Have You Ever Woken Up in the Morning and Not Remembered What You Did the Night Before?
Well, all I can do is smile. You want me to tell you I am a lost and hopeless drunk. You want me to say that I swim so through my cups that my life is a drowned blur with the edges of the nights and mornings faded to darkness. You wish me to stand before you and those you have so convinced, my eyes lowered, my hat shifting guiltily in my hand and confess, "Good afternoon, my name is John and I am an alcoholic."
Yes, it is true I drink. But a gentleman, my grandfather said, can hold his liquor. Of course, he also said a gentleman could grow good cotton, which I surely cannot do. But I became a respectable dentist, so that aside. And I can hold my liquor, like a gentleman, like no man you have ever seen. I drink for need. A tickle in my throat after a meal grows to relentless spasms, and any nutrition I have taken has been for naught. I wake wracked, drowning, in pain and panic. Exertion, sometimes even speech, brings on internal violence I cannot control. Whiskey sooths, calms, quiets. It dries and cleanses. It numbs and stills the impulse that grows to the shuddering destruction of the little that is left of my poor lungs. It is a physician, a friend, a lover. A comfort in my darkest, most desperate hours, a physical presence to care for me, always reliable, always kind, always to hand. And yes, I will admit it is more. There is the social comfort of familiar ritual that results in a cocked smile and a measured eye. There is the mental comfort of an easing of tension, nerves, the dulling of the keenness of difference I surely feel. As I am being honest.
Yes, it is true I drink. It is an art, born of practice, born of talent, I am proud to say. I am aware when I drink, more aware, not less. I am irritable when uncomforted, for I must worry. Will I succumb to the pain and disease, need to retire, to retreat, to go alone to nurse my physical weakness? I am distracted, left to fate and chance. So yes, I drink, and the more ill I am, the more I need to drink. It gives me all the moments I gain, to offer whatever I am, to make whatever I can of myself. It is true that drinking a little lessens my inhibitions, loosens the rage and resentment, intensifies the alienation of difference I just mentioned. Wyatt said of me that I was worst when I drank just a little. But that soon passes, and I gain increasing calm, insouciance, competence. And I hold myself to that, hold my liquor like a gentleman. So much liquor, with long practice - the diligence with which I turn everything to art and miracle. I limit myself to three quarts a day for, as Bat said of that, it is good for a man to know his limits.
Still you ask, perhaps trivially, insisting on the original question, "Have you ever woken up in the morning and not remembered what you did the night before?" Let me answer you brutally. Do you know what it is to wake in the morning for me? Some nights I need to sit up, just to ensure my chest continues moving, that I not dissolve in agonising paroxysms. And on other nights, when I can sleep, yes, escorted there by my soothing whiskey, when I wake I feel I am drowning, for I am. The liquid and blood build as I lie horizontal, unexpectorated, and when I wake I am choked and throttled and must cough then with fearful noise, shaken so even I am frightened and fear it will never end. The pieces of my scant but desperately useful tissue are loosened and lost with the liquid. Nevertheless, I am always surprised when I wake. And yes, I take a pint then, to rise, to go out into the world, to give me the wherewithal to be a human being, to still that agony, the worst of the day.
Yes, I have woken and not remembered the night before, for sometimes I have fever too, such illness that I rave unknowing, the disease inside me rendering me blank and helpless. It does not happen often, but yes, sometimes I have lost my mind in darkness, and it fills me with fear of coma, of death, of not awaking to even a morning of pain. I have woken and not remembered the night before. But I am a gentleman and can hold my liquor to the point of miracle.Name: John H.Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 784.
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Nulli Virtute Secundus
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