The Stories We Only Tell When We’re Wasted

On The Limitations of Alcohol as a Lifeline

Photo by Thirteen .J on Unsplash

I’ve pleaded with the world to tell me I am more than a hollowed out story maker. If I’m destined to be a story-teller, I must be in the wrong body. Everyone knows that bodies like these never tell stories that mean anything. In all of the stories in all of the worlds in all of the universes, one person must rise and become a hero to save mankind. It’s never a ruddy-faced Korean girl with almond eyes that grow darker in winter who has a slightly “too Christian” mother and workaholic dad, whose only legacy is pretentious metaphors and a love of 70’s music. No, people say I’d have to be a tall, handsome, white boy for my story to say anything-maybe a blonde girl for it to inspire anyone. I am too soft for hard truth, and there is no grace in my curved lines. If you split me open, you would find I am not hollow or lacking. Oh, there are stories I could tell, epic sagas, but I just haven’t got the looks for it.

Last year, I opened the door to my apartment that I had not planned on opening ever again, and I was hit with an urge to weep. I wanted to break down and cry in the hallway, neighbors be damned, but I walked through my door and locked it behind me. I leaned my forehead against the door and breathed deeply through my nose three times, willing away the tears that threatened to come against my wavering will. Turning towards the empty apartment, shrouded in silence and the smell of mandarins, I hummed a quiet hum and leaned down to untie my laces. I keeled off my boots and walk, with runs in my stockings, through the living room.

In my head, it’s as vivid as this morning’s sunrise. I can still see my blue umbrella by the door of my bedroom and my shelves of elephant figurines. I could still reach out and open the cabinet to my growing mug collection. That day, I chose a small brown mug I purchased when I desperately wanted a “diner cup”, scooped out three spoonfuls, and let myself sob. While I let the water run into the coffee pitcher and wish for a window above the sink for the sixty-third time, I stare at the wall in front of me. I’m sobbing noisily now, and I don’t want to stop.

Liquid courage.

Last night, I sat at my table and laid my head down on my arms. All I ever want is beautiful people and beautiful words. How many times had I been so drunk I’d forgotten the beauty in authentically connecting with another human? How many times have I felt the need to hide myself in a bottle of rum? I trail my fingers against the table in front of me absentmindedly, and my hands feel soft rather than sharp. In the past seven years of not touching anyone’s hands, I’ve forgotten how much they like being touched. I’ve forgotten how much I’ve missed being touched by someone.

I first heard the song “Wasted” a few years, and I felt as if I’d been turned inside out. In it, he laments that it’s only the alcohol speaking, not his lover wanting him. He yearns for more than a hookup from his girl, and I’ve heard his side from far too many lips over the years.

You like to call me when you’re high.

End of the party, I’m your guy.

You only call when you’re wasted.

For months, the only time I could breathe was after a fifth of a bottle. Maybe we’re not only calling you when we’re wasted. Maybe we’re only calling when we can actually speak. Maybe we’re calling the only way we can. Maybe we’re screaming.

Today, the sun came through the window and smacked me in the face. My eyes woke to hues of orange and red before opening. Rubbing at my eyes, I yawned and stretched, enjoying my favorite moment of the day where no memories are in my head. It’s a Thursday morning, and I’ve been awake for ten minutes. That’s too long without a shot of whiskey. Every day, I want either coffee or whiskey or both. I haven’t had a drink in three years. I have a hunch this day will require many cups of coffee, preferably way too strong and bitter for my taste. I stand up and take one sleepy-smile step and promptly fall to the floor. I guess my feet are still waking up. My blue boxer shorts ride up revealing the tip of the que sera sera written on my left thigh.

I stretch my fingers out, pushing them into the soft, brown carpet, and making a turtle shell with my my index finger for his head. When I think my feet are sufficiently awake, I shake them once, twice then push off with my arms from the floor. For a moment, I feel like a trendy, twenty-something doing yoga on Earth. (Yeah, that’s not happening.) I stand up slowly in front of the windowsill I use to hang out on the fire escape and smoke with the stars. If that John Green is right and cigarettes are profound, that ashtray on my window has much deeper meaning than I thought it did. I plod over yesterday’s clothes and past my bursting bookshelves with my leaden feet into the kitchen. I finger the picture of my parents in the hospital room where I was born. Every time I pass, I pity this baby with the oblivious smile in my mother’s arms. It’s the only picture I have of us.

My mother named me Annabel after a poem my father read to her while they were both tripping. I was supposed to be poetically profound, but the only poetic thing I’ve ever done was sorting through my recently washed doubts and freshly ironed hurts, packing them into a brown suitcase, and taking the third train out of the city at two in the afternoon. My parents would dance in desert cemeteries, make out at Grateful Dead concerts, and fly to Europe to see the Smiths on tour. When I was a child, I would peek through the space of her bedroom door or the pencil-sized hole in the wall and see my mother shuffling through her old tickets. She would be inhaling small sips of vodka, drinking large gulps of air, and I’ve never forgiven myself for taking those days away from her.

Two more phrases litter my body, and I quickly lift my gray tank to display the first tattoo I ever got. ‘Pretty Little Lady’, my father’s nickname for me, is scrawled out on my ribs. My most-prized reminder, though, is written in simple print on my left shoulder, high enough to be hidden by my shortest sleeved shirts. I run my fingers over the elegant term of endearment in the phrase ‘Darling, you’ll be okay’. I’d been randomly clicking through radio stations in February two years and contemplating ending myself when I first heard the song, ‘Hold On Till May’ . To celebrate making it to May, I’d bought a $30 bottle of whiskey and got this as my second tattoo.

Fear is the worst stain remover. It removes all my red-wine stained love but leaves the doubts in my soul. I’d like my money back. There are these words that are bursting at the seams of my soul, and I like to pretend fear does not hold me back from letting them slip through one of those little tears. But who am I kidding? If I let these thoughts out, they might run away faster than I can watch over them,

Tonight, I sat in a deserted Waffle House diner. As I waited for the people I was meeting with, I watched the people outside on the street, their cold breath rising like cigarette smoke as they inhaled and exhaled. Inhale. Exhale. Isn’t it weird how every human you ever see has a life of their own? They all carry a different fear, a different pain in their chest, a different reason for getting up in the morning. There’s so much we keep on the inside of our skin, unwilling to show even ourselves at times.

When I sit on a bus full of strangers, I find myself thinking how each one would respond if I sat to talk with them. I’m finding as I grow older that people marvel at me striking up conversations with strangers. Past the age of five or six, it’s rare to find someone who will ask a complete stranger their life story. I want to know. I want to know when the man with the tired eyes last lay in the middle of the road and prayed for death. I want to know when the woman with her headphones playing Taylor Swift last sobbed into someone’s quiet shoulder.

One of my greatest fears is that I will pepper you with words instead of kisses and fill your mind with poetry instead of memories. It is too easy for my writer’s heart to only love with pretty words that can do nothing to shield you from the cold wind of exhaustion the night you get that phone call or give you the strength to face the world once more.

I fear that when you give me your heart; I will find some way to gently return it, unused, unopened, hardly even unwrapped.Truth is, I’m bad at loving loudly. I’m the kind who leaves little notes and slips out in the morning, not the kind who shouts from the rooftops and wakes up the neighbors. Would you mind a quiet love?

I often find myself wanting to spend eternity asking people where their scars are from, why they laugh a certain way, why they don’t like sugar in their coffee. I find people fascinating, and I feel my questioning prose has annoyed everyone I’ve met. All I need is someone to understand that. I will keep asking and asking until I am in a new city, under a new sky, walking down new streets.

Vulnerability is both my greatest fear and biggest hope.

Hipster. Hooligan. Writer. Wanderer. Sad AF, but you'll learn some things.

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