My first real drunk ginger adventure was at a pretty young age. Being a long time drinker, I can’t actually remember the specific grade I was in when I embarked upon it but I know it was in middle school which for me was in sixth, seventh or eighth. I am reasonably sure it was one of the earlier grades because by eighth grade I was “off to the races” as reformed drunks are fond of saying when they tell their histories of alcoholic debauchery.
I took my best friend along on this auspicious occasion. She appeared to be willing and may even have initiated the idea, although I doubt it. Probably even though she was as lost as I was in many respects, she never came off in the sadsack way that I had about me at times. I had a crazy admiration for her altogetherness which I altogether lacked.
In retrospect, we had a mutually vicarous relationship. I envied her sense of responsibility, normalcy, and genuine ability to always seem to be doing the right and proper thing even when she wasn’t. She definitely was jealous of my wild, bohemian way of living life typically by the seat of my pants. I think she liked being an anchor for me as much as she enjoyed the titillation of what I might do next.
Our first escapade together set the tone for this relationship dynamic. Regardless of who had proposed the drinking, I was the designated alcohol procurer while she would secure the safe harbor for the experimentation. With my parents out of town and my brothers with a neighbor, I had permission to sleep over at her house. A seasoned drinker, I was anxious to really spread my wings and have a full on liquor drunk.
To prepare, before I left my house for school in the morning I found a plastic Dunkin Donuts thermos. In order not to get caught taking too much out of any one bottle, I filled the vessel with a little bit of booze out of a variety of bottles from my parents’ bar. The smell was enough to knock the socks clean off my feet but that would not deter me from my goal. I packed the thermos in my backpack and off I went to school. The potential consequences of getting caught with alcohol in school kept me in perpetual dread throughout the day. I was not one of those kids, the kind who smoked cigarettes in the parking lot or who were rumored to go to parties in the woods where they drank beer and gave each other hickies.
After safely negotiating the school day with the thermos sequestered in my locker, we walked giddily to the convenenience store on the way to her house. We were feeling silly, me from the relief of not getting caught and her feeding off my near hysteria. I, having the presumably greater drinking experience and thus sophistication, was called upon to choose the mixer. With great care and discrimination I went with the neutral 7-Up, not having a clue what else to choose other than that I hated sweet sodas and knowing that the viscuous potion currently serving as an advertisement for Dunkin Donuts probably wasn’t going to go down easily with anything if its ability to burn my nose hairs was any indication.
We spent a nervous evening eating pizza and waiting for her mother and sister to leave us to our business. Her dad worked nights so he was of little concern to us. We smuggled glasses to her bedroom and I prepared to commence the mixology of my first batch of rudimentary Long Island Iced Teas. My friend was absolutely horrified by the smell as I should have been if I was at all normally wired. But I pressed on, creating cocktails for us and convincing her that they would not be nearly as awful as our nostrils let on.
She took one sip or gulp, I don’t really know which, and flew to the bathroom to spit or puke it out. And that was it for her. She wouldn’t touch it again. When it came to my turn, however, I felt what must have been the same revulsion because it was truly revolting but I kept drinking. I drank past the terrible smell and the burning in my belly and the spinning in my head. I drank past the sneaking and the lying and the hiding. I drank past not knowing my father and hating my stepfather and being confused by my mother. I drank until I gripped the side of her toilet bowl, hurling every awful thing that was inside of me outside and until I was brave enough to chuck what was left in the thermos out her bedroom window.
On the walk home the next day I winced in the sunlight with the pain of my first hangover ringing clear, true, and piercing through every pore in my body. I tossed the forever booze-soaked Dunkin Donut thermos in a neigbor’s trash can. I thought about when and with whom I could do this again because as rottenly terrible as it was, it was even more fantastic.