"Sure," I agreed.
"What would you like?"
Without hesitation, I answered, "An orange juice, please."
He motioned for the bartender and shouted, "Let me get a screwdriver."
I shook my head vehemently and cut in front of him. "No screwdriver, just an orange juice."
He looked at me quizzically as if I had made a mistake. Who goes to a bar and orders virgin OJ?
"You don't want a real drink?"
"I don't drink."
"I'm a recovering alcoholic."
His face went blank. The words would not come to him. The corners of my mouth twitched up in a sly grin. I'd had enough fun.
"I'm kidding," I assured him. "I just don't drink."
His eyes turned to saucers as if he had encountered a new species of woman.
"You've never drank? Ever?"
I laughed. I never said all that.
I had my first drink when I was four. My parents allowed my brother and I to partake in a wedding toast with half a sip of champagne. I guzzled my drop of bubbly and asked for more. The taste didn't please my pallette, but I wanted to be like the adults for a little while longer. So as not to bring me home intoxicated, my parents declined my request. Periodically, on special occassions my mother would pour a dollop of her Dom P into my glass and let me pretend to be all grown up. I was fascinated by alcohol. Maybe a bit too much. Mommy stopped sharing her wine cooler with me after my all too real reenactment of Marion's drinking competition in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I slammed back apple juice, mimicing Indy's love interest shot for shot. By seven years old, I was cut off.
I went to my first drinking party when I was 16 with the goal of getting plastered. After less than half a can of beer, I determined that I needed to find another way to accomplish the task. Someone suggested a screwdriver. Vodka is perfect for a beginner because it's tasteless yet potent. I poured a shot of Absolute into a cup of OJ. It burned going down and left an unpleasant after taste, but it was bearable. I drank the whole cup, then another. An empty stomach with a low tolerance made it easy for two drinks to push me past tipsy. Because of my manic tendencies when sober, very few people were willing to aid in my early attempts at experimentation. For this reason, my drinking days were few and far between. It wasn't until I started working at a local supermarket that I found a group of aiders and abetters. They introduced me to tequila shots, which immediately resulted in the contents of my stomach spilling onto the floor. Rum and coke got the job done without the digestive pyrotechnics, but choking down a glass was more than my throat wanted to handle. Eventually, I just stuck with my old faithful screwdriver.
A few weeks before leaving for college I discovered that alcohol wasn't the only gateway to an altered mind state. I traded in screwdrivers for the sticky green and was quite happy for a while. Then one night, during my sophomore year of college I needed a drink. In fact I needed a whole lot to drink. It all started when I went to a house party with Chesty LaRue to celebrate a friend's birthday. The house was packed with every black student enrolled at Cornell and about 50% of the Latino population too. There was no room to move, let alone breathe. Except for the room where the DJ was playing. Lucky for me, I knew the DJ. It was none other than my good friend (i.e. object of my obsession) Jock Boy. I went over to the closet like room and saw Jock Boy on the 1 and 2s while our friend KPB guarded the entrance. A group of sorority girls were also chilling in there as well. When I approached, KPB placed a hand across the doorway.
"This room is for VIP," he told me.
I balked. "You're kidding."
"Nah, sorry, but you can't come in."
"If it's VIP, why are they in there?" I asked pointing towards the girls in pink and green.
"Yo, c'mon Ma. Give me a break. You just can't come in."
My eyes burned a hole through him. How dare he! I was his friend, not those girls. I was the one who sat on his couch, ate his food, and refused to leave his apartment for hours on end. Not them! How in the hell would they be considered VIP over me? Popularity was a stock I wasn't trading and our frienship wasn't buying me a break.
I turned away from him and steeled my resolve. I was pissed. So I did what any rational person does when they want to teach someone a lesson. I went into self destructive mode. I headed to the kitchen, grabbed a 16 oz cup and dunked it in the punch bowl. I had no clue what I was drinking and I didn't care. I was getting drunk, pissy drunk. That would show him. I downed the first cup, then went back for another and another and another one after that. It was fruity and potent. Within a half hour I was stumbling around the house dancing with boys, girls, walls, and furniture. I loved everybody that night. After a while, I got so bad that I was placed in the VIP room to keep the other party goers safe from my love fest. Mission accomplished! I spent the remainder of the party babbling nonsense to myself in the coat corner.
When the music stopped and people began to leave, I decided it was time to take pictures. I must've taken over 20 shots that night, although my camera ran out of film after the third or fourth frame. Didn't matter a bit to me. When I got bored with the camera, I tried to climb out the window. That's when Chesty intervened and decided it was time to get me back to the dorms. She convinced two of our classmates to give us a ride back to campus and threw me in the backseat. I serenaded the girls the entire way home.
"12 a.m. on my way to the club. 1 a.m. D.J. made it a rub. 2 a.m. now I'm gettin with her. 3. a.m now I'm splittin with her. 4 a.m. at the waffle house. 5 a.m. now we at my house. 6.a.m I be diggin her out. 6:15 now I'm kickin her out. 7 a.m. Imma call my friend. 12 a.m. we gonna do it again!"
I would've made Jay-Z proud. The others didn't sing along. When Chesty and I got out of the car, I staggered back to the dorm. My bladder was ready to burst and it was taking Chesty forever to unlock the entrance. Since we were close to some trees, I unbuttoned my pants and pulled down my jeans and underwear. Just as I was about to squat, Chesty grabbed me.
"What the hell are you doing?" she yelled.
"I'm gonna peeeeeee," I slurred.
"Damn it, Liz. Pull up your pants and wait til we get inside."
Somehow I got my pants back up and she got the door open. I went straight to the communal bathroom and let it flow and flow and flow. Relief. I stumbled to Chesty's room and splayed myself across her bed. I was mumbling incoherent nothings, but I was comfortable. That is until my stomach started to protest the ethanol. Within seconds I was spewing into Chesty's garbage can. When my stomach was finally empty, I crawled out of her room and left her to clean up my mess. I couldn't be bothered. I had people to call. I went out to the phone booth and started dialing. My first call was to the Rapid Pimp.
"Heeeyyyyyy....." I said when he answered.
"Liz, you're drunk. Go to bed."
"I'm not drunk. I'm happy."
He didn't buy it and hung up on me. Undaunted, I dialed Jock Boy's number.
"Hey! It's me," I sang.
"Yeah, umm, how are you doing?"
"I threw up," I bragged, "but I'm fine now."
"I love you."
"Liz, you're drunk. Go to bed."
I listened. I went back to Chesty's room and crashed.
The next morning I awoke to a floating stomach, pounding head, and horrendous morning breath. Toothpaste, water and tylenol offered modest relief. I tried to eat breakfast, but the dining hall selection was less than appetizing. To add insult to injury, everyone I encountered felt the need to remind me of my actions the previous night. Some things I remembered, others I wished I could forget, and some I still believe were made up. By the afternoon the pounding had dissipated into a dull thud, but my stomach was still in flux. I was hungry, but couldn't bring myself to eat. I'd been hungover before, but never like that. Desperate for relief, I made a pact with God. I promised to never drink again, if He would just make it all go away.
Eventually, it did. He kept his end of the bargain, so since then I've kept mine. It really wasn't a tough promise to keep. I've never liked the taste of alcohol. Even in mixed drinks I could always taste it. It doesn't matter what type of drink I've tried, it just doesn't go down well. Hard liquor burns, wine tastes gross, beer is rancid, and champagne doesn't do it for me. Forcing down a glass of chardonnay just to be social doesn't make sense in my mind. I've never had any sense of moderation and long since rationalized that the only reason to drink is to get drunk. After that night sophomore year I learned the valuable lesson that being drunk doesn't agree with me. So for me, there's no point in imbibing. I'm perfectly happy to go out and watch everyone else in the club getting tipsy. Besides, someone's gotta be the designated driver and with my road skills, I'm the perfect choice.
(A sample of the drunken photography. If you look closely, you'll notice some curly hair towards the bottom right of the pic. That's ME!!)