Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Things We Say When Drunk

“Happy," I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is one of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don’t have much faith in them and I am no exception – especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they’re scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence.”
Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary


Ever since Saturday night my head has been in a whirlwind. I've been anxious and paranoid, excited then depressed, then confused. I've had partial insomnia, then when I do fall asleep, I wake up in the early morning and have no desire to get out of bed. One moment I flip between wanting to find jobs out of state, retreating to the woods to live in seclusion, or driving my car into a tree; the next moment I'm incredibly hopeful, writing feverishly, planning for future endeavors, and grateful to be alive.

All of this is due to a night of heavy drinking with great friends, and it's not because I said something wrong. It's not because I embarrassed myself or hurt someone. For once, it's not anything I did at all, yet it stems from the frustration of the things people say when they are drunk. There's the old Latin phrase, "In vino veritas," meaning, "In wine there is truth," but is there truth?

Words are powerful. People tend to forget that. After a few shots, the tongue starts waggling. Stories become exaggerated. We start confessing, revealing thoughts and feelings that would have remained in check if not in the company of Jack Daniels and his sordid friends; as the Russian saying goes, "What a sober man has on his mind, the drunk one has on his tongue."

When drunk, I've poured my heart out to pretty girls. When drunk, I've aired my grievances like Frank Costanza on Festivus. It was what I felt, and it felt right...at that time. I think that's the key: the things we say when drunk are exactly how we feel in that moment, good or ill, and when we sober up, that feeling wanes. Those emotions subside, and we're left to wade through them, to ponder what extent we meant what we said, if at all.

Words are powerful. They can break relationships. They can strengthen them. Words can be petty or cruel. They can be grand or insightful. They are what we make them to be and take on a new meaning for the one that voiced the words and the one that heard them, and more often than not, at least in my short-lived, personal experience, the things we say when drunk are laughed off or ignored the next day, especially if we're afraid of how serious those words really were. Such words turn into awkward stares, uncomfortable silences, and a sad game of chicken where both parties swerve in opposite directions as they shrug aside the previous night's events with, "I was so drunk."

And I, days later, maybe even months and years from now, am left to wonder if what was said to me in the waning hours of a crisp autumn night was truth or alcohol or a bit of both.

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