The first time I got drunk was at a high school party the fall of my senior year. A late bloomer. It was either three beers and two wine coolers, or two beers and three wine coolers. I was off the goddamn wall, it’s a good thing that all the booze at the party had disappeared by 10 p.m. No telling what one more wine cooler would have done to me. I remember there was a lot of wandering from the driveway to the kitchen looking to see if more booze miraculously appeared (the party was next to a church and at the pastor’s home, courtesy of his son and the pastor being away). Lots of talking to friends, feeling like I was floating, cops driving by and circling the house but being too considerate to break up the party with the nice kids drinking at the pastor’s house, even if we were all under age. I do remember being mildly pissed that some shithead from my class was dressed up as a ‘punk’ since this was sort of a Halloween costume party, because I was getting into punk rock and it was kind of dumb to put on a dog collar and make fun of it when you probably listened to Boston or Journey. Anyway, I’m older now. Still think he was kind of a dick. Just mentioning that I’m older. Can’t remember the next time I got drunk. Remember the first time I got high. Winter of senior year, sledding. That was nice. But a different story trajectory, kind of. Almost all of these are good memories, 17 to 22 I was drinking or getting high or drinking and getting high with my friends, different groups of friends, all of whom were drinking or getting high or drinking and getting high. And for all of that, there were way more, dramatically more good memories than bad. I don’t regret any of that.
Other than I’m sure there are times I drove when I shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. By the grace of Beezlebub we all made it out of that in one piece, and maybe a DUI here or there for a friend or two (once again, we were fucking lucky, dumb, dumb fucking lucky). While I can’t really piece together the second or third times I drank, I know that I was enough of an experienced drinking man that by the time my birthday, actually, night before my birthday, rolled around in April, I was easily zooming past the ability to down two beers and three wine coolers, or three beers and two wine coolers. I remember how the concept of time was so different in high school. That was the night I was drinking with some work friends at this older guys (21!) house on the Cape. Now I’d only been drinking serious since late October, and I remember some of my friends and I spent a lot of time drinking at this guy’s house when he was still living at his parents. Obviously, a lot of shit gets packed into six months when your 17, so it seemed like forever from the time I was drinking in his parents and braving his goddamn attack dog whenever I had to wander into the main house to take a piss, to when he had his own place. So on the cape, I think I may have been hitting the hard stuff, hard enough that even the Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits album played at deafening volume sounded good to me. And when the hard stuff ran out, I grabbed a bottle of Manhattan mix, which is a mix with no alcohol in it, but somehow I managed to get even drunker drinking it. Or maybe just all the vodka and beer before that was catching up. Probably that.
Which means as the clock struck past midnight and it was officially my 18th birthday, one of my friends from work dropped me off at home from the party we were at on the Cape, gently nudging me out the passenger door of his car in the general direction of my front lawn. Now, I was popular enough in high school, I had friends in enough different cliques, played a little sports, was kinda smart if not the hardest worker (huh, imagine that), but there wasn’t what you would call any kind of high school legend or stories following me around (other than, maybe he’s gay?, because he doesn’t have a girlfriend and is really skinny? Maybe there was a little bit of that which probably didn’t dawn on me until after the fact). The only small bit of high school lore that I would hear from time to time are the four words I managed to spit out as I walked in the front door of my living room, where my Mom was still awake and watching TV.
“How the Bruins do?” or more like one big slurred word as I weaved perilously close to the TV — “Howdabroonsdo?” The “Have You Been Drinking?” response from my Mom was automatic and frankly, all these years later, it would have been offensive if my mom didn’t ask me if I’d been drinking. Passed out in bed, spent my birthday getting grounded, getting serious talk from my dad of the not mad, disappointed variety, also knowing that the line on my dad in high school was that he had empty beer cans littered under his bed, but knowing that wasn’t the time to bring that up. Somehow, I guess I told enough people, or the right people, about the cool, casual “howdabroonsdo” line that I would occasionally end up at a party in town with older guys and would get, Hey, you the guy who came home drunk and ask your mom “Howdabroonsdo?” Yes, yes I was. Somehow, that was the only time I got caught coming home after drinking. Either I got smoother, my mom went to bed earlier, or I just kept my mouth shut.