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Leviathan

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May. 31st, 2012 | 01:41 pm

Today, my friend—I’ll call her Jane—woke up with a terrible hangover. A hangover so bad that she missed the traditional village beer festival she had planned to go to, that she stayed in bed most of the day, that she barely dragged herself out dancing with us tonight (and then only on the promise of fresh air at the beer garden and the hair of the dog), so bad that she had terrible stomach-ache on the tram on the way home. I wanted to ask her about this, but after fending off the drunken Slovenian at the tram stop by telling him we spoke neh český, nein Deutsch, and no English, while continuing to converse in English amongst ourselves, I forgot.

Then again, what should I have asked? 

Jane, why are you wasting your days in Prague on hangovers and your nights in a drunken fog?

Jane, why don’t you drink water when you drink?

Does the fact that beer is only a dollar here mean you have to drink five in a row?

But these questions are only the icy surface of my superiority—my smug, teetotaler’s ego coming to the fore whenever someone says (and they often do), “You’re seeing and doing so much in Prague! How do you manage it?” I always respond with something about brochures and walking a lot, but what I’m thinking is,

I don’t drink.

I have never had a hangover. I have never been drunk, or even buzzed. I don’t know what it feels like to be three sheets to the wind, on a bender, or part of the crowd at the bar. I have never liked the taste of alcohol, and in high school I was unpopular enough that learning to choke down beer wasn’t going to help. My first drink: mistaking my father’s after-work vodka for a glass of water.

Watching sunglassed American grad students staggering into the Carolinum for morning lecture, clutching their coffees and the slippery patina of the stone banister, I say to my roommate Monica that I’d teach my one-day child to sensibly handle alcohol, offer them wine with dinner at home in their teens, teach them that beer is a beverage and not a party. I imagine myself stern but fair, driving to pick up a drunk child but not lecturing about it afterwards; saying to them lying on the sofa the next day, “I’m not mad, but I don’t feel sorry for you, either,” like my husband’s mother once did.

My questions for Jane, my prudish judgments are the frozen sheet, and Ego the dark water showing through (the ice is thinner than I think). But deeper still, fear curls through the water-weeds and boils in the depths. Three generations of alcoholics on my father’s side and two on my mother’s. My brother needing half a bottle of Scotch to get drunk at thirteen. My father in the restaurant, shouting happily about niggers, over-tipping, and sliding behind the wheel of the big white Lincoln Town Car (surely if he was going to kill someone, he’d have done it by now?).

The sum total of my drinking is half a glass of Bailey’s in Paris, three shots of tequila in Mexico, and the rum cake my mother-in-law makes at Christmas. But the alcohol I've known would fill a distillery. And in the oaken casks, lined up and stacked in a dim, pleasant cellar, so much cooler than a July afternoon in Prague, there would be the proof:  my brother, shaken, sending back the Bloody Mary that should have been virgin; my sister in the open coffin that none of us wanted; and my father’s laughing face.





whipchick occasionally attempts to appreciate wine. Anyone for a nice Reisling with two sugars?

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Comments {43}

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Jemima Pauler

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from: jem0000000
date: May. 31st, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
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*hugs* *hugs* *hugs*

The emotion in this is palpable. *hugs*

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - it was a tougher piece to write than I thought!

(And so glad you are still here - that was a happy little miracle!)

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(no subject)

from: whirlgig
date: May. 31st, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
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This version is perfect.

I repeat everything I said at the end of my email. I hope it's alright if I want to hold you, for a bit.


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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
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Thanks :) It is truly appreciated.

Let me know how your health is, k?

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: May. 31st, 2012 08:38 pm (UTC)
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The truth beneath the surface is so much darker than I would have guessed. I can't tell if your father's drunken driving killed your sister, or if her own problems with alcohol did it, but either one is awful.

I don't drink much either. I don't like alchohol much, and I also don't like feeling anything beyond tipsy. I consider this lucky. My father is a high-functioning alcoholic, and with his family being Mormon for so many generations back, we have no idea how much avoided alcoholism is in his family tree. Had he not been agnostic (and thus out of the church), he'd never have had alcohol either.

I'll admit, I don't understand why your friend would want to miss so much of Prague or anywhere interesting through being drunk or hungover. I'd think the hangover alone would be enough to encourage her to cut back, but maybe she loves the drinking more than she hates the result.

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unmowngrass

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from: unmowngrass
date: Jun. 1st, 2012 12:40 pm (UTC)
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"I can't tell if your father's drunken driving killed your sister, or if her own problems with alcohol did it, but either one is awful."
I read it as the latter, but you're right, it could be either. And that makes it more potent.

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Vice Captain of the Universe

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from: sweeny_todd
date: Jun. 1st, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)
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Strong and powerful piece.

That last paragraph just smacks you in the face.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - and thanks for reading.

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basric

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from: basric
date: Jun. 1st, 2012 01:36 am (UTC)
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Spoke as a true daughter of an alcoholic-like recognizes like.

Although I can drink wine with dinner and champagne for toasts but not over two, I never want to be my mother or my father for that matter.

When I travel abroad I never drink, I like you walk and enjoy being a tourist and do not care who knows.

Enjoyed your entry.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - and yeah, it's so much more interesting to see the country and not just the inside of a bar!

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unmowngrass

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from: unmowngrass
date: Jun. 1st, 2012 12:38 pm (UTC)
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I can relate. And very, very well portrayed, nothing overstated. Very emotional. Well done.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the compliment - and I'm sorry you can relate :)

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:11 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the compliment on the writing, and I'm sorry it speaks to your experience, too :)

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Kristen

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from: pixiebelle
date: Jun. 2nd, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
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That last line really hits you, that's for sure. It's heartbreaking.

I was going to say before all this that I don't drink anymore, it's something I don't miss at all. I might have a drink once in a blue moon (like every 6 months I had one), I don't get the obsession with drinking to have fun, I really don't.

Nicely done.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:11 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I just don't get it either! Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you found the piece effective.

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jacq22

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from: jacq22
date: Jun. 2nd, 2012 05:20 am (UTC)
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Had two in my family who drank or drink too much, For my brother it meant looking 90 when he was 60, and dying soon after, estranged from family. So do understand.

The stupidity of drunken revellers who never see the countries they pay to see, only the desperate nights. Hopeless. We drink wine, usually with friends on Friday nights, it is not to excess and we have more laughs and food than wine some nights. The way you wrote was so beautifully sparce but said all it needed.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - and I'm sorry you can relate! So many of us :)

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
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Thank you :) And hugs back - hope all is going well and you're having great Jubilee times!

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copyright1983

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from: copyright1983
date: Jun. 2nd, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC)
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When people ask me why I don't drink, I generally leave it at "I've seen it ruin too many lives." I also know that I have an addictive personality; while I probably could control it, I don't feel like finding out the hard way that I'm wrong.

Also, my grandfather (dad's side) was an alcoholic; my dad managed to break the cycle, and I don't want to start it again.

All of which is to say, I can really relate. Well done.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
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I agree! So many things I've seen, I just don't want to learn to drink.

Thanks for reading, and I'm sorry you can relate :)

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alycewilson

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from: alycewilson
date: Jun. 2nd, 2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
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The strength of the piece really comes at the end. Good job.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
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Thank you :)

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theafaye

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from: theafaye
date: Jun. 3rd, 2012 10:47 am (UTC)
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I don't understand people like your friend who drink that much, that often. Sure, the odd blow out might be fun, but if you're on holiday, why would you want your memories to be nothing but hangovers in the hotel and nights at the bar? Doesn't that get boring after a while? Well, clearly not for some people, but it makes no sense to me.

I'm very much out of the habit of alcohol, not that I ever drank much anyway and have gone for years without even touching a drop. I've got no problem being the designated driver and I don't mind being around others drinking even if I'm not. The only issue with that is drunken humour - sometimes it's just not that funny...

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
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I agree! I just don't "get it" when I see people drinking to excess - doesn't look fun from the outside!

Thanks for reading :)

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Kizzy

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from: xo_kizzy_xo
date: Jun. 3rd, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
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I have to be careful if I drink because I tend not to stop unless I force myself. Part of it I believe is genetic (there was rampant compulsion on both sides of my family that expressed itself in different ways), but I also think much of it is societal where you feel like you're sticking out because you're the one not drinking.

I've never been much of a wine drinker. It's the tannin :p

Given your background, I completely understand :nodding:

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
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I feel like I'm lucky I don't like the taste! And I always volunteer to be the driver, which helps with the sticking out part :)

Thanks for reading :)

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Holly

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from: minnesattva
date: Jun. 3rd, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC)
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My husband doesn't drink for reasons so similar to this. (He doesn't like traveling but people still marvel at how much he gets done; he says it's because he doesn't have a TV but it's also because he doesn't drink.) It's tragic how common these experiences are; nothing is worth the sacrifices alcohol asks of so many of us.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 5th, 2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
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I agree! So much more gets done without drinking or TV! Now if I could just control my internet addiction...

And you put it well - it's not a problem until it starts asking us to sacrifice other things that matter.

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