This story is by Glory Curtis Williams and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I am sitting on the carefully raked sand, crouched, clutching my knees, in between a barrel and saguaro cactus. My hair is blow-dried, looking great. I am wearing a long flowing maxiskirt. We had gone to La Casita for a steak dinner. It was just my father, my husband and me. We were there, ostensibly, to keep an eye on my sister, who was at Betty Ford. My husband and I were coming out nearly every weekend to “visit” my sister. We weren’t really visiting her. We were keeping my father company while he kept an eye on her. The best way to keep an eye on her was to play golf and drink martinis and wonder how on earth she ended up so messed up. She was angry and bitter and pissed off that she was sober and she resented all of us like a trapped possum. So, we didn’t really want to check on her too much, we didn’t want to get bit. In the meantime, we would pat ourselves on the back at our own self-control and our ability to function perfectly in the world AND drink. It felt good to be awesome. And look, I had my father’s attention: I was officially crowned the golden child. Where his other three children had gone totally off the rails, there I stood, shining. Two master’s degrees and working on my PhD. I had kids. I had a husband. I had a house. I didn’t go around telling everyone I thought about throwing myself out of a 35-story building, like my sister did. I got my hair blow-dried. I worked out. I ate blueberries. I felt like the Rose Queen, teary eyed, smiling a big white toothy smile, waving softly but firmly at the cheering crowds. I was beloved.
The first round of martinis came and I remember the conversation being fun and lively, my father holding court about some topic like skiing or snorkeling (before it would inevitably turn into a political tirade or a self-congratulatory speech). The first martinis went down quickly, even though they were 12oz of pure, ice cold vodka. That’s ¼ of a bottle. I weigh 120 pounds. It’s not right. We ordered the second round, thanks to my father’s hand gesture, the index finger in a quick circle, indicating to the waiter, “another round, obviously”. He never checked to see if anyone actually wanted another, he just ordered. We finished that martini while we shared an appetizer and the main course arrived. We ordered another round of martinis.
Now, during these times, I didn’t eat. I felt that eating interfered with the alcohol and the intended effects of the alcohol. It was one of those fancy steak houses where they bring you a giant and obscene piece of meat on a plate and the idea is to order side dishes for everyone to share. I started on my third martini. I looked at my piece of meat there on the bare, white plate. I tried eating another bite because this steak was expensive but I couldn’t do it. I tried to take another sip of the martini but I couldn’t do that, either. I had had two and a half 12oz martinis, plus the pre-dinner pinot grigio. The equivalent of a full bottle of vodka. How I was alive, I didn’t quite know. What I knew is that I had to go to the ladies’ room, immediately. I just thought, “I have to get away from this table right now…” I remember being in the bathroom and I think I may have had a conversation with a woman in there, about what, who knows. I came out of the bathroom but I couldn’t go back to the table. There was too much wrapped up in my feelings and my feelings risked unraveling, right there at the table. I wonder how the drunk mind works – in some way, it is totally uninhibited and does crazy things. But then I find myself with strange thoughts of restraint. So, I kept myself from going back to the table because with all of this alcohol and pent-up rage and debilitating anxiety brewing, who knew what I was capable of. I didn’t tell them I was leaving the restaurant. I went outside and stood amongst the busy-ness of the valet guys rushing back and forth fetching Lotuses and Ferraris and Teslas and Porsches and old plastic women with their giant jewels and heavily paunched tycoons waddling in with their wads of cash. The world started spinning. I was sure that if I could just sit down for a second, it would be fine. I found a spot in the finely raked sand, away from the valet podium. I crouched down, in my long dress and sat. I hugged my knees and leaned up against the cactus. I didn’t feel anything. “Ma’am, you can’t sit here. We need you to leave.” So, they were being polite. “Can you give me a ride home?” I asked. “Sure. You just can’t sit here.”
We got to the house and I stumbled through the front gate. God damned maxi dress again. I walked into the small courtyard and remember seeing the little fountain and thinking, “don’t fall in there don’t fall in there don’t fall in there”. I stumbled around towards the door as carefully as I could, keeping an eye on the fountain and then, stupid dress… I tripped. The ground started getting closer and closer. It happened in slow motion. I saw the ground approaching. “Put your hands out, you moron…” Ok, I put my hands out, but my reflexes were such that only one hand got out in time and it wasn’t even the palm of my hand. I broke the fall with first, the back of my right hand and then, oh no, oh God, please no, not my face, here I go and bam! I struck the ground with my mouth. The pain was immediate and I Iet out a yelp. Upon reflection, I don’t believe it was so much from pain but from shame. I was 40. I was a mom. I drank so much that I fell and busted my face up. It’s one thing to do this in my 20’s but my 40’s? Or was it ever ok to drink that much? Probably not. I hauled myself up, pressing my lip, crying hysterically and dragged myself into the bedroom like wounded roadkill. I crawled into bed and immediately passed out. Not putting ice on my lip probably didn’t do me any favors.
The next morning, I woke up with a searing headache, splicing through my head, splitting it open. The air was stiff and stale, there was no circulation, my temples were throbbing. A small rodent had crawled in my mouth and had died, apparently. It was a disaster. This was one of those world class hangovers that I knew so well. It was like an old friend. I walked, slowly, to the mirror. I knew it was going to be bad but I didn’t know how bad. I blinked into the mirror. My hair was a mess. My face was a strange shade of pale green. My eyes were blood shot and red. I could feel the alcohol emanating from my pores. And there it was. A giant fat lip, bloody and swollen. It was in a spot that would be impossible to cover. No amount of makeup. No amount of averting my eyes. No hat. No scarf. Only a Halloween mask could hide this but then again, I didn’t need a Halloween mask, I looked like a monster. Tears just streaming down my face. So this is it. This is who you are. Fat bloody lipped, green-skinned, red-eyed monster. My pajamas smelled like vomit but I knew I hadn’t thrown up. It was coming from my skin. Even that wasn’t enough to make me slow my drinking down. I drank in spite of it.
An hour later, I was driving down the freeway, on my way to class. I had done my very best to cover the chaos with makeup. My breakfast of Alka-Seltzer, Advil and coffee was providing no relief. I receive a text from my husband. “I think we need to talk about your drinking problem.” I felt angry at the text but I know he’s right. I need to quit. But not drinking? That would be a fate worse than death.