Tag Archives: drunk

There’s this circular scar on my arm

When I was in high school, there was this really brief period where I felt as if I was actually having what I always thought was supposed to be the high school experience. You know, the kind that you see on TV, where everyone has a ton of friends and every weekend you go to some crazy house party where the adults are perpetually away for the weekend and someone’s older brother or sister happens to be home from college, available to buy everyone booze and beer.

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I went to an all-boys Catholic high school, it was one of these giant institutions that pulled its student body from various corners of Long Island. What this meant was that I didn’t really have any hometown friends, aside from the few guys that I went to grammar school with who also attended this high school.

But sometime around junior year, one of these few guys befriended a clique from my town’s public high school. One night I got an invite to a party at some kid’s house, someone that I didn’t know at all. I mean, I knew a lot of the faces, I’d see them at basketball games and stuff like that. But never in a social setting.

Just like that, I went from not knowing anybody to befriending a couple of dozen people. And like I mentioned earlier, it really was all of the crazy that you see on TV, house parties on the weekends, insanely casual parents of people who I’d just met that had no problem letting thirty or forty teenagers get drunk in their basements and backyards.

I had drank beer and the occasional mouthful of liquor before, but the closest that I’d ever been to getting drunk was almost finishing a six-pack with a couple of guys behind a playground supply shed one summer night. This high school party scene that I was now suddenly a part of, there was beer pong, people brought funnels, everyone was smoking pot.

Marijuana was something that, as a little kid, all the way up until my junior year of high school, I promised myself I’d never touch. I don’t know where it came from, but I had a legitimate fear of drugs, like all of those videos they showed us in school, every warning about how it only takes one time for this stuff to ruin your life, I bought it. I was genuinely afraid.

But then it was like one day, I was at my second or third one of these parties, someone offered me a little pipe and I consciously felt that terror not only go away, but there was a total shift in attitude, a complete one-eighty from fear to an embrace. I took a few hits and got really stoned, I woke up in the morning without any lasting permanent damage and I thought, wow, that wasn’t really anything to be afraid of.

And it went like that for a couple months or so, each adventure seemingly more outrageous than the next, all the way until one night, some guy got his hands on a box of cigars. Everyone lit up but, not really knowing how to smoke a whole cigar, everyone got bored. I don’t know how what happened next actually happened, but a couple of guys started taking the their cigars and burning each other’s arms with the lit ends.

One after the other, everyone present got sucked up into the frenzy. It became this macho test that nobody present made any effort to back away from, to stop and think even for a second, what the hell is going on? And then it was my turn. I didn’t put up any fight either. I was drunk, I was high, I felt invincible.

And the next day when I came to, I looked at this oozing open wound on my right bicep, I couldn’t make sense of what had happened. This thing took forever to heal, and it was right below my t-shirt sleeve, so there was no use in covering it up. I made up some bullshit story about working at the restaurant, how I’d accidentally dropped a lemon into the deep fryer, causing a huge glob of grease to splatter in a perfect circle on my arm. And everyone bought it, my parents, the doctor that summer who looked at it curiously during the course of my annual physical.

I still tell that story. There’s not much of a scar now, but it’s noticeable under the right lighting. I’ve told it so much that part of that lie has actually grown pretty deep roots, that sometimes it takes me a minute or two to remember the truth, that I got sucked up into some weird animalistic moment of mass insanity. Someone had a crazy drunk idea that caught and spread like fire that night at a party.

I’m totally embarrassed to write this all out, I’ve never really told anybody I’m close with, but there’s got to be some lesson that I can take away. One is that, whatever I was trying to get out of being part of that group, friendship, acceptance, none of that stuff was ever there in the first place. As quickly as I had been taken in by my group of peers, I was summarily rejected a few months later when, one night at a different party, some kid I’d never met before decided he didn’t like my jokes or whatever. He convinced everyone to turn on me, casting me out on the spot.

Another is, in what ways is whatever was inside of me that night still a part of who I am today? I’d like to believe that I’m an independent thinker, that you’d never be able to find me sucked into poor decision-making by peer pressure and the social dynamics of groupthink run riot. But I don’t know. I thought I was independent back then. To what extent am I truly self-aware of the decisions I’m making day-to-day?

I guess it’s a good reminder every now and then to look at that barely visible scar on my arm, to be grateful that a superficial inch or so of skin is the extent of the physical consequences. But it’s a scary reminder. Just like how my convictions abruptly reversed course in a split second under the right circumstances, in what other ways might my values today be similarly overturned? It’s a good idea to take stock of my life and ask, how much freedom do I really have over my everyday actions?

I was a scumbag college senior

One time during my last year of college I got really drunk and stole something off the walls at one of the off-campus bars. This particular venue, Mug-Z’s, while I was there anyway, it was the unofficial senior bar. Trust me, that was about its only noteworthy feature. All of the off-campus bars, there were about three or four of them, they had pretty much an identical layout: an open space and then a long bar. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, the place would get jam packed with students. Looking back, I really don’t get the appeal of standing in a crowded space drinking overpriced cheap beer.


But whatever, everybody went, everybody got drunk, I got really drunk, especially on this night. And I don’t know if it was the impending pressure of knowing that the remainder of my senior year was evaporating before my eyes, but I started going out harder than usual, pregaming earlier, staying out much, much later. With the lack of sleep and excessive alcohol that accompanied these benders, naturally my decision making process started to suffer accordingly.

So at Mug-Zs, every year right before graduation, there was a sort of open class photo in front of the bar. Anybody who wanted to could head over, they’d snap the photo, and not too long after, this shot would be blown up and framed, hanging on the far wall across from the bar. This tradition must have been going back at least a dozen years, because they were starting to run out of room, all of these poster-sized prints, different groups of identical looking twenty-two year olds.

And this one night, I was partying pretty hard, I had just enough alcohol in my system to where I was definitely beginning to lapse in judgment, but I hadn’t yet reached the point where it started to slow me down. In other words, I was acting like a crazy person, pounding beers, singing along obnoxiously to the jukebox. Out of nowhere, I don’t know, maybe there was a lull in the non-action, I looked over at the nearest class photo, I thought, should I? And I did. I grabbed it off the wall, kicked open the side door, and started sprinting toward my apartment.

I honestly have no idea why I did such a thing. The whole time I was running, I kept looking over my shoulder, really expecting somebody to be following me, providing me with some sort of a drunken chase. But there was nobody. Who knows, maybe I was a really fast runner, or maybe nobody saw me. I got inside my off-campus apartment, I was the first one of my roommates back for the night. I must have had enough wits still about me that I was able to put a nail through the drywall to hang this thing up, and then I passed out.

Over the course of the next few days, everybody kind of laughed at my accomplishment. Apparently nobody had seen me bolt out of the bar, and when everybody finally got home later that night, I guess it had the intended effect, a, “What the fuck?” moment as everybody tried to figure out how this thing had wound up on our wall.

But that was it. I was kind of worried that the next time I’d step inside Mug-Z’s, the bouncer might recognize me right away, a, “You!” followed by a severe pummeling. But again, nothing happened. And the photo stayed on the wall for the rest of the year, largely invisible, the way that framed photos and artwork have a way of blending into the background after you get used to seeing them every day.

Graduation came and went, and all of the roommates spent our last twelve hours or so packing up and getting ready to move out. But then it was this question of the photo. What do I do with it now? I thought, I guess I’ll just throw it out, but for some reason now I started to feel bad. Like what kind of person just rips things right off the wall? I thought back to every time I’d been to the bar since, noticing that gaping hole in the wall of photos. Why was I all of the sudden feeling remorse for being such a scumbag?

I hung out around the neighborhood until a little later in the day, and when I was sure the bar would be open, I headed over with the photo in hand. Everybody else had already moved back, so the normally crowded bar had a really dumpy, hollow vibe with only two or three people inside drinking beers. I walked over the bartender, “Hey man, uh, I found this in the dumpster when I was moving my stuff out. I figured someone stole it from you.”

I cringed at my inability to even fully fess up for my misdeed. The guy’s face lit up, “Oh my God! I can’t believe you found that! I’ve been looking everywhere. I’m friends with a lot of the guys in that photo!” and he immediately hung it back on the wall, shaking my hand, thanking me profusely. “Come on,” he gestured to the bar, “Drinks are on me.”

And normally I would have loved some free drinks, but I couldn’t. I had to get out, fast. “No thanks man, I’ve got to be heading home.” This guy was giving me a hero’s welcome, and I was accepting it, while in reality I was the thief, I was the dirtbag who ripped this thing off of the wall in the first place. Whenever I think back upon the incident, I always still feel pretty stupid, like why did I do that in the first place? What made me think that it was OK? What the hell was I thinking?

Another true story

Last week I got caught in the rain coming out of work. I didn’t want to get soaked, so I ducked into a bar and sat down to order a drink. It was still somewhat early in the afternoon, and I didn’t want to get drunk right away, but the rain didn’t let up, and I could only nurse my pint of beer for so long. I ordered another. By the third glass I couldn’t really make sense of my magazine anymore so I put it away and took a look around.

The bar was basically empty, save the half dozen or so people that were already well on their way before I stepped foot inside. Outside the sky was black and the streets were empty. I would have thought there’d be more of a crowd, especially considering the rain. I mean, that’s what drove me inside. But everyone else must have made a beeline to the subway. Maybe they all knew something I didn’t. Maybe the rain wasn’t ever going to let up.

I considered taking out my iPhone to do one of those weather checks, but the same inability to focus on my magazine made finding the right app similarly difficult. I put my phone away and thought about a next move. Should I go? The rain was coming down harder than ever. There was a little puddle of water accumulating by the entrance, seeping in through the crack under the front door. I figured, well, I’m already three, four drinks in. This night’s basically over already. I might as well ride it out here. No sense in getting unnecessarily soaked.

“I’ll take another beer,” I had to grab the bartender’s attention because, like I said, the place was all but empty, and he was busy watching the TV at the other end of the bar. “I don’t think this rain’s ever going to stop.”

Who said that? Was it the bartender? He had his back to me, filling up a clean glass. “Yeah it’s coming down pretty hard,” I responded, staring straight ahead.

“Rain like this, it makes you think about all sorts of dark stuff, about life, about the end of the world.”

It wasn’t the bartender. It was this old guy three stools down from me. I hadn’t even considered his presence until now. I had this feeling, I always get this feeling when I’m by myself and someone starts talking to me, someone I don’t know, it’s like a wall goes up, like come on man, leave me alone, I don’t feel like having an interaction right now.

But I’ve had this reaction for so long, so automatically, that a lot of the time I can recognize it as just that, a reaction. And so I get it, that wall, and I make a choice whether or not I want to get past it. I looked toward my magazine, as incomprehensible as it was ten minutes ago. My phone only had like twenty percent of its battery left.

Sure, why not, I’ll indulge this old timer in a little conversation.

“What do you mean?” I asked him, even though I knew exactly what he meant, “It’s got to rain some time. We need it, right?”

And he didn’t look at me, he didn’t look up from his drink, whatever it was he was drinking, a rocks glass, probably whiskey, he started in on this speech, I wondered if he was ever really talking to me in the first place, or maybe he was just talking to talk, to himself, to nobody.

“I know you can’t tell to look at me as I am now, but I used to be a productive member of society. A doctor. A physician.”

I didn’t know if I should reply or not. Really. What kind of doctor? Something like that. But he wasn’t looking up and I didn’t really feel like I had to say anything. He went on.

“One day a young man came into my office. He was complaining about his leg. Apparently he fell off his bike and worried that he might have broken something. He could still walk, not really a walk, but a hobble, he hopped into my office, he couldn’t put any weight on it. I said, all right, let’s get some x-rays and see if we can’t see what’s the matter. We sent him to radiography and twenty minutes or so later I had the results. I couldn’t make sense of them. I wondered, is the machine acting up? Did the technician make some sort of a mistake? Because nothing was where it should have been. Everything was wrong, off. And I looked closer, I looked at his leg, at his bad leg, and I tried comparing it to his good leg. The good leg, well, it looked like a leg, they both looked like legs, like my leg or your leg, but on the inside … I don’t know. The bad leg, something was definitely off.

“And even though I couldn’t figure out what was going on, I could make out right under his thigh what I though was an unusual looking growth. Was it some sort of cancer? Could this explain what was wrong on a more systematic level with his whole body? I had no idea, but I figured I might as well send him in for a biopsy.

“Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but that growth wasn’t a growth at all. It was a little capsule. The young man was just as alarmed as I was, but I didn’t want to scare him any further, so I sat up a little straighter and pretended to act like this was all within the realm of my expertise. I looked the capsule over in my hand and … and I don’t know exactly what I did to activate it, but the top opened up, like a little cigar case. Inside was a tiny scroll of paper, it was a hand-written note. It read:

If you are reading this note, you’ve realized by now that this young man is not a young man at all; rather, he is a highly sophisticated robot. I built him years ago to take care of my day-to-day work so that I might have more time to pursue my scientific experiments while at the same time saving a couple of hours each day for some necessary leisure activities. If this robot is in any way damaged, please look under the other leg for detailed schematics on how to fix him. Whatever you do, I urge you not to let him know that he’s a robot. I’m not sure if his positronic brain would be able to handle the shock.

“And that’s when I stopped. I had been reading that note out loud, and just as I got to the end, I could tell something was happening. It was like he was having a seizure. He twitched around for a little bit before collapsing. My nurse and I tried everything, but we couldn’t revive him. It was over. He was dead.”

The bartender wasn’t paying any attention and the old guy hadn’t looked up from his drink. I settled up, apparently I’d had six drinks, not four, and I wondered if there were any buy-backs I also didn’t know about. “Hey man, I’m sorry about that whole robot thing,” I said to the old guy as I got up to leave. I was out the door, the rain was just as heavy as it was an hour ago, one of those rains where, without an umbrella, I was soaked to the core within a minute.

Just, don’t lend Derek any more hats

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just, don’t let yourself get bent out of shape over trivial arguments or inconsequential misunderstandings. Even if you are clearly in the right. Even if you totally lent Derek your hat last week. He doesn’t remember it, but you remember it. You should try to not remember it also. Because whatever, it’s gone. It’s not like he’s going to start wearing it. That would be too obvious. Someone might see him with it, you might see him.

No, just forget about it. He was drunk. You were drunk. You gave it to him to wear home because it was cold out. Maybe he woke up the next morning and looked at the hat and was like, “Huh. This isn’t my hat,” and maybe he just tossed it away, kind of grossed out, like, whose is this? Is it dirty?

But then you called him the next day and you were like, “Derek, what’s up? Anyway, yeah I was wondering if I could just stop by later and pick up that hat,” and that’s when it all came flooding back to him, the way that events sometimes later reconnect themselves, especially the day after a night of heavy drinking.

And Derek looked over to the trashcan and saw your hat, it wasn’t the last thing to be thrown out. He had a couple of bowls of cereal for breakfast, and the last bowl, he didn’t finish it, but he didn’t clean it up right away either. So the cereal sat there on the table, absorbed the rest of the milk and became this slush.

He threw that cereal slush right on top of the hat. And also the coffee grinds. And some tissues. You’d be on the phone, “Where’s my hat?” he’d be looking at it. Even if he were to rummage through all of that trash to pick it up – which was never going to happen – it wouldn’t really ever be the same, he’d have to wash it, you’d have to wash it again, in a machine, hats like that should never go through a machine.

And, whatever, he probably just didn’t know what to say, still kind of spinning from the hangover, still piecing together point A and point D. And he’s like, “Hat? No. No hat here,” even though you weren’t nearly as drunk as Derek was. Because, you know what it’s like to have that debilitating hangover and you know that, based on the amount he consumed, Derek went well past that point where the hangover had to be inevitable. You gave him that hat because you were worried about him. He was passed out on the couch, he drank like all of your beer, asked for a glass of your bourbon. You thought he was out for the night. So when he jolted awake at three, while you were playing video games, and he just made a beeline to the door, his jacket not even zipped up, and it was freezing out, the hat, it was a nice gesture, something maybe that he’d look at the next day and think to himself, “I can’t believe he let me go home last night. I could have been killed.” But then he’d look at the hat and think, “Oh, but I was pretty out of it. No way I’d be able to stop me if I were in his shoes. And look. His hat. I better get him back this hat and say thanks.”

But, let it go, you don’t know where that hat went. The garbage. But maybe not. Maybe Derek’s only going to wear it around the house. Too embarrassed to return it after having claimed to never remember wearing it, but feeling too bad to ever throw it out, it’ll be like his personal house hat. And that might be the worst possible hat-outcome of all, because what, now you can never go over Derek’s? And if he has a party, what, he’s not going to invite you? Because you might find the hat?

Just don’t sweat it man, buy a new hat, an identical hat. Go meet up with Derek for drinks, wear the hat and tell him, “Hey Derek! Sorry about all of that hat stuff. I actually found it. Look. I’m wearing it right now,” and Derek will be like, “Oh, cool man. That’s good news,” faking a smile, all the while thinking, wait a second, if that’s his hat, then whose is … and he’ll trail off in thought, disgusted that he’d been wearing a complete stranger’s hat around his house, always at home, he’d grown really attached to wearing it by himself. And he might rub his hands through his hair like, ew, is my hair clean? And if he does that, then, well, nothing’s confirmed yet, but he probably has the hat at home. And so next time you go over his place, because, he’ll invite you now, he won’t feel bad anymore, just look for that hat. Find it. Don’t take it – remember, don’t sweat the small stuff. But make a note to yourself. Don’t give any more hats out. Especially this hat. And especially not to Derek.