I have few good memories of alcohol. I remember liking the taste of altar wine. The thought was quickly eroded when I overheard the pastor inviting good-looking ladies to the vestry after service. Apparently, there was a lot of leftover wine and they needed some help lapping it up.
I remember being at a close relative’s house. He had invited me for music lessons, with my mum’s approval. I was happily listening to classical music records when he staggered into my room. Nothing happened – he was just checking on me, he said. My room had no lock. In fact, it had no door. There was no one else in the house, and I was way too scared to sleep that night.
I remember having a family gathering at home – it was a wedding reception. My dad came home drunk and kicked out all the guests. I’ve never seen my mum more angry or embarrassed. It was the first time I ever saw my parents in a fight.
Another drunken family party found us sitting in car in Eastleigh. It was after midnight, and we were parked on the curb. My dad had been reckless, and when we challenged his driving, he took out the keys, slammed the door, and stormed off into the darkness. I don’t recall how we got home that night, and I’m really glad my dad doesn’t drink anymore..
My princess has been equally unlucky. She’s had to deal with drunkenness too. Her father was an alcoholic, and she’s found herself in places she should never have been, and seen lots of things that a child should never see. That’s why she’s terrified of alcohol. She gets upset when anyone around her drinks.
The past three years have been really hard for me. I’ve had moments when I drowned myself in Malibu and Baileys. But because I know how much it bugs my daughter, I made sure she never found out. Sometime last year, I had a glass of wine at an office party. I ended up arguing with a makanga for dropping us at the wrong stage, and trying to kick-box on River Road. I swore never to touch alcohol again.
So when I started my new job and found out about the induction ritual, I was pretty upset. I went along with it, because I was new, and I felt I had to follow the crowd. It made me sad, because I’ve lived a life of going against the grain and doing exactly what I pleased, only to be swayed by peer pressure at 30.
I’d been warned that my new workplace had a strong drinking culture, but I tried to ignore it. I figured I’d be safe, since I’d made it pretty clear that I don’t drink. But last Friday, we received an email from the boss. It announced a staff meeting at 5.00 p.m., and when I saw two bottles of Olmeca on the boardroom table, I knew I was in trouble.
The meeting was fairly serious, with PowerPoint slides, client prospects, and progress reports. Then we had a hearty toast to welcome the new staff members, followed by a shot of rum for the creatives. It was our reward for working through the weekend. I tried to shrink in my seat so they’d forget to fill my glass, but that didn’t really work.
On my way out of the boardroom, I was offered a parting shot by the lady at the door, who wouldn’t let me out until I had one. I looked to the boss to save me but he just grinned and said, “Don’t worry, it’ll make your words flow better.” “Sure,” I said, “but which ones?!?’
In total, I had four shots of tequila and a shot of rum, all neat, no salt. Then I crab-walked to the kitchen to drown myself in tap water, because the dispenser was empty. I had planned to meet a friend for swaumu that evening, but I couldn’t see straight, and the room was spinning. I asked her to come get me because I didn’t trust myself to cross the road, but she had an errand to run, and no car.
I called the boy I love, and did a lot of wailing on the phone. Finally, I called my little brother to come pick me up. Then I looked at my workmates giggling because I couldn’t stand straight, waddled over to my desk, and tried hard not to fall asleep.
I don’t remember much of what I said or did that night. I remember telling my workmates they were pretty, and adding #NoHomo quite a lot. I remember making a speech about my alcoholic ex, and how mad my baby would be to see me drunk.
I remember asking people how this could possibly be fun – walking around like spaghetti and seeing the world in doubles. I remember drinking lots of water from the tap, gobbling a couple of bananas and a whole lot of gum. Everyone else thought it was hilarious though, including the people that I called.
I suppose there’s fun to be had in watching other people get drunk, especially when they’re sober, sensible types, no pun intended. A lot of my workmates and friends said that my drunken behaviour made their day. I also know nobody forced me to drink. I had a choice to say no. But I didn’t want to look snobbish or self-righteous. I wanted to be a part of the team, even though I knew I’d hate myself in the morning.
When I got home, I was walking while tilted a little to the left, so my brother made sure I got safely into my house. My princess was in bed, and she gave me a sleepy hug. But she woke up instantly when she heard my voice. “Why are you smelling beer? I told you never to drink. Go brush your teeth!”
I dragged myself to the bathroom and spent half an hour scrubbing my mouth, because I didn’t want her to see me crying. I couldn’t stand the fact that she was ashamed of me. When I finally came back to bed, she gave me another hug and noticed I was still crying. I tried to fib my way through it but she said, “Don’t worry mummy, even if you smell like beer, you’re still my mum.”
I told her I didn’t want to drink, and that I was afraid that I if I had refused, my workmates wouldn’t like me. She suggested we pray that next time there’s an office meeting, I would find it easier to say no, and so we did.
As I drifted off to sleep, I sent a few texts apologizing for my asinine behaviour. They all laughed it off, told me what fun they’d had at my expense, and suggested that instead of seeking their forgiveness, I should seek my own. After all, I’m the only one that seemed upset by the whole episode.
Then I looked at the little girl lying asleep next to me, and wondered what it would be like for her. I wondered how she’d cope when it was her turn to say no. I hope it will be easier for her than it was for me.
♫ Promises promises ♫ Incubus ♫