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Coming of Age Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

December 31, 2013


Dear Diary,


Here is my new year’s resolution for 2014.

I am making a vow to never drink again.

No more alcohol for me. Hopefully I will be able to stay sober.

Let’s See.


Signed, 

Lucy!


That was the first time I made a decision to truly give up alcohol. Alcohol was my guilty pleasure and I loved it.


I’ve been a lush since me and my gurls in high school would spend the rest of our school half days, together sipping Cisco. Yummy I thought and since then, I’ve been a drunkard. Well maybe not so much of a drunk but, I used to have a trophy case of empty bottles and at one point in my life, I thought that was such a cool thing.

It wasn’t like I was picking up bottles to sip on, when I was all alone. But if I was hanging with my peeps, you might have caught me guzzling down a whole 40 Oz bottle of Old English. I always thought that was fun and that was really, the extent of my liquid debauchery.


I’m sure, I am not the only one who might indulge every now and then. But when you like the way something tastes, you might overdo it sometimes. For instance, I consider myself a coffeeologist and there are days when I have had like three or more cups of black coffee. Someone who likes to drink alcohol might not be so different.


The good thing for me, I could pretty much hold my liquor. I still remember when my college roommates and I hosted a party in our dorm room and everybody got sick from drinking 190 proof Grain alcohol. It was so potent that even our college football team friends were throwing up all over the place. But not me. I was able to hold my liquor down and that made me think that I was a drinking professional. But as one who continues on to the next rungs of life, you discover that not everything you do, is you. If grey hair is a sign of wisdom, a few of them might have sprouted from learning how to say no to people asking me if I want a drink.


Alcohol has always had its way with me. Putting it into my schedule was like adding an unpredictable script into my narrative because I was never too sure what the night might entail. There were times when I left engagements with my friends, charging forwarded unscathed, and then there were times when I left disoriented without having even a measure of consciousness of what was going on around me. Yet, all it would take was a welcome suggestion to gather together for food and drinks and I was riddled with excitement for that particular night.


Lana said, “hey girl, tonight we are headed to Gingers. You down?”


I said, “alright now. Can’t wait to get some of them happy hour drinks. Count me in.”


“Alright cool. Carlito and Alice are going too.”


“Awesome. Okay. See you at 5.”


Ginger’s was a sophisticated Szechuan style restaurant with a great menu of food, ambience that makes sitting in their dining room worth it, a friendly host of staff and an excellent deal for happy hour drinks. $3! Who could resist? And then the food was off the chain. That was definitely a great Midtown Manhattan restaurant worthy of visiting every now and again.


We walked to the subway station and waited on the crowded platform for the next 2 or 3 train headed to midtown. Towards the center of the platform I heard one of the best renditions of Johnny Mercer’s "I’m Drinking Again", being sung by Michael Yung. I gazed at him in astonishment. What an amazing voice. He was a busker who definitely deserved passersby to leave him a little something for the pleasure and enjoyment of listening.


Finally, the 2 train pulled into the station. We all boarded into the train and luckily, so many people left the car we boarded that we all found empty seats. The train started moving and we were on our way to midtown.


At the next stop, a group of boys with their boom box blaring walked into the car and started breakdancing across the train’s center. It was definitely a spectacle to see how close their feet came to touching train rider’s heads every time they did a summersault or cartwheel.


We arrived at 42nd Street/Time Square and were ready to walk the couple of blocks it took to get to Gingers. We walked in and positioned ourselves in a corner booth where we would be seated for the rest of the evening.


Michelle was our waitress. She always had a cup full of smiles and love to share with us while we were there.


She said, “Hello everybody. How are you all doing? What are y’all drinking?”


Lana said, “We’re gonna order drinks and appetizers. Give me a Red Devil with a corona on top, wings, spring rolls and dumplings.”


Alice said, “I’ll take a Sex on the Beach, spring rolls and chicken rangoon.”


Carlito said, “I’ll take a Lychee Martini, wings and spring rolls.”


And I said, “I’ll take a Long Island Iced Tea, dumplings and spring rolls.”


“Also, let’s all get a shot of Goose and a lemon.”


Michelle came back to our table with our food and drinks. She placed everything on our table and said, “alright ladies and gent; enjoy,” and then she walked away. 


We all decided to take our shots first. For Gingers, a shot of something was really like a 1/2 of a cup. You know what that means right? More alcohol for quick consumption and getting drunker faster.


We all picked up our ½ cup shots, threw it back at the same time, put down the empty glasses, picked up our lemons to suck the bitterness of the raw alcohol away, laughed out loud and then started to enjoy the appetizers that were crowding our table. We sat, ate and indulged, drink after drink, until it was time for Lana to catch her LIRR train to Central Islip and for me to catch a taxi.


Finally, I caught one but was so drunk that I could not tell the driver where to take me and so, he took me to a nearby police station to have them call my folks so that they could come and pick me up. The cab driver sat there with me until my dad and sisters came to the station, retrieved me and took me home. I had no recollection of even being in a car or police station. I woke up with my family strangely looking at me in my bed, only for them to tell me the details of the evening. I swore that morning that I would never drink again. But I did…


I found myself back at Gingers the following weekend but I was a bit calmer with my drinking. The events of the week prior made me realize that, in the sophisticated game of drinking that I had been playing, I would sooner or later have to calm my appetite. My family has its share of alcoholics. I didn’t too want to fall prey to it.


Time accelerated wildly into days, weeks and months and I was doing fine. I had not gotten drunk again and so I felt no reason to say no to any window of opportunity to sip and chat with friends.



A few months later


I heard my phone vibrating and went to answer.


“Hey Twin. How you doing today?”


“I’m good Mason. Wassup?”


“I just got a call from Cheryl. She wants us to play at this birthday party at Occasions Hall on Saturday night. Are you free?”


“ Yeah, I’m free. Let’s do it.”


“Alright, we start playing at 8, so can you be there by 5 for sound check?”


“Sure Mason. See you then.”


I hung up the phone and started planning my week accordingly.


The workweek went smoothly. No unusual turbulence to shake my week up. Just home, work and back home again. It passed with a simplified grace and that was an awesome thing.


I had a Friday night gig that week and so after work on Friday, I went straight to the gig and ended up getting home at about 5AM the next morning. I slept about two hours before my alarm went off. I was scheduled for a hair braiding appointment, where I’d be sitting in my hairdresser Vanessa’s chair for the next eight hours. Braid after braid, done with precision until there were no more braids to be done and it was time for me to go home and get dolled up for the gig with Mason.


Occasions Hall is a nice, cozy catering hall in Springfield Gardens. It is a nice place to host a special event. The lighting was dim and just right for a room of dancing people to grind and have fun to the sounds coming from the turntables of DJ Tams when she played and to the live sounds that filled the room when the band was performing some of their musical selections. 


Uncle Kenny was there snapping pictures all night and capturing some really cool live music shots. He got us on and off the stage. He even took a picture of the full band by one of the muralated walls, painted with a palette of love for the eyes to savor. It was a good night.


I only drank one cocktail that evening. I had a Vodka and orange juice with dinner and then the night went on with another set of music that added to the exhaustion that started to settle on my body. When I started to feel that way, I told Mason that I would stay at his house but then changed my mind. I thought I’d be okay getting home and decided to get behind the wheel, under the influence of tiredness. I got into my Honda Accord and drove off onto the empty highway.


I like to drive at night because the roads are usually pretty empty. I could have a lane to myself and not have to worry about box drivers trying to cause me to brake fast with their Speedy Gonzalez ways. But tiredness and hypnotized vision to an empty road can be very dangerous; even more than driving under the influence of alcohol.


I reached to my exit, veered off the highway, turned my head right to see if any cars were coming and then just like that, I closed my eyes for a second. I opened them to the sound of my car crashing into a parked truck. The metal of the back of the truck scraped all the way into the front of the car almost to the steering wheel were I was sitting in shock and confused.


My car was nearly totaled but thank God, I had no scratches on my body. I fell asleep behind the wheel. At that, my phone stopped working and so, I had to get out, leave the car there in accident position and walk about ¼ mile for help. I swore that night that I would never drink again. But I did…


A few months later


I started to create an event invitation post on to Facebook.


Hey everybody. I’m celebrating my birthday tonight at The Proper. It is also open mic jam night. Bring your axe and come celebrate with me.”


I was so excited. I had a weekly gig as the soloist at a jazz night event and so, it was a great way for me to try to get some of my friends to come out and spend the night celebrating my solar return with me.


I got all dressed up in my new silky black dress and was ready to take in the festivities. I always appreciated when Wayne Holmes would call me up to the stage. He referred to me as his daughter each and every time and then I’d come up, pick one of my favorite songs and then we’d be off into a musical tangent.


It was my birthday and so I chose my favorite song.


“Skylark, have you anything to say to me? Won’t you tell me where my love can be? Is there a meadow in the midst where someone’s waiting to be kissed?”


Who doesn’t love Hoagy Carmichael’s compositions? When I heard Carmen McRae sing "Skylark" the first time , I loved it ever since and added it to my repertory.


The accompaniment was great. Shinya Miyamoto brushing his way to a victorious bang, Dave Brown funkifying it with his thumps under my vocalizations and when I came to the end of the verse, Charles Bartlett started back at the top with his unique trumpet calls, letting his personality walk all over the musical stream of sound until it was my turn to finish the vocal jazz song.


My heart is riding on your wings. So if you see them anywhere won’t you lead me there.”


Song after song, we played and enjoyed the atmosphere.


I especially loved it when Wayne Holmes would start playing the opening chords to my song, "Breakthrough," and then all I could do was say,


How many of you guys know that we were not built to break? There are so many things in this world that can break our spirits but it’s important to know that God is bigger than all of that. Do you all agree? If so, this song is dedicated to you.


When my set was done and I got off the stage to let some of the other musicians sit in with the band, I saw a few of my friends.


Hey Goldie


Hey Lucy! Happy birthday. Lemme buy you a drink. What you drinking?”


Okay, get me a Rum Punch.”


That drink was gone in about ten minutes when my friend Jazz came over to me and said, “you should have a drink in your hand,” and I said, okay, “get me a Rum Punch.” Two drinks later and I was so drunk, I could not drive my own car home. Luckily, my friend Joe came with me and assumed the role of designated driver.


I woke up the next morning with a hangover and about thirty minutes to get myself together before work.


 My coworkers had set up an after work party for me to celebrate and have birthday fun with them that night and so, when the work day was done, we all went to El Toro across the street to enjoy drinks and some delicious Mexican cuisine.


A spacious room with comfortable bar stools, great booths and seating across a marble styled floor. There was Mexican hats and other cool décor strewn across the walls. The menu had its share of options to choose from and so, I ordered Mahi Mahi Tacos. 


All my friends were buying me drinks left and right. We danced, chatted, laughed and drank some more. Cocktail here. Shot there.


The night kept grooving along and all I know is one minute I was on the dance floor at El Toro and the next minute, I was on a gurney at Beth Israel Hospital with liquid being fed into my arm. Lana told me that I had passed out and that she didn’t know what to do and in a panic, called 911 who came and got me. When I realized that my birthday had started with $1000 bill for my own drunken idiocracy, I decided that I would never drink again. But I did...


The year moved along and it was now New Year’s Eve.


December 31, 2013


Dear Diary,


Here is my new year’s resolution for 2014.

I am making a vow to never drink again.

No more alcohol for me. Hopefully I will be able to stay sober.

Let’s See.


Signed, 

Lucy!


I liked to drink and so never expected to make a decision like this. But I did. I carried through the last day of the year cleaning, shopping and planning for the year that was about to settle into our lives. As the day turned to night and the darkness strewned itself across the sky, I gathered all the bottles of liquor that I had and drank each and every bit of alcohol that was left in them until I had no more and then took a nap.


I had planned to spend New Year's Eve at church with my friend Steven. The night came and it was time for me to drive on over to Washington Heights for watch night service at his church. The choir was singing, Steven was playing his saxophone with the church band and Dr. Edward Earl Johnson Sr. was on the pulpit preaching his loquacious sermon. 


Perhaps it was the fact that I went to church and prayed my way through to the new year that helped me to start my lifestyle of sobriety and to keep it. I have been saying no to alcohol ever since. 


The Bible says there is a time for everything and it was definitely time for me to take on a new lease on life. It took a whole lot to get to a resolution like that which I never thought I would ever make but, I finally did.


December 31, 2020


Dear Diary,


I looked back over my life to see what my biggest accomplishment was in the last decade. I thought about everything that I experienced up until this day and the biggest thing for me was, that I accomplished gaining control.



Today makes seven years. Thank God!

2021, it’s on. I’m coming in like a warrior.


Signed, 

Lucy!

January 07, 2021 18:26

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