a picture of it and sent it to her, but a week later, that fish was dead. So I got another. And another. They were all dead a week or two after I got em, so I thought, fuck fish, how did they even survive in the wild? People talk about how overfishing and pollution are wrecking the fish population in the ocean, but I think these people have never owned fish before, because the bastards die practically on impact with life. Anyway, I stopped getting fish cuz that was depressing. I told my niece about the fish always dying, and she was coloring a cat at the time. I thought maybe she’d tell me to get a cat, but she just said that maybe I should get a flower.
I asked her if she knew the names of any flowers and she paused and said, “Mmm… daisies.” And I felt super proud because my niece knew the name of the same flower I did, so I gave her a high five and told my sister-in-law that she did real good with Stacy, that’s my niece. Stacy’s a real good kid, you can already tell she’s gonna be smart and not get in fights or anything. Usually if I see Stacy in a day, it’s one of the days where I do well. She gets to have a popsicle on weekend days and she always splits one with me, and now popsicles are like my favorite thing, even if they make me think of Bellinis or margaritas.
Sometimes on days like today, the days where I want to punch everything I see just for being there, I call my brother and see if he and Stacy want to go to the park or something, but usually she’s in school or at gymnastics, and my brother is busy doing something. I think those all might be excuses, though. My brother’s wife doesn’t want me to be around Stacy that much because of my drinking or not drinking. My brother says that’s not true, but he always throws in that his wife Myriam has had some bad experiences with alcoholics and I ask him if he thinks I’m an alcoholic and he gets upset.
Thinking about that makes me mad again and I decide screw it, I’ve made it to three weeks sober twice already, it’s not that hard, and I’m going to have a drink. I’m going to The Watering Hole, where I used to drink with my friends. I’m going to sit on the patio cuz the weather is nice. I hope my friends are there so they can feel like assholes for not calling me.
I get some spare change and take the bus down the hill and over the bridge to The Watering Hole. It’s a decent ride, but it feels like it takes damn near forever and by the time the bus reaches the bridge, I’m pumping my foot so hard it’s shaking the floor, I can tell because the old guy sitting next to me in the “reserved for elderly” section keeps giving me pissed off looks. I try and ignore him and think about that Long Island iced tea. A double, in a tall glass to make it last longer. In a tall glass, there’s more coke and lime juice to dilute the alcohol, so it’ll be like I’m not having as much.
I pull the request cord harder than I mean to when the bus gets to the stop. I get off and thank the driver, and I mean it. I feel happier as I walk the half a block to The Watering Hole. Every time I get near this place it feels like I’m doing well. The feeling I get from sobriety once in a while I get from approaching bars all the time. If life’s so damn short like people say, I figure the least I can do is fill my life doing stuff I actually enjoy, like drinking long island iced teas, and everyone who judges that can go to hell.
I get into The Watering Hole and wait in front of the “please wait to be seated” sign, because I’m not a barbarian. I crane my head around to look for my friends, I don’t see them there. It’s 1pm on a Wednesday, so maybe some of them are at work. My phone buzzes in my pocket. I look for my friends for a few seconds more then pick up. It’s a text from my brother. I slide my thumb across the phone and open the message. I’m still a little mad at him, so I’m prepared to be an asshole in response to whatever he’s texted, but most of the message is a picture. The picture’s of pink and red scribbles roughly in the shape of a flower with a smiling face in the middle. Underneath the picture my brother texted “Stacy learned a new flower today. She wanted to show you. It’s a rose.”
Three years old and she puts a happy face in the middle of the flower. What a kid.
A pretty hostess in a short, black dress approaches the little hostess podium and consults with a piece of paper on a clipboard. I’m still looking at the bright scribbles on my phone.
“Hi there! Table for one?”
I press my thumb into the photo until the option screen comes up and select “Save picture.” I look up. The hostess is smiling at me.