I am always tempted to have one more beer. If I have one, I want two. If I had two, I want a third one. If I had seven, I want the eighth one. If I am sober, I want to be tipsy. If I am tipsy, I want to be drunk. If I am drunk, I am not me and I can’t keep a count. Then I am sloshed. I cannot put two words together, the club is a kaleidoscope of disco lights and an octagon of sweaty armpits. I am shouldering my way out of the crowd. There is a man high fiving me. There is always a man, equally or drunker, high-fiving me, hugging me, spraying me with his spit bullets. Then the crowd elbows my gut, my face, my throat. I fumble over someone’s lost shoe.
I giraffe my neck and ask the hulk of a bouncer about the exit.
The exit is the other way. He says.
The other way!
Which way is that?
No one knows about these secret doorways that pop up on their own in the middle of the night at night clubs. No one makes sense. The beat drops. The crowd is cheerleading the silhouette of a phoney artist. The DJ is barricaded by fluorescent lights and what looks like a shower cabin. I would rather be at home. Alone. May actually listen to the original song. Figure out the DJ’s forte.
But by the time I am home, I want to have one more drink. My fourteenth? Fifteenth? Who is keeping a count? Who CAN keep a count? Not me. I tell myself I am not drunk enough. Of course the definition of ‘enough’ changes as per my mood and the time of the night. I look at my phone. The apps dance in and out of the screen. I finger the alphabets and they float and plummet on the messenger box. Swim around and hide behind the colors and formats. The clock face spirals and drills the phone, drills the flesh, drills the bones of my palm. Then they all fall down and with that falls the weight of my flesh on a tattered carpet.
I wake up next to the legs of a rickety bed, something from the family of cots. The air cooler is dry and smells of dead fish. I have a pounding headache. And a few bruises on my arms and back. These bruises are like bar stamps. They are synonymous with the idea of an eventful night. Except they hurt for three days, just like the insides of my head. I cocoon myself in a blanket. Drink Gatorade, lemon water, gulp down scoops of yoghurt, order more food than I can ever eat. Then eat a quarter of what I can actually eat. And what I can’t eat, I keep in the fridge and forget about it for days until they turn viscous and remind of fat drenched carcasses at butcher shops.
I can’t read the texts from last night. They are as bad as my handwriting. Plus there are too many consonants and no vowels in those words. People are worried. They ask me if I am alright? Of course, I am alright. I wasn’t who I was in those texts.
Half a week goes by and then there is a party I can’t miss. There is always a party that I cannot miss. Not that I try to miss parties, but sometimes I need a nudge, a reason.
I also need someone to tell me that I must do such and such and in doing such and such, I must do this and that, because doing this and that for such and such is what is the right thing to do. It takes people less than a minute to convince me for drinks, for parties, to inject a sense of suicidal hedonistic chaos in the sense of my being.
I tell everyone I drink beer, for beer is usually cheaper, but when there are other drinks for free, I drink everything I can. Even something as feminine, as say, a colourful vodka.
I am a liar, a hypocrite, a coward, a drunkard. And I have as much control on my choices as my jittery legs on the dance floor.
The following mornings are a slow death. If I could remain asleep for three days straight, I would. If I could give a limb to the hangover gods, I would. If I could gauge my brains out, add some herbal medicines and make myself a healthy flavoured concoction and drink it, I would.
But I stay in bed and count the dirt patches that have caked on the ceiling fan and play an air guitar with the sun rays that filter through the ventilator and envelop my aching torso.
The cycle repeats. The years go by. The parties go on.
Then one day, after one of those chaotic nights, I wake up with a bleeding nose. It’s the dryness and the heat. I tell myself.
Then months after that, the clerk at the bank asks me to sign a document, I can’t sign it. My hands don’t curve the way they used to. I can’t remember the pattern of my own signature. And when I attempt it, I end up signing it out of the box, in an unfamiliar sloppy figurine, that’s not my signature. The clerk shakes her head and hands me a second document. This time, I hold my one shaky hand with the other shaky hand and sign it. Big mistake, when you hand your one hand with the other, you neither know which hand is which nor do you have the control you so badly want. My signatures are worse than my drunk texts.
I talk to people, I go for walks, I take days off from work. I stay at home. I cleanse myself for a few weeks until there is one more party.
The aftermath of this party is blood in my vomit, blood in my nose, blood in the stool. Blood everywhere. The hands are numb. They don’t even shiver anymore. They just don’t belong to me. Nothing belongs to me, not even the parties that I live for. Not the friends I make. But the only the monsters I foster.
Okay, enough. I tell myself. I give up booze. I give up the temptations. I have done this before, I can do this again. I will do it again. I need a substitute. Coffee? More coffee? Cigarettes maybe? I cannot just give up on alcohol.
I need another addiction to placate the monstrous urge of the existing addiction.
So I pick up chewing gums. That’s the habit I want. An annoying perpetual habit of jaw movement, precariously designed to bruise the oral cavity. I chew gums, walk around with the attitude of an entitled landlord or a teenage girl. I hate it. I also realise you can’t just pick up a habit you want. It’s only the habits that you don’t want to come easily to you.
So I just battle giving up alcohol. I count days, circle and cross dates on the calendar. Contemplate an AA meeting. Reward myself for giving it up for a week then celebrate it by drinking at the weekend. Then for two weeks, a month, six months. This progressive strike changes my face, my mood. Detoxifies my soul, cleanses me of my bad cerebral choices.
Until there is one more party somewhere, someplace by someone. And I have to be at that party. It’s sort of a … necessity, they tell me. Plus there will be free drinks.
The music at this party is louder, unbearable. I never realized how unbearable music of your own choice can be when you are in a club – not drunk. I walk over to the bar. I ask for non-alcoholic beer which they don’t have it. I ask for energy drinks, which they don’t have it. Then I ask for juice. Which they do have. The bartender nods and disappears behind a shiny pillar and when he comes back, he hands me a tall glass, with orange peeking out of its rims.
I take a sip, I taste Bacardi in it. This is not what I had asked for. I look at the cocktail glass. It looks back at me. It’s flirting with my determination, my sense of control.
I look for the bartender who had handed me this drink, but he is too far now, he can’t hear me. I am too lazy and embarrassed to ask for another glass of juice. I am surrounded by drunk people. Fun people. No one asks for a glass of juice in the company of fun people. But more importantly, I like the familiar taste of alcohol on my tongue.