Sober Man at a Party

What is one question you hate to be asked? Explain.

“A sober man at a party is lonely as a journalist, implacable as a coroner, bitter as an angel looking down from heaven.”

— Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

“Why don’t you drink?” she asked, eying me in a way one would a narc. 

She stood in front of me, two drinks in hand. One of them for her and the other for me. Except when she offered mine, I shook my head and responded with, “No, thank you.” By her reaction, you would have assumed threatened her with violence. 

Most people are understanding. Most people are taught how to take no for an answer. And most people would think it rude to ask for a person’s autobiography when denying a drink. She, however, was not “most people.” 

I hate parties, and I don’t know why I agreed to attend this one. Maybe it’s the way she could twist my arm. The way she got me to do things outside my comfort zone. I appreciated people like her. People who can talk me out of my usual morose state and drag me out to have a fun time, but parties? Parties have and never will be a fun time.

Since adolescence, parties have only meant one thing (well, two things): Alcohol. 

My first highschool party involved my friends making screwdrivers, which I learned that night was alcohol mixed in with orange juice. Our host had stolen a bottle from their mom’s stash while she was too busy hosting her own drunken party. The others enthusiastically began to drink, while I sulked on the sofa chair wondering why I was even there.

I bided my time before calling my mom. I wasn’t a narc; I didn’t go telling her that my friends were drinking. I just wanted to come home. My end of this bargain was done. I wasn’t the friendless weird kid parents feared having. 

There were other parties in high school, all of them emotionally draining. At one, a guy pulled his flaccid cock out and told me I should start sucking. At another, we wound up in a car, speeding down a narrow road while a kid scrawnier than me held onto my arm and yelled out how we were all about to die. 

We didn’t, obviously. At least, not that night. 

(Funny side story: the guy who pulled his cock out and the scrawny guy were brothers. Not funny ha-ha. Funny, weird obviously.)

“I just don’t,” I replied. 

The follow-up question lingered in her eyes. I saw the words forming on her lips. Instead, she nodded and set the second drink down. 

“Do you mind if I—.”

“Not at all.” 

I had long ago given up on the idea that I could control what others did around me. I found myself less disappointed in friends afterward. Besides it was never a them problem, but a me problem. I was the one who chose not to drink, and me forcing my decisions onto others just made me a dick. 

“Do you mind if I ask why not?” she asked me after the party. Like a television show or a movie, this conversation continued as the scenery changed. 

There are reasons of course. Several I could tell her, but none of them matter. A choice is a choice, and long ago I made a choice that I would never drink.

“It’s just—” I trailed off. 

She accepted my nonanswer and didn’t ask again. Most people aren’t so understanding. Most people will pry – a hammer and chisel to a crated-up major award. That is when the question becomes a nuisance, when it bothers me the most. But not that night. Not as we walked in silence down the street, the cold nipping at our noses. 

“Why does it feel colder here than in New Mexico?” she asked. 

I reached for her hand and we continued on. 

Photo by Isabella Mendes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.