Okay, I exaggerated. It wasn’t all work. Christian and I managed to get drunk at the house a few times, too.
I was staring at a half empty bottle of Southern Comfort when I got to thinking, as I probably often did while drunk, about whether Digger felt at all like this when he got drunk.
I suspected not, because here’s what I felt like. Like I wanted to laugh really loud, with my heart pounding so hard I could feel it in my neck and in my temples, my face red and some sweat on my forehead. When we walked down toward the convenience store to see if they were still open, I walked backward the whole way feeling like I couldn’t make a wrong step. For me, knocking back enough liquor fast enough produces a feeling that is really entirely too similar to the way I feel on stage for me to admit it any time other than while I’m drunk. I told this to Chris while walking backward through the quiet Allston streets.
He laughed. He closed his eyes while he did it, tipped his head back and let his hair fall down his back, so that neither of us was looking where we were going. “Yeah, I guess so,” he said, when he looked forward again. “I feel that way when I’m fucking, too.”
“No shit,” I said before I really had time to think about what he said.
“No shit. Like I’m on top of the world and can do no wrong. And of course I get hot and sweaty and all that.”
I pressed my hand to my neck and every beat seemed doubled. “Yeah, okay, sex and drugs and rock and roll. We aren’t the first ones to figure that out.”
“Not every drug does it like that,” Chris said, then. “I mean, coke is like the ultimate extension of that. Your heart beats like it’s going to explode, only this seems really cool at the time. And the raging hard on it gives you, man, it explains all of Hollywood.”
“No shit,” I said again. “When have you done coke?”
“Miracle Mile had a manager for a while was a total coke-head. Which meant it was sort of fun for us for a very short time. He didn’t last.”
I didn’t ask for more details.
“Every time I did it I swore I was going to go out and get a second job just to support myself to buying the stuff. But in the morning I’d always see the error in that logic. Watch your left.”
I moved to avoid a fire hydrant in the sidewalk and put my hands into my jacket pockets. “Pot doesn’t really do it for me,” I said.
“Yeah, I noticed. You get like stone quiet, man.” Chris wasn’t looking at me, really. His eyes were sweeping back and forth over the neighborhood–at that moment we were passing a row of two-family houses, six houses identical in shape but painted different colors. “Sometimes.”
“Yeah, sometimes. It’s weird, it’s like sometimes when I smoke, I get no effect at all. Other times, it just saps the energy right out of me.” I decided against mentioning paranoia.
“Like you’re too relaxed.”
“You’re one of the most laid-back high-strung people I know, Dar.”
We both started laughing then because he knew I was going to ask what the hell he meant by that and I knew he would have said he didn’t have the slightest fucking idea. I turned to start walking forward and felt disoriented suddenly. I swayed and Chris steadied my arm.
“What the hell did you mean by that?” I asked suddenly.
“Come on, Daron, you know what I mean. You can be so absolutely like deadpan, and yet hyper. I’ve learned not to take it personally.”
“Shit,” I said for no reason in particular. “Point it out to me when I’m doing it, will you? But what were we talking about before that?”
“Hell if I know.”
“Drugs, we were talking about drugs.” My hands were too hot in my pockets and I had to bring them out and wave them. “What’s acid like?”
He let out a bomb-dropping whistle. “Generally, it’s like… well, have you ever been drunk enough that your memory gets all fucked up?”
“Um, I think so…” I wasn’t really joking but we laughed anyway.
“Well, it’s maybe kind of a little bit like that. Once you’re used to it, it’s just like everything is happy and you can like, drop and go to concerts and stuff like that, only it lasts for like twelve hours and you have occasional religious experiences in the middle.”
“But your first time, your first time is a different story. Because you’re not used to it, nothing’s going to make sense during it, because you’re going to be totally unable to process what’s coming in through your eyes and ears. That’s why people hallucinate.”
“Twelve hours. Jeezus.”
“I’m saying don’t do it without supervision.”
“What kind of hallucinations?”
“Mmmm, stuff like the windows of the house looking like giant faces with giant mouths opening and closing. Or like the towels are crawling right off the rack in the bathroom, like they’re alive.”
“It is, but on the other hand everything seems so happy and right with the world that you could probably witness something truly awful, and not be freaked out by it.”
“I don’t know, a murder or something.”
“Or a Grateful Dead concert.”
We busted out laughing again while Chris tried to tell me not to knock the Dead. “I’ve watched horror movies and stuff while tripping,” he said. “And they don’t seem half as bad as when you see ’em straight.”
“Then why do people have bad trips?” I was fishing for half-remembered warnings potheads at school used to repeat without knowing what they were talking about either.
“You have a bad trip, it’s because of something in your own head, not something you see,” Chris said, suddenly serious. “But hey, why all the questions about acid?”
“Because I’ve still got a bunch of tabs in my jacket pocket. You gave them to me, the night of the Christmas show.”
“Holy fuck! I was wondering what happened to those! I thought maybe we did ’em all.”
I looked around suddenly, wondering if maybe we were talking a little too loud for our own good. But by now we were on the main drag and it was mostly dark store fronts around us.
“Sex on acid is nice,” Chris said then.
“In what way?”
“Well, sometimes your attention span wanders, like you kind of forget what you’re in the middle of. But you can get kind of lost in it, too. I had this one girlfriend, really into it. For a while, we were tripping like every weekend and fucking like rabbits. I was, I mean, I was getting like chafed…”
“Jeezus.” At least my face was already red and my inhibitions way down. “How long ago was this?”
“Oh, like five years ago or something. I still see her around some times.”
We arrived at the doors of the convenience store. It was still blazingly well-lit and open. Muzak and an array of saturated-color packaging beckoned to us. Kind of intense. “You go on,” I said, sinking down next to the door. I propped my back against the brick wall.
The door jingled as it shut behind him.
I watched my breath fog under the fluorescent lights outside. Now that we were neither walking nor talking, I could sort of hear how drunk I was, like all the blood and liquor rushing through my ears was audible, like a ringing. I didn’t think it was like this for Digger, who never slammed back as much at once so didn’t get the same rush from it. No, he hammered himself slowly into oblivion, one careful drink at a time, his mood rarely improving as he went.
That wasn’t strictly true, I remembered. That was how he drank at home, when he drank, which fortunately was only when things got so bad between him and Claire that he’d openly defy her and drink in front of her. When we’d go out to Maddie’s, it was after a few drinks he’d start to get gregarious, loud; he’d brag and tell stories; he’d bet recklessly.
I felt cold suddenly, sitting there on the concrete. Once again I’d tried to find the evidence that he and were not alike, and once again I’d ended up staring myself in the proverbial face or some Luke-Skywalker-Darth-Vader shit like that. I started to laugh, which only proved I was still drunk.
Chris came out then, and handed me a turkey sandwich in plastic wrap. He had one like it in his other hand, already open and bitten into. “Thought you might be hungry.”
“Is this wise?” I said as I got to my feet.
“What, you mean, if we puke later?” He thought about it. “I’d rather have something to throw up besides rancid booze. And here.” He handed me a can of ginger ale. “This cures a hangover.”
“Works for me.”
“You could have fooled me…”
“Okay, so some things are beyond repair. Just drink it.”
We started walking back to the house and I noticed, as I usually did when walking this direction, that the street sloped slightly uphill toward our place. This seemed unfair at that moment and I said so.
“Ain’t life a bitch, though?” Chris agreed.
We ate our sandwiches while walking and didn’t talk much. By the time we got home, my buzz was well-faded and I was feeling sleepy.
We were on the front steps when Chris said, “When’s your birthday again?”
“Like, two weeks.”
“You’re a young’un,” he said, sounding like Michael Landon on Little House.
“Is that why you make sure I get drunk every now and then?”
I realized I didn’t remember if Chris was thirty two or thirty three or what. We called it a night then–after all, we were due at the loft again tomorrow–and I went upstairs to go to sleep. While I was lying in bed waiting to fall asleep, I realized I was feeling something like sadness.
I told myself maybe I was still a little drunk, or maybe it was just the crash from being so high, so giddy an hour ago. I picked at the feeling like a scab. Was I…depressed? Lonely? Restless? Unfulfilled?
Well, yeah, but I was trying not to let it bother me.