One of the things that I miss about torturing my liver on a nightly basis, being in a constant state of haze that often lead to swollen hands from fistfights that I couldn’t remember or trysts with women who I usually wouldn’t hug without wearing a condom while inside of a hazmat suit - is having a steady stream of what I call “bar friends” in my life. See, now that that life is in my rear-view mirror, I’m forced to forge real relationships with people - either finding a way to strengthen already existing friendships, or embracing the possibility of forming new ones. But the beauty of a bar friend is that it’s exactly what you’d expect: A special bond between two alcoholics that never extends beyond the borders of a particular drinking establishment. It’s not that you’d go out of your way to avoid that person if you ever happened to cross paths at some other location. You wouldn’t exactly fail to acknowledge their very existence - the same I always envisioned the “Claire” character in “The Breakfast Club”(Molly Ringwald) would if she ever ran into Brian(Anthony Michael Hall) after their fateful day in detention together - but the nature of the friendship is understood, anything outside of a headnod in our fleeting sober state would just seem awkward.
Well, a couple of days ago I was invited to a birthday party at a watering hole that I used to frequent on a daily basis. The moment I walked through the door at least a dozen of the aforementioned “bar friends” yelled my name in unison. Off sheer muscle memory the bartenders had my favorite drinks ready for me before I even got within shouting distance of the actual bar. “Norm” from the show “Cheers” doesn’t have shit on me. I’m ashamed to say that my alcoholism was so rampant at one time, the sheer chaos and mayhem that my inebriated state provoked, any mention of a lifestyle change coming from me was met with everything from smirks to belly laughter.
Anyway, I ran into an old bar friend of mine named Teddy, a construction worker in his late 40’s. Even though I’ve always found a great deal of my drinking establishment acquaintances to be quite disposable, he’s the only person who I could ever see becoming an honest to goodness friend. I generally hate people in general, so when I say that he is a quality dude it really means something. Before we could even get into the pleasantries of what the both of us had been up to for the last year and a half, he whispers in my ear that he has lung cancer. Before I could even offer up some words of encouragement, letting him know that I will be there for him and that he could indeed beat the disease that took my father’s life and almost took my mother’s - he tells me that the cancer is rather advanced and that he doesn’t have very long to live. Before I could even get my mind around that devastating nugget of information, he continued to whisper the following in my ear: “I don’t want you getting all morose on a motherfucker, I deal with that aspect of my situation all day. You’d be doing me the biggest favor in the world if you just acted normally. No windy walks down memory lane. This may be the last time I’m in a bar, I’m trying to have a good time!” So I simply proceeded to grant his request.
Despite the sadness that I felt over his fate being sealed, I reverted back to the old me - once again becoming the life of the party while simultaneously getting Teddy absolutely shitfaced. Even though I’m an emotional cripple, I desperately wanted to throw my arm around Teddy while trying to come up with some meaningful sentiment to say without welling up in tears. Instead I threw a sleeper hold on some drunk asshole who was talking shit before mercilessly tossing that silly motherfucker into a row of bar stools. Something I knew Teddy would find absolutely hilarious. Whether it was chatting up women above our respective pay grades, grabbing the microphone out of someone’s hand who dared perform a Lil Wayne song(Karaoke) - then forcing the DJ to put on a Run D.M.C song of my choosing - the entire night that most responsible onlookers would very as abject foolishness was all done for Teddy’s benefit.
Now that I look back on that night I don’t know what surprised me more: My acting ability, masking honest to goodness sadness by request - or how I could cause as much destructive mischief sober than I ever did drunk.