It wasn’t that I ordered the martini, or drank the martini and didn’t have a second. It wasn’t that she had a martini. After all, it was lunch with the girls, two for one, a few hours before I left town.
We hadn’t seen each other in a long while. Although we’d enjoyed a few socially acceptable wine and cheese fests, nothing seemed out of the ordinary until the second week of my visit. Behind the wheel of her car, at her computer, or walking on the beach as we chatted about the Haitian earthquake or our kids, the conversation magically steered itself toward the word “drink”.
“I’d like a drink, that’s what.” she’d say, half kidding or not kidding. Who doesn’t want a drink, I asked myself. Even people who don’t drink want a drink. How wonderful to admit it. Come to think of it, why not have a drink?
“Hell if I wouldn’t mind a drink.” It surprised me that it surprised me, the mention of a drink, but it was often the furthest thing from my mind. Things would be just going along fine, walking the dogs, heading to a movie:
“Well, fine, I’m ready for a damn drink.” Why I didn’t just let her have a drink and not join her, I don’t know. Why should I care if she wanted a drink or had a drink or had six drinks or didn’t have a drink after all? She was an adult. She’d never had a DUI, never had to Detox, never gone to AA, never had a black-out. She had an intense bubbling personality and a big appetite for laughs and fun. What harm, a drink, a few drinks, plenty of drinks, too many drinks? Life was rough. We were living large. Fuck the bastards if they couldn’t take a joke.
She admitted that she accepted and at the same time challenged the idea that she was an alcoholic. The term, no longer negative, was in fact the opposite. Admitting to the condition was an indication of an unflinchingly courageous self-reflection. Heroic.
As a heroine, she made drinking sound in some way mandatory. I felt I would be breaking a sacred code, foiling the cause, if I didn’t join in. I also suspected that she did not care if I had a drink, but then, I never tested her.
After the martini lunch, I snuck out of town without saying good-bye. Drove fifty miles and checked into a Comfort Inn. I had a hang over from the simple martini I’d ordered against my better judgment. I had a hangover from the glass of wine that had been against my better judgment the night before.
I collapsed on the bed in the motel room, relieved to not have a drink, think about a drink, need a drink, avoid a drink.
Ah ha. Was I the one with the drinking problem? She was in her own home, cozy, oblivious. I was in a motel room.
It seemed that drinking had had a greater affect on me. Drinking had compelled me to radically alter my plans, cost me time, money and a headache. Was I a problem drinker running from temptation? Had I lost my sense of sophistication, sense of humor? Was I overreacting to an imaginary pressure or the power of a suggestion that didn’t exist?
My friend just wanted some drinks. I wanted to keep her company. Why not? After I had one drink I forgot I hadn’t wanted one until the hangover began a couple of hours later. Why not just say no? Why leave town?
What happened was this. I didn’t enjoy her company anymore and I didn’t enjoy my own company when I was with her. For some reason, I couldn’t stay in town and just say no. I had to be at least 500 miles away from her.
I ‘m running from myself, I know that, but I don’t want to take her with me.