The night began at the Shakesbeer Festival a few years ago at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Dark beer combined with not eating much was an obvious terrible decision and the only thing saving me from getting hammered too fast was sitting through sporadic Shakespeare performances which helped prolong each drink. After the last show, I bummed a cigarette and a light from a stranger. I took a drag and blew smoke just as the tobacco started to burn my lungs. “Where to next?” I ask my friend Marigold. “Maybe we should go home,” she said. I turn to her and scrunch my face. “No way, let’s go dancing!” She rolled her eyes and reluctantly walked with me to Eos just two blocks away.
As soon as we arrive, I order drinks. “I’m having so much fun!” I say to her as my feet pound the floor and my arms wave in the air like I just don’t care. “Maybe you should switch to water,” she says. I shake my head then drunkenly dance solo to the dance floor. About an hour passes and I am was–ted thanks to a few shots handed to me by people I don’t know. I spot Marigold at the bar talking to a cute boy and stumble over. The bartender was M.I.A. so I grab Marigold’s glass of water and gulped it down. “Let’s go!” she says. I ignore her plea and instead find a handsome black man who was on his way out the door. I flirt a little and persuade him to stay. Turns out he’s an engineer, a Stanford grad, a good catch. I decided it was time for us to get to know each other better. “He’s taking me home,” I shout to Marigold over the music. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she screams back. Knowing you can never convince a drunk once they’ve made up their mind, she did the best thing she could’ve done. She interrogates my new friend for his name, number, email, and drivers license number and scribbles down his information on a bar napkin. “Elizabeth, please be careful!” she said, grabbing my shoulders. “I’m fine,” I said. “I’m fine.”
I don’t remember giving him directions but we made it home. I know because I woke up the next morning with him naked in bed next to me. Oh god, oh god, oh god. Did we…do it? I crawl out of bed, careful not to wake him, and go to the bathroom to figure out what the hell I’ve done. I look in the mirror and a mess of a woman stares back at me. Black eyeliner and orangey-red lipstick smeared across my dry, sallow skin. I begin to cry and splash cold water on my face to mask my tears. I pull it together as I wash my face, deciding to save the breakdown for after he leaves.
I open the bathroom door just as the gentleman wakes up. “Hey Beautiful,” he said. Yeah, right, I think but give him a half smile instead. He pulls on his pants and walks over. His body is dark and smooth, his muscles sculpted like an Olympian. “Now I don’t just hook up and disappear,” he said. “I’ll call you and would love to take you out.” I appreciated the gesture but knew this was merely a nice thing to say after a one-night stand.
I walked him to his car, a silver Mercedes SUV, and send him off. For being a total wreck, I thought, I picked a smart man with a gorgeous body who seems to have his stuff together. Looking on the bright side was the only way to soothe my self-inflicted suffering. Especially since I couldn’t even remember his name.
I hurry back inside and turn on the shower. I began to cry and shake so hard I had to sit on the bathtub floor to stable myself. I couldn’t figure out if we actually had sex but the way my body reacted gave me the answer that was hard to face.
It took a while to get back to “normal” but slowly I forgave myself for that night. It’s been almost two years since I’ve drunk alcohol. And a lifetime is too short for another drink.