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December 24, 2006

Why don’t I get tired?  Have I been getting too much sleep the last few days or something?  In any case, it’s nearly four in the morning and I’ve been trying to get to sleep since 1:30.  I’ve been in bed for longer than that–I spent close to an hour reading that book Nonna got me for my birthday on how to write better and more consistently.  Didn’t get too far with it.  Certainly not enough to put my newly acquired knowledge to the test right here in this post.  In fact, it makes no sense for me to be down here at all.  I should be making another attempt at sleep, or else I’ll be exhausted for Japan, which is now just one day away.  But it’s just not going to happen tonight.  Writing is my last resort when I have insomnia, and tonight, I am in need of a last resort.

I can hear Leipzig coughing in the guest room.  Why did he leave the door wide open like that?  Hopefully I’m not keeping him awake.

I’ve been meaning to get around to writing about this for a while, but only tonight do I really feel like doing it.  Who knows why.  So I’m going to tell you why I drink.

I made a post a while ago about how people drink to become someone other than themselves.  It’s an escape–I’m sure you’ve heard that enough times for the conclusion to have some validity.  But that’s not why I drink.  Unlike most people in college, I love being myself.  I love the fact that I just finished my semester with my grades, from what I know so far, completely intact, despite all the hanging out with friends and with Christie, not to mention handling the sting from our quasi-fight.  I love that I can sing and actually am singing now, in a group, not just in the shower like I used to; I love knowing pi as much as I do; I love being a force to be reckoned with in Smash Bros.; I love having a bunch of people who I can count on to want me around and miss me when I’m gone.  And I love being the guy who just lets things roll off his back.  Like the whole Nehal situation.  Everyone felt so sorry for me about that, and I think I may have played up the awkwardness of the situation more than I should have, because it really wasn’t so bad at all.  It felt very rewarding to be the cool roommate, the one of very few people who would actually tolerate the girlfriend’s constant presence, the one who will allow him this luxury because he knows that the good his roommate will get out of it far outweighs the minor inconveniences for himself.  When you think about it like that, it’s not hard.  I talked before about how there are a lot of things like that which I can do so easily, and how I sometimes get frustrated with those around me who make it out to be so much more difficult than it is, and how that could be construed as very arrogant of me to think myself so above other people.  And maybe it is arrogant of me.  But in this day and age, when there is so much hostility… this is not the time for false modesty.  People ought to learn to be more tolerant.  That’s what I believe, and I don’t think I’m so much in the wrong for letting people know that.

And yet, I do feel arrogant at times… which brings me back to drinking.  You know why I drink?  At first it was just to test myself out.  I wanted to see the difference, firsthand–because different people handle alcohol in different ways, you know–between the many stages of drunkenness, from slightly lightheaded to just plain uncoordinated.  But then I realized it wasn’t just about being drunk as some kind of learning experience.  The truth of the matter is… I want to screw up.  I want to see what it’s like to not be able to think quite clearly, and to do something by accident as a result of this inability to think–to do something that I later regret.  In short, I want to understand the experience of the people who do stupid things when they drink–understand how it happens that they can do such stupid things, things that are so different from the way they usually act.  And in my drinking experiences, though there are admittedly few of them, do you know what I’ve found?

I’ve found that just like everything else, it’s easy.  It’s not hard to keep your composure when you’re drunk.  It’s hard to keep your balance, that’s for sure, but that’s very different from your composure.  There was one night when I had about four drinks–pretty strong ones on average–and I was, I would say, in a reasonably drunken state.  When I got back to my room, I tried to fill up my water bottle from one of the large two and half gallon jugs, and I could not keep that bottle steady for the life of me.  I spilled water all over the place, and barely realized it for the first few seconds I was doing it.  I was also dizzy, and was making my way about the room with my head drooped down low, reaching out for solid objects around waist level to support myself.  I distinctly remember thinking this specific thought, and I think I even said it out loud: “Geez, I am drunk.”

That’s when I heard Christie crying.

Oh, did I forget to mention?  This night, the one where I had more to drink than any other night of my life, was the night at Kappa Alpha when Christie was blatantly flirting with Channing and one or two other KA guys, letting them put their arms around her and shit.  She was drunk as hell.  She doesn’t even have a full recollection of that night, which means she was definitely drunker than I ever care to get.  Blacking out would certainly defeat the purposes of experimentation, wouldn’t it?  I might learn about how I acted from others the following morning, but I wouldn’t know how I felt, which is perhaps the more important piece of data.  Anyway.  I saw her drinking like crazy, and I admit it made me want to drink too.  Like, “All right, so you’re gonna get drunk and stupid, then I guess the natural response is for me to do the same.  Now’s as good a time as any.  That’s what people are supposed to do, right?  Drink their problems away.  And I am definitely having problems with the situation right now.”  I had found myself in a real-life drinking situation, and the results of this night would tell me a lot about the nature of drunkenness.  The stage was certainly set for me to do something stupid.  I mean, I see Christie hanging around all these guys, and my response is to start drinking.  Just think about all the things that could go wrong in that scenario.

Yet nothing went wrong.  I just hung out, played some pool (a pretty good game of pool, I might add, considering the alcohol was already taking effect), and when Lillian saw what Christie was doing, I began to talk to her, and she comforted me.  I told her it was fine, which was actually not that untrue.  It wasn’t fine, but I was.  I was just letting it roll off my back, like I always do.  Nothing I could do at the time could have made the situation any better.  Eventually Lillian persuaded Christie to leave, and we left–Channing walking back with us.  Once we got back to Building 12, Channing left, finally, and I finally didn’t have to think about Christie and Channing anymore.  Which was good, because it was then that I was starting to feel the alcohol.  The night was clearly over–it was probably a bit past one, and Lillian knew it was pointless for me to talk to her about how I felt about what she had been doing, since she was still quite drunk.  She was about to go to the bathroom, and she asked if I would still be there when she got back.  I told her I wasn’t sure.  She finally left with the persuasion of some of her floormates who had gone with us.  Lillian again advised me to get some sleep, and I was only too willing to oblige.  And I was totally ready to just go to the bathroom (the one on Floor 1, on the opposite end of the building from the one Christie was using), brush my teeth, and collapse into bed and forget about all this crap.  Except while I was peeing, I heard Christie come in all drunk and confused and asking where her cell phone was–I had been carrying it for her some time ago, but I had given it back to Lillian to give to her long before I left.  Apparently she never got it.  I stayed in the stall for a while, hoping she would leave, but of course she didn’t, so eventually I just had to come out and face her.  I explained to her calmly that Lillian had her phone, not me.  Then she said,

“You weren’t there when I came back…”

I looked her in the eye and said, “Christie, I think you should go back to your room now.  Go get some sleep.”

I’d like to interrupt this now and comment on how well I handled that confrontation despite my drunken state.  I would not have changed a single word I said.  So then, having peed and brushed, I headed back to my room.

And now we enter the scene that I introduced this night with.  Filling up my water bottle and spilling it everywhere, and just thinking, “Wow, I’m drunk.”  More than ever now, I was ready to just go to sleep.  And then I heard crying.  It’s funny how you can tell who someone is by the way they cry, even if you’ve never heard that someone cry before.  It’s also funny how sometimes when you hear someone cry, it doesn’t matter what they’ve done or what happened that night–it all just washes away.  I remember hearing her crying and just saying to myself, “Goddammit.”  Because you see, I knew that I wasn’t just going to sleep anymore, even if the crying wouldn’t have kept me up.  I had to comfort her now.  It wasn’t even a choice.  So without a second thought, I picked myself up, brushed myself off, walked back out that door, came down the hall, and sat down next to her on the stairs where Debbie and Nicole were already trying to help.  And I sat down, and I rested my hand on her shoulder, and I rubbed her back.

And the rest is history.  I spent hours that night with her, staying even after Debbie and Nicole had left to get some sleep, left her in my hands; her constantly fighting me, telling me I should get some sleep since I had class the next day, repeatedly telling me, “Good night, good night,” not seeming to understand that she had just leaned pretty damn far out a window on the second and a halfth floor and mumbled that she wondered what flying would be like or something to that effect, and there was absolutely nothing she could do to make me leave her that night, no matter how tired I got.  I was ready to stay up the whole goddamn night and the next day if I had to.  Fortunately, I got her to go to bed and sleep by around 4:00 and I went to sleep lying close by.  Just to make sure she would stay safe.  I had completely forgotten that I was drunk myself–I was still weary and a bit dizzy for most of that night, yet I just didn’t seem drunk anymore.  Drunk is a term reserved for people who have relinquished their responsibilities.  I was not drunk.

But I was drunk.  I was drunk, and I did everything I should.  I still wouldn’t change a thing.  If anything, being drunk made me more sympathetic.  If I’d been sober, I can’t guarantee that I wouldn’t have looked down and scorned her for her drunken foolishness.  I can’t guarantee that I wouldn’t have said, “Why should I have to be responsible for her when I stayed sober like I was supposed to?”

So I’m afraid my experimentation with drinking has yielded results opposite to my original hypothesis.  I know–just from the way I felt, just from the way I acted that one single night–I know I would never do anything stupid, anything I would regret, just because I was drunk.  I wouldn’t get into a car, I wouldn’t operate heavy machinery, I wouldn’t get into a heated argument or put my fist through a wall or bawl my eyes out.  Because when I’m drunk, I feel responsible.  I feel a heightened sense of responsibility for myself and for others; because I am impaired, because I cannot function at my peak, I understand that I have to make my choices carefully and not do anything reckless.

And quite frankly, it’s not that hard.  Which leads me to wonder… are people really not themselves when they drink… or is being drunk an excuse to let your real self come out?  An excuse to not accidentally, but consciously abandon your morals and good judgment?  Funny how two completely opposite interpretations can both seem so plausible.  But then, I’ve pointed out a lot of funny stuff in this post, to the point where maybe it’s just not that funny anymore.

Now–NOW I think I can sleep.


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