<Slurring> “I know zhu believe that. We TALKED about thish BEFORE!”
I waited, lined up in the pub. No servers here, you want something, you order it at the counter—food, drink, merch. Or maybe at the bar, if you’re lucky enough to get a seat at the bar. Five, six people away from the register. Ten minutes or so, the cashier fetched drinks too.
The drunk lady caught me off guard. Seated right next to me, I could touch her, probably would too if I was as plowed as she. I might reach out and poke her, see if she’s real. Sitting at her table, not necessarily a prime spot with that never-ending procession of customers hovering over her, watching her descend into inebriation. Not quite dinnertime, I suppose she made an afternoon of it.
It’s been years since I saw a drunk person. I quit drinking six years ago; I haven’t been in a pub since the pandemic. Out of practice, I might have stared. I only went in for the t-shirts.
My kid’s both have birthdays this week. When they were young, I feared this week. Back-to-back parties, different friends, different activities. The only constants at their August parties: water balloons and birthday cake. The rest of the activities needed planning. Scavenger hunts, picnics, swimming, bowling, movies, grilling—my enjoyment of the events always dampened by my desire for perfection. They’re now young adults, their birthdays still overwhelm me. Susan and I often don’t excel at gift buying. We procrastinate. August sneaks up on us, surprises us. We’re always caught flatfooted one week prior.
The other day I drove past the Michaux Brewing Company (Michaux is pronounced mi-show). Brand new. Last time I drove through Waynesboro, it wasn’t there. Michaux Brewing Company t-shirts! The perfect gift idea for both kids.
So why is this nondrinker buying his underage kids brewery t-shirts?
Michaux state forest is widely known for its mountain biking. And not because it’s awesome, but because it’s so freaking hard. The terrain of Michaux formed when an ancient shoreline solidified as rock. Plate tectonics shoved that rock bed skyward and fractured it upwards and outwards leaving a billion rocks, large and small, jagging out of the ground. Michaux mountain bikers ride through rock gardens that span acres.
Michaux riding is difficult and frustrating and exhausting, but it’s what we’ve got, and local mountain bikers harbor tons of home-turf pride. Anything emblazoned with Michaux is cool. So I bought some t-shirts for my mountain biking kids.
This morning on a walk, I told Susan the only thing I still miss about drinking is the discovery, seeking out new flavors, new experiences. Waiting for my turn in the brewery, I watched the couple before me buy a sample tray. On the blackboard behind the bar someone scrawled:
Old Forge Oatmeal Stout – 5.8% ABV
Sunrise Blonde Ale – 5.8% ABV
Cold Springs Kölsch – 4.8% ABV
Pseudo Logger American Lager – 4.4% ABV
Yellow Birch New England / Hazy IPA – 6.3% ABV
The couple walked away with five four ounce-beers, varying in color from almost white to almost black, lined up ready for sampling.
“We can still do a tasting tray. We could share the order. You can taste the beers, and sip your nonalcoholic beer in between.” This struck me as a good idea. “In fact, on occasion you could just order a beer and enjoy it.” Susan knows I don’t like this line of thought. “Your language, your attitude on not drinking is always so black and white.”
“There’s a lot of black and white thinking in the sobriety community.”
“You didn’t quit drinking to be sober, you stopped because of OCD.” This is accurate. I didn’t get drunk anymore there at the end, but I thought about drinking all the time. As soon as I finished my nightly allotment, two glasses of wine, I began pining for more. This picked up steam by lunch the next day, I anticipated that time after dinner, after exercise, after parenting when I could settle down for my next two glasses. Then my focus skipped to the next day, thinking about my next dose. It tired me out.
It isn’t that Susan wants me to drink. She wants me to be happy. But I’m not sure occasional alcohol will achieve that. I envision a sliding scale of self-imposed rules regarding alcohol—once a week, twice a week, only on weekends. Is Sunday the weekend? Three times, four times. Susan pointed out that six years of abstinence is a long time. I’ve medicated my OCD since then. “Maybe it will feel different this time.”
“I think I need to blog about this.” That’s what I told Susan at the end of our walk. What I meant is I need to delve into the topic, sort of poke at the hive to see what flies out. I’ve done that now and what I found is I’m not ready. I like the idea of the tasting tray. I could be like the wine aficionados and spit my beer into a bucket. I could sit in a pub, try the selections, enjoy the various beers offered. I wouldn’t even need to spit them out. The alcohol-free beer I enjoy a few times a week has 0.5% alcohol. That’s about the same amount as the ten or so sips I might ingest while sampling the beers.
And if the drunk lady starts in on her boyfriend again, that’s fine. This time I’ll ignore her and try not to stare.