Saturday, January 06, 2007

100-unit man

The kitchen looks different somehow. The edges on the cooker are steely and sharp, the lighting cold and dim, and the fake marbled worktops black and bare. The condiment shelf holds the same limitless potential as it always does, the fridge and pantry standing-by to offer their (albeit wilting) support. But nothing about the scene before me spoke of inspiration for tonight’s solitary tea.

It occurred to me that I haven’t properly suffered the harsh light of day for several years, whereby I am not either under the influence or comforted by the imminent prospect of being so. Nowhere is this more evident than in my kitchen. A bottle of Red oils the cogs of a weekend roast; a chilled opened White turns the fridge into a secret lucky dip; a stiff vodka tonic jumpstarts a midweek pasta special; while a blast of White Widow magically transforms the mundane into a joyous moment of self-congratulation. None of this was around, however, to take the edge off this particular Friday night.

Instead, I got through the boredom and pointlessness of my meal prep (I wasn’t even hungry - I just wanted to gorge myself on SOMETHING) by imagining a moment when things will be different. Saturday & Sunday mornings, I thought as I fried some smoky chunks of bacon for my eggy pasta bowl, were so much more relaxed now because I didn’t have to try and find ways of putting off the start of the day’s drinking or smoking; my ability to spend freely on the best food I can get my hands on, I told myself as I tossed in some black olives and garlic, would not exist if I had a two- to three-hundred quid intoxication bill each month; and one day, I mumbled out loud while stirring some milk and grated parmesan into a beaten egg, I would get back that feeling I had as a kid before I drank or smoked and never saw the point of either.

Unconvinced, I sat in front of YouTube all night slurping down great forkfuls of olive- and rocket-enhanced carbonara, trying to manage the sporadic microsecond moments of excruciating anger and frustration by actively telling myself to remain calm and ride them out. They’re not physical junky pangs, of course, just occasional peaks of white noise that threaten to take over and turn a Friday night into what it always was and should be.

And then I found myself lying in bed, tossing and turning and stuffed full of eggs and cheese, thinking hard about the story of a man who drank 100 units of alcohol on Wednesday. New Year is only now beginning to taper off in the Highlands, and tales of horrific abuse spread out over several days will have been widespread. But at 33 times the recommended maximum intake, 100 units in one session - imbibed in the form of three bottles of red, 15 pints of lager and a good few drams - is surely a record breaker. It sickens me to think about that. But not nearly as much as it does to know so well just how much craic I missed out on by not being there with him in that tiny, fucking bar on a dark and otherwise lifeless post-Hog evening.


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