Sojourn on Sixth Street 

May 2, 2023

Drinking is the ultimate liberation. Who would pass up on that?

It must have been 8 in the morning when I opened my eyes to a sickening sensation — to an ax which had split my brain in half.

I looked around at the dimly lit room and at the dull walls painted a beige hue. I looked at the clothes lying all over the floor — those skin suits I already resented wearing now that I must clean them. Perhapsif I threw myself in the washing machine with them, I would forget.

I would forget about the migraine, about the foul smells emanating from my trash can. I would forget about that stranger’s text, about the two Advils I would have to swallow, and about the apologies I will have to make. I would forget about—

the joy I felt.

I looked down at my body, at the suit clinging onto my back, as I remembered the girl I was the night before. She bared more skin than usual, exposing a saccharine surface from someone’s spilled cocktail; on which the shimmers of a mandarin-scented body lotion danced around beads of sweat. I regretted having to peel it off, despite how foreign it now felt on me. But at the same time, I wanted to cover up and cry myself back to sleep. I wanted the suit that made me carefree to be acceptable to me in the daylight.

I liked that the drunk me did not care about speaking a little too loudly, smiling a little too widely, and dancing a little too disorderly. I liked that she forgot about tucking her stomach in and rolling her shoulders back. I liked how easily she opened up to others, and how she was bold enough to say the wrong things. I liked how unafraid she was to fall because she knew she could count on herself to pick up the pieces. I liked that she could be me if I were willing to look at myself a little differently.

Alcohol’s most enticing feature is the possibility of abandoning one’s responsibilities. In a way, drinking is the ultimate liberation. Who would pass up on that?

I used to believe that drinking alcohol was submitting to a different set of rules; it was giving into peer pressure and betraying your morals for social acceptance in its shallowest form. Why should I dance and pretend to be friends with people who do not know who I am — who will act like I wasn’t there the next day? I did not believe that I could be myself if I lacked awareness.

For the entirety of my high school years, I did not have a single alcoholic beverage. I felt great discomfort with the idea of forfeiting self-control for an ephemeral taste of freedom. I convinced myself that I could have just as much fun as anybody else in the club. All I had to do was sway my body to the rhythm of the godless crowd and submit to the midnight sky. All I had to do was pretend that nobody was watching me — not even from the heavens — because no one was.

But I grew up and realized that I was no longer capable of releasing my inhibitions and letting loose for the night. Imagining my body and the space it took in the room, dancing and having fun and being happy, horrified me to the point of denying myself these simple pleasures. I became increasingly ashamed and felt it necessary to become quiet and disappear. During the rare evenings when I would go out, alcohol became my remedy.

Growing up was believing I could no longer refuse that shot of tequila. It was far easier to relinquish my better judgment for the sweet sip of deliverance, ignoring its bitter aftertaste, than to flirt with the fact that I did not like myself. The first time I got even remotely tipsy occurred during my second year of college. That night was the most fun I had in a long time. For a twelve-dollar shot, I could pretend everyone around me had vanished and I was dancing on the pink rug of my childhood bedroom once more.

Drinking is a slippery slope. When I recognized how good I felt, there was no such thing as one drink too many. The first drink was always the most dangerous: it dissolved my initial reserve and lulled me into a state of false safety. When I believed drinking was the closest I could get to being myself, I didn't quite understand the shame. If I was having fun, why was I embarrassed the next day? Although there exists a carefree version of myself buried within me, I am not whole without my rationality, earnestness, and calm. Rather than embrace the carefree lifestyle, I merely became a caricature of the “party girl.” While there is nothing wrong with her, she is not who I am. Drinking is the kind of liberation that allows me to forget myself rather than embrace myself.

Then came another wave of sensations: migraines, nausea, partial amnesia, and aches all over my body. My limbs scolded me for my thoughtlessness. What were you thinking? You have class at 9 a.m.! The worst feeling of all was regret. Drinking made me feel comfortable in my body by harming it on the inside. I could not keep gambling away my tomorrows for a shot at a perfect night. I needed to learn how to tune out the self-inflicted noise on my own rather than resort to this deafening medicine.

Though I haven’t taken a vow of sobriety, identifying why I was drawn to alcohol and what I liked about myself when inebriated have taught me control. I will allow myself a drink or two of alcoholic beverages I actually enjoy and let the mood seduce me for the evening. It has been a potentially life-saving compromise. I can learn to feel natural in unexpected places but I can also remember–

the joy I felt.

I never needed a brand-new suit. I simply needed to decide how I wanted to wear the one I already had. So, I slipped on my party skin suit and went back to the club, not necessarily as a changed person but as one who was changing. Feeling slightly buzzed and warmth spreading across my cheeks, I waited patiently in line and quietly hummed the tune of the music blaring inside. I remember the remainder of my night: dancing and jumping around, trying to sing the lyrics of songs I did not know and talking to people I would have never approached otherwise. When the street itself decided to call it a night, I took an Uber home with a smile tugging at my lips the entire way back. ■

Layout: Caroline Clark
Photographer: Dylan Haefner
Stylists: Adeline Hale & Cynthia Lira
HMUA: Reagan Richard
Model: Tyler Tran

Other Stories in Labyrinth

© 2024 SPARK. All Rights Reserved.