Harsh Times: Alcohol Poisoning

I don’t have very much in common with George Bernard Shaw, well who’s to say; it’s not as if I’ve had the opportunity to meet him.  Although, I am privy to a selection of his ideas; one in particular makes me feel as though we are indeed kindred spirits.  Mr. Shaw has been famously or infamously quoted as saying:

Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.

For a myriad of reasons I could not agree more.  We use the liquid of delirium in all its various flavors to mask the pain we feel while struggling with the bore and tedium that is sobriety and reality; heavy stuff I know, it gets heavier.

So life is filled with signs, from the roadways to the inconsequential; there are signs everywhere.  Now, the most blatant signs are usually the ones denoting negative behavior or movement towards.  I used to think that only people that were completely unhappy with life had ‘signs’, another underestimation I’ll credit to my youthful naivety.  As I mentioned earlier, life is filled with signs; such as camping out in your local dive bar with your best friend.  I’m sure that doesn’t sound entirely detrimental, except that:

Number 1: You don’t know what day or time it is.

Number 2: Your best friend’s name is Johnny Walker.

Number 3: Johnny is kicking your ass.

Judging by that description one would be left to assume that whoever is having the issues above is in need of some serious attention and care, one would assume.  Then again, we all know what they say about assumptions.

“Oy! You havin’ another?”  He shouts out across the bar in his distinctly annoying yet

somehow likable British drawl, all this time I thought I had been talking to the son of a bitch, just wasted a ton of material.

“You gonna keep asking?”

“You havin’ another?”  This time his accent is even more pronounced as he enunciates every word in the hopes of getting his question through my drunken ear drums; that would make for the eighth time he’s asked me if I needed another drink.  Sure he’s the bartender, sure he’s the owner but for Christ Sakes if I need a refill I’ll ask for it!  That wouldn’t be the most polite response, so I take a breath and hold it for just a moment before I say something, unfavorable.

“<sigh> seriously, why does it matter, I swear I won’t tell anyone when your boyfriends swings, by to swing by.”  I chuckle to myself, I’m funny and I know it.  I mean Eddie Murphy Raw funny.

“It matters, because I have PAYING customers at the other end that need drinks.  So, are YOU, having another?!”

He sure told me, I look in my pocket for a rebuttal, there isn’t one.

“Well, I guess that makes sense Jake, yeah fill ‘er up.”

“Jesus, you’re a touchy son-of-a bitch. Here.” Jake slides the now replenished whiskey glass across the bar towards me. He doesn’t spill a drop, exciting to the nerves and synapses in my head that deserve every bitter sip, completely gut wrenching to my punch-drunk liver that’s had enough for the day and is on his way to feeling the body blows of cirrhosis.

“This stuff will kill ya, just so ya know.”

“Ah, yes thanks Mr. Surgeon General.  I’ll be fine chief, plus a few shots of Johnny never killed anyone.”

“I agree; you’re a survivor kid, you’re right about the Johnny thing too.  A few shots never killed anyone, but I’m pretty sure 9 double shots are considered lethal in some states.”

“Good thing we’re in New York then.”  I say with a boyish smirk, damn I’m feeling dizzy.  I raise my glass and toast to my thoughts hoping that this next application will ease the volume of said thoughts long enough for me to enjoy my time with Johnny.  The irony in it all, the more I attempt thoughtlessness; the more I flirt with thought provoking restlessness.

I absorb my glass as if it were a cup of red flavored Kool-Aid on a hot summer day.  I’m drink pushing myself to feel numb all the while every push inflicting more pain than a 7-gauge needle being plunged into my stomach; then again that might be the brewing issue with my liver.  Despite my predicament I find myself wishing Jake left the bottle behind, self-service would have been phenomenal at this point.  Alas, that luxury is not afforded to me so I’m left with-

“You know…” <sigh> I know that voice anywhere, as with most of my habits and otherwise risqué lifestyle choices it is the voice of the figurative jelly being taken OUT of my donut.  I turn to attempt some sort of explanation or perhaps even surrender before the war of words begins, but like most verbal showdowns between Dean and myself I am just one step behind.

“You know, there is much more you can do with your not so free time than stare into that bottomless glass of whiskey.”  He sniffs the glass in disgust.

“Johhny be good, delicious.”  Dean strikes again; more often than not he reminds me of how lackluster my relationship with Johnny really is.  Instead of yielding to his; wow that last glass…  Eck snuck up a little bit.  Where was I?  Right, I can’t remember.  What I do know is he’s not ruing the rest of this bottle for me.  Therefore, my rebuttal is essential.

“Now, what I’m concerned about… <burps> Eck that was- ugh, you didn’t smell that right?  Umm, is why you haven’t stopped using that speech as a precursor to your lectures?  I mean it’s a great speech don’t get me wrong, but if you still find yourself using it I think we can both agree it is grossly, ineffective.  HEY, Jake!”  I motion to my supplier haphazardly waving my glass in hand.  “You know the drill!”

I’m not sure if our relationship is considered healthy, after all a significant aspect of it is based on verbal combat.  Oddly enough, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but at the moment I just want another drink.  I could care less if there is life beyond the glass, whatever that means.  Despite my thoughts to make him vanish to a port-a-potty somewhere in middle earth, he sits on the stool next to me.  Wiping his section of the bar with a close by napkin, wait.  That was mine, son of a bitch!

“Sol.  Do you even know what time it is, do you even know what you’re supposed to be doing right now?

He’s like a mother, not a father or a big brother; but a mother.  Today is Julia’s birthday, he treats me like I’d forget; I just don’t care to deal with it this year.  I mean seriously, she’s 8; not very much variation from the last two birthdays these days anyway.

“Yeah, I got it I’m going.”  I grab my stuff; I think I get all of it.  I don’t remember leaving the bar stool, I don’t even know if Dean followed me out.  What I can’t get off my mind is the burning brightness of the 1130 sunshine on what will be a very warm summer day.  Feels like I’m under a heat lamp with no eyelids.

“Hey, TAXI!”  The black Crown Victoria pulls up to an abrupt stop a few feet before me; of course it’s not a taxi, its mama Dean.  I crumble into rear seat; I swear it was the front.  It takes me probably twice as long as it would take a sober elderly woman with osteoporosis and a bum hip to get into the front seat.  Dean noticeably disgusted with my slovenly behavior shakes his head.

“You ready man?” He says to me in his most sincere tone possible as he hands me my badge, which I left on the counter amongst the ruins of whiskey and pronbably some self-respect.  Mothering an afternoon alcoholic can’t be relaxing at all, so I give him his kudos for keeping his cool; every time this happens.

“You look like shit; we should clean you up first.”  He tries to adjust my tie, truth be told it does look like shit.

“Ah, fuck it.  I’ll be fine by the time we get there.”

“Where’s Jessie, she’s not coming?”  I hate Jessie.  Well, that’s harsh; I don’t like the way she cooks would be a much more fitting statement concerning my feelings towards her, yet my garbled response is-

“Fuck Jessie, haven’t seen her today…  Okay this one’s for real.”  I stumble out and manage to vomit away from the vehicle and myself; I’m pleased with myself.  I’m sure I’ll be ashamed of this later.  I quickly receive the alcoholic’s red bull, the instant burst of energy after expelling all that delicious Johnny Walker I spent the morning ingesting.  I plop back into the passenger seat this time and look at Dean as I clean my face with one of the last napkins I had from the bar.

“Not like it’s a huge party or anything.  Just me, Uncle Dean and the kid, we’ll have a ball.  To the cemetery driver!  Let’s wish this kid a happy birthday.”  I wait for a chuckle, a smile, a smirk, a cough, a twitch, a raise of the eyebrow, anything.  I get nothing, and then I realize all my Eddie Murphy Raw funny is out there on the pavement.  Hooray for birthdays.

Author of 'When a Unicorn Crosses the Unicorn'

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