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Nothing but Bad Choices at the Bottom of a Bottle
It had been one of those days where you could have gone out and fried up an egg on the hood of your car for breakfast, it was so hot. I had even been forced to wear shorts instead of pants, like I usually did year round, and risk the threat of my ivory legs becoming instantly charcoaled by the sun’s relentless barrage of heat. Already my fair face was becoming rosy on my cheeks and nose and I wasn’t in the sun for longer than fifteen minutes. The only thing I had been thankful to the sun was the fact that it was illuminating my coppery colored hair, bringing out its brilliance. We had been invited by our landlord to go to his girlfriend’s town house to watch the Iron Man marathon participants run and join in the festivities. “You’re going to have to be the one to drive home,” My husband told me, he was really looking forward to getting his drink on with several old friends. I didn’t mind being the one to drive us home afterwards, I hadn’t planned on doing any drinking. After all, I was only 19 which was still a distance away from the legal drinking age. As fulfilling my role as a long time good girl I had never even really drank before, aside from the occasional sips I’d take from my husband’s beer that is.
My husband took most of the neighborhood roads, instead of the main roads, avoiding Iron Man blockades and traffic. With a quick walk for a block and a half we finally arrived at the party and greeted enthusiastically by people made friendly by the contents of their cup. We found our landlord, a man in his late 30’s who always had kind eyes and welcoming smile, and he took us up to the house to be fitted for our drinks of choice. My husband, being 3 years older, knew exactly what he wanted and claimed a schooner of Bud Light beer. “And what for you my dear?” Eric asked me with his usual gentle charm.
I looked at my husband not sure what I was supposed to say. What were the options? I didn’t know, there wasn’t a menu or indicator for me to use to procure and answer. “She doesn’t really drink,” Anthony told him with his reassuring laugh. I blushed a little feeling slightly embarrassed, and gave Eric an apologetic look. I had never really drank anything alcoholic. I got teased a lot in high school for not drinking, but I never had any ambition to become like my drunk friends who all thought it funny to try stupid stunts or go make out with complete strangers. Strangers alone made me wary and then with the mixture of alcohol, they became strangers with no appreciation for my personal space. I would watch my friends stumble around, fall down and throw up and never once did I think to myself, “hey that looks like fun,” so I never drank. Instead, I took care of everyone, I cleaned throw up out of the back seat of my car more times than I can count. I always thought, so what if I am considered a goody-goody, I won’t be the one suffering in the morning.
Eric looked thoughtful for a moment and then I saw the light brighten his expression, “How about a mimosa?” Even as Eric was asking he was pulling down the new schooner and orange juice. Frankly, they might as well have been speaking an entirely different language because I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.
Anthony turned to me with his own drink missing a third of its volume, “You would like it, there’s just orange juice and champagne in it.” I looked back at him and sheepishly nodded my approval and Eric filled my order. I watched him fill the schooner nearly full with champagne and then pour in roughly a little more than a cup of orange juice for flavor. What was the true harm? Champagne had less alcohol content than beer, right? I took the glass, which required both my small girlish hands to maintain its levitation and tasted it. It was delicious!
Satisfied that we were both well-armed with our choices of drink, Eric led us back outside where the sea of bodies had smothered the ground and had begun to pour over onto people’s porches. Anthony paused at the top of the stairs and turned around taking my hand and kissing it, “Why don’t you stay up here and sit in the shade,” he said sweetly, “We don’t want you to burn.” He was right, and no doubt I was already a little more on the redder side so I moved to the other side of the porch and sat
in a lawn chair beneath a large umbrella while he went down to mingled a bit. I didn’t really mind, I was generally uncomfortable in large crowds of strange people and it made me twice as uneasy to be in those settings when people added alcohol to the mix. So I sat up there with my mimosa, drinking it far quicker than I should have on a light stomach, and trying hard not to become as red as a cooked lobster.
I spent the next couple of hours people watching and three more mimosa came and went, and finally I decided to get up and find my husband. Instead, I bumped into our roommate who in turn handed me his spare glass of what he called jungle juice. All I really understood was that it smelled and looked like fruit punch, and it was full of chunks of fruit and I love fruit. It didn’t take me long to consume that drink and eat the alcohol soaked chunks of yummy watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, mangos and a few others. “You look dry,” my roommate said once he found me again, I thought he meant my skin and was debating how I should take this remark when he suddenly took my empty glass from my hand and replaced it with a second glass of jungle juice. I thanked him and continued on my brave journey through the sea of people over compensating the volume of their voices and over estimating their sense of balance. It took me several paths to navigate through that maze of bodies and by the time I found my husband all I had remaining in my glass was perhaps a third of the juice, I had eaten all the fruit. It had amazed me how suddenly with this cup in my hand I had become approachable. I had an equalizer, this stupefying beverage made me the same as all the rest. I will admit that for a while it was nice to be considered not a goody goody but just simply…fit in for once. I was beginning to feel the effects of the drinks, the world seemed a second slower than I, and though it was at first an intriguing effect, I tired of it quickly.
My husband helped me back up to my perch where I could see the shifting of faces as the runners in Iron Man come racing up the street. You could almost see the sweat that rolled off their bodies sizzling into steam as it hit the dark scalding street. The first hundred people or so went down the street in their set paces, and their athletic attire that showed off their muscled defined bodies. Next to come were people who had accepted that they would never win Iron Man but waved at the collection of cheering fans as they jogged by without ambition, possibly eager to begin the part that involved swimming 3 miles in our beautiful lake. Then finally can the stragglers of the competition, people who didn’t train as long or as hard as the first set of people, or those who decided to use this chance to gain awareness for their own causes and businesses. Some people, though I don’t know how they managed to do it in the overwhelming heat, had decided to wear costumes. We cheered for them all alike and most of the crowd didn’t stop until the last person staggered slowly out of sight.
Once I had finished my drink I returned indoors looking for something else to drink and cool off. I sat down at the counter bar and welcomed the feel of the A/C on my sweaty back. There is something so welcoming about cool air when it breathes against sticky skin in the summer. I don’t know how long I sat there for but soon I wasn’t alone anymore. Another man called Eric had joined me and was possibly in his early 40s. He offered me a beer and I accepted, I felt fine and I knew the cool liquid would do me some good. Though half way through my beer, I finally got the urge to use the restroom, so I got up and made my way without obstacle or blunder to the sliding door of the restroom.
I sat on the toilet and stared at my reflection in the mirror across from me, feeling my eyes trying to focus like camera lenses. In and out, in and out, my vision went back and forth from blurry to clear and clear to blurry and I just sat there being partly fascinated and partly annoyed by this odd feeling as well. Then suddenly I felt the violent twisting urge to void the contents of my stomach as the acid mixture burned its way up. I pulled myself off the toilet, using the counter for balance, and turned to face the bowl. Instantly the contents were uncontrollably released and I fought the urge to expel anything more from my body. I felt hot and cold all over, sweat dripped down my face mixing with the tears that had squeezed out of my eyes and my skin felt as though it were being stabbed with the tiniest frozen needles. I laid my arm along the toilet seat and my head upon that and tried to regain my strength, but I could feel it draining out of me and every time I grasped for it to pull back within me strength would slip through my fingers. The contents inside the bowl wasn’t helping much so I mustered the will to flush the toilet and I succeeded. Afterwards my hand collided with the stone tile floor with a resounding crack and my knuckles bloomed in swells of black and blue. I sat there with less and less ability to move, my pants still around my ankles and my head resting my face turned inward to the clean clear bowl. I kept thinking that I needed to get up. I needed to find my husband and at least I needed to pull my pants up, but then there was nothing.
I steadily regained conscious and gradually I could hear voices outside the bathroom, my husband had been looking for me. I heard someone tell him I had gone to the bathroom over an hour ago. Sounds were so difficult to focus on and the door rattling less than a foot away from me sounded so distant in my ears. I heard a knock but that too sounded far away, then my name came, and I went to open my mouth to answer only to find that I couldn’t. I tried to open my eyes and those too didn’t respond, Anthony was on the other side of the door and his voice was growing concerned. The door rattled harder and finally I heard it open, new air blew in and caressed my overheated face then was suddenly gone all too quickly.
I heard heavy footsteps and assumed it was a man now in the bathroom with me, “Kylee?” It was my husband, “Babe are you ok?” He repeated himself a couple times as though I couldn’t hear him, and with each time he asked he grew more worrisome. He touched my face, my neck, my shoulders, just trying to stir a response from me. I sat there helpless to give him a sign, I tried to focus through my foggy mind to force open my eyes or to say anything but each attempt was met with despair as each time was met with failure. “Lets pull your pants up,” he told me, and I would have been more than happy to oblige him, but as he put his arms underneath mine and lifted me, I knew I would be no help to him. “Help me,” he finally said as he fought to hold me up right and tug my pants up over my exposed lower half. I thought he was talking to me until I felt a second pair of hands and first came surprise as I tried to figure out who was touching me. My body lurched and they leaned me over the toilet once more, Anthony helped my body back down to the ground as he helped me aim my useless body.
The second person left, the steps were lighter and quicker than that of a mans and I hoped whole heartedly that it had been a woman who had seen me half naked. It was only a moment later when the second person returned, “Here this will help,” It was my landlord’s girlfriend, I was relieved and mortified at the same time. I had hoped that it would perhaps have been a woman I would never see again, not a woman I would see regularly. A sound of shuffling echoed in my ears and weight transferred against my body to hold it up against the toilet, “It will be alright,” she said in my ear and pressed a cold rag to my forehead and then ran it along the back of my neck. That little amount of coldness shot down my spine and branched out through my body in the most welcoming way, it felt like I had been suffocating and she had given me air for the first time. Much to my fear, instead of gaining more control I simply slipped further into unconsciousness.
When I regained consciousness again I knew I was laying down, I could hear my husband sitting beside me crying. I fought as hard as I could to open my eyes, and they did for a fraction of a second, it was all I needed to see him there beside me. I tried again and this time I noticed I was in our room, I figured I must be in our bed. I tried again and my eyes refused to open, I tried a third time and again no success. He shifted off the bed and began to remove my soiled clothing, “wake up baby, please wake up,” he pleaded through his tears, “I’ll give you anything you want if you just wake up.” I couldn’t move, still couldn’t move my mouth and much to my frustration couldn’t open my eyes again, but I felt tears slide out and trickle down the sides of my face and catch in my hair. “P…Please wake up, I love you.” He said and it sounded like he was right at my head, and then he kissed me. He kissed me so hard and passionately as though his kiss alone would wake me. I never wanted to be able to move so badly in my life, but I just couldn’t. Take me to a hospital, I thought, something is terribly wrong. I could tell from his breath that he was in no shape to take me anywhere, I didn’t even know how we made it home. I laid there and wondered if this was the end, was I going to pass away from alcohol poisoning? My grieving husband would have to bathe my reeking body before my family saw me. I considered so many things that I should have done differently, maybe not make such a big deal about my husband leaving the toilet seat up at night. I bit back the bitter taste of despair as I considered these being my last moments, unable to communicate or move, only listen to the sobs of my suffering husband. Why? I thought, why did I drink? I am not even old enough, stupid, stupid, stupid! I thought about how if I died that day then I’d never be the wife my husband deserved, I’d never be a mother, I’d never get to do anything with my life that I had always dreamed of. Moreover, if I were to pass away it would take such a huge toll on my grandparents, they still suffered over the loss of their son over 40 years ago, would push them over that dainty edge they were balancing on? For what? Was it really worth fitting in for the first time, finally not being labeled as a goody-goody? I felt so angry with myself. I knew so much better, I continued to fight to do anything as he cried into my neck, but all I accomplished was the fast ascent back into blackness once more.
When I came too once more it must have been several hours later, all I was aware that I was laying on top of my husband. As I struggled to open my eyes, I threw up on him. He rolled me off of him and wiped up my face then himself, I blinked hard into the dark room and was instantly aware of not only the worst taste imaginable but also a desperate dryness in my mouth. “Water.” I whispered, I felt Anthony freeze on the bed beside me and could feel his eyes on me, I tried to focus my eyes on him, “water.” I tried again, though this time it was a little bit louder. He grabbed the water bottle from his nightstand and twisted off the top, I could hear the snaps as the seals were being broken. He scooted over to me and gently cradled my head in his hand as he poured the water into my mouth. I thought my mouth tasted horrible before, but after it was saturated it was ten times worse.
Somehow, I had managed to regain the ability to move. I sat up as I fought the urge to let the water come back up. I grabbed up our sheet and held it close to my body and grabbed the water bottle, I thought I needed to eat some crackers. Frankly anything that would soak up whatever remained in my stomach would have been nice but crackers were all I could think of at the time. I grabbed a package of Ritz crackers and then went back down the hall to the bathroom, I thought this would be a good place for me. I could sip my water, eat my crackers, lay on the cool linoleum floor and be close enough to the toilet if I needed it. Anthony entered behind me, his voice was soft and compassionate, “Come on sweetheart,” he said, as he leaned awkwardly over my body to turn on the shower, “let’s clean up.” I thought about just lying there for a little longer but decided he was right, I really needed a shower.
He lifted me off the floor and set me in the shower and then got in beside me, I leaned heavily on the ledge of the bathtub as he washed my hair clean. I closed my eyes as I felt the water rush over me, wiping the filth from my body and making me clean once again. It wasn’t until I was completely clean when he finally washed himself, then he sat behind me in that tiny tub. He pulled my body close against his, and I sat there with the water pouring down on me with its warmth. Wrapped in Anthony’s caring arms, I knew I was in the clear and the worst was over.
Nothing, and I do mean nothing, could have prepared me for the utter suffering, I felt the next morning. I couldn’t tell which was worse, the terrifying day prior or this unbelievable gut wrenching pain I felt all through my body. My head had become so sensitive that every sound in the house set off a chain of agonizing explosions inside my head. Even my teeth and hair seemed to be screaming at me, I thought I was going to die when my mom called me. The ring tone buzzed in my head long after I answered the phone. “What’s wrong?” My mom had an uncanny ability to know what I was feeling horrible. I very gingerly, for the sake of my head, retold her the story. I expected sympathy or empathy or really anything that could make me feel a little better. She laughed, she laughed so hard she began crying. I waited for her to finish her outburst of insensitivity, “We all have to have one of those stories.” She snorted into the phone as she tried to control her amusement, “but…” and I thought she was going to say something motherly, wrong again, “You still have to go to the orthodontist, I am not changing your appointment.” I tried to plead and beg her to not make me go, in my state of cloudy incoherence it didn’t occur to me that I was a married adult and she couldn’t make me do anything.
To this day I’ve never had a worse dental experience in my life. Once I returned home from the orthodontist’s office I found no comfort like that of my beckoning bed. I didn’t even remove my shoes before falling into its embrace. I laid there and let sleep envelop me, it wasn’t long before Anthony joined me in the bed. I could feel the warmth of his body as he wrapped his arms around me as I gave myself completely over to sleep, allowing it to heal me. It had still taken me until the next day to finally sleep off my unforgiving hangover, but at last I was free of the alcohol induced torment I had sentenced myself to.
I drank because I thought I was adult enough to handle it, I liked that I fit in for the first time. I enjoyed the fact that people thought they could connect with me based on this little act of sharing an act of ingesting alcoholic beverages together. It took me a year and a half to be able to be around alcoholic beverages without wanting to void the contents of my stomach. Now, when I drink it is with close friends and usually in my own home. No one drinks excessively and it’s usually a glass of wine with dinner or beer while we watch football. I regret making such an enormous mistake, but I am grateful that I made it when I was with my beloved husband who took such good care of me. As for drinking to fit in with people, to feel like part of the group, it hadn’t been worth it. Not even a little bit.