Back from D.C. a little early! The weather wasn’t looking too good, so we decided to leave today instead of tomorrow, so we don’t get stuck in the snow. I got to meet up with my best friend, explore parts of the area that most people don’t go to (the hood, sort of), and take some pictures. I used film and didn’t finish the roll, so it’ll be a little while before I post them.
Also, if you’re interested in what I’m reading, I just finished Love in the Time of Cholera. I saw the movie before I read the book, so I already knew the plot, but it still hit me hard at the end. I absolutely loved it and would put it at the top of my list of favorite books. I don’t know what I’m going to start reading next, but I’m leaning towards The Man with the Golden Arm.
This is going to be inspired by a prompt: write about a writer who refuses to take his antidepressants because he can’t write unless he’s depressed. Only difference is that I’m going to switch antidepressants with alcohol.
I try to think back to a time where I was much happier, and I can’t, because it’s all a blur. Too much time spent doing nothing. Nothing worth remembering.
I was a late bloomer. My parents were strict. Not very strict, but strict enough to make me believe that the normal social conventions: partying, dancing, drinking, sports, were not important. Because of that, I stayed inside, mostly playing video games.
They told me to study, and I would for a minute, but my attention span wouldn’t allow for any more time. Every day: “What did you learn today?” “Anything interesting happen in school?” Never anything that mattered to me, so I always told them no. “Any tests coming up?” “No,” I’d reply. And because of that, I would fail.
When I failed, I got in trouble. Not in a lot of trouble, but enough. They would wait for me to have plans before punishing me. It really fucked with my head.
I met some people at school, at the other end of the lunch table, that dealt with the same kind of things. They hung out after school, telling their parents they were going to a club meeting, and how they were making lots of friends. In reality, they, and now me, are smoking cigarettes on the basketball court. I still think it’s weird how we tried cigarettes before beer.
To pass the time in class, I would write stories about anything: from an animal’s point of view, to plays, to sci-fi, to poetry. I would even give myself weird challenges like only using words with a certain number of letters, or writing with my left hand, or thinking of a prompt and then doing the exact opposite. Like, if I thought about a happy family, I would have to write about a sad one, which I always found ironic.
Alcohol was a game-changer for me. I had so much trouble opening up to people in person. I still do, since I stopped drinking, but you know what I mean, when I was little. Depression runs in the family, I think. We all hide it as best we can, except for my mother, who sees a psychiatrist and takes antidepressants that make her turn into a zombie. She’s in another world on those pills.
I saw what they did to her, and decided to stick to beer. There was a point where beer wasn’t enough, so I switched to shots of vodka, then old-fashioned’s, then whiskey on the rocks to just plain whiskey, straight from the bottle most nights. I never thought I’d be addicted. I was never the obsessive type. I could let things go very easily. This often got me into trouble because it would seem like I never cared at all to begin with.
That first beer, though. I remember it frame by frame.
We had a group of six, in the woods around dusk, and one Mike’s Hard. There was enough for maybe two sips each. And we waited for it to kick in for like, twenty minutes. Obviously nothing happened, but I had a strong desire to get drunk like my father.
He wasn’t an angry drunk. In fact, he was a better person. There was always a lot on his mind. He was a writer, too. Well, first, I should say. He taught me everything he knew. Some of his early work was published by a small publishing house and actually made enough money to take some time off from work to focus on the next book. An extended vacation, essentially. And during that time, he would teach me.
“One beer is all you need. A real one. Not any of that light garbage they pass off as beer,” he’d say. Paulaner was his favorite. I remember him trying to give me a sip once and I threw it up immediately, all over his work. That was the last time until what I consider my real first time in the woods.
First time I got drunk was at a party. I only had three and I was a mess. I actually had to go home. But that was when I first learned I enjoyed writing. I always felt embarrassed about my writing. When my father would ask to see what I wrote, I’d hide it or throw it out or lie and say I didn’t write anything. Alcohol finally opened me up to the idea that my work could be decent.
I wrote all night; I couldn’t sleep. When the sun came up, I came down. I slept all day. My father saw my work on my desk and woke me up immediately.
“I’m sorry I looked at what you wrote, but I just wanted to let you know that you have a real talent for this.”
“Thanks, dad,” was all I could come up with. I never experienced a true hangover before.
But now I can’t write without it. I wrote my writing sample for grad school while I was wasted, not just drunk. I was obliterated. I took Hemingway’s advice to heart: write drunk, edit sober. Only thing he forgot to mention was how important it is to learn how to write sober, so you know how to edit sober.
The other day, I received a letter in the mail from NYU, the only school I applied to. My father went there, and he said that alone should get me in as long as my writing was decent. He already started talking to some of his writing buddies with connections to publishing houses, telling them to get ready for something special.
When I got the rejection letter, it broke me apart. I drank half a bottle of whiskey in one sitting. And even that wasn’t enough to numb the pain. From that day on, I lost all interest in writing. Now, I’m learning to lose my interest in drinking, while I slowly get back to writing. We’ll see what happens.