Day 12: My level of fear does not correlate to the amount of alcohol I drank

Here’s the deal. My sister and I have nominated Friday as fag* night or, more alliteratively, Fag Friday because imagination and any soupçon of political correctedness and/or fear of ridicule went out the window with coronavirus. By doing this just once last week, we’ve now created a whole tradition that feels as old and inherent in our lives as time itself. Or Santa Claus. The tradition is this: maximise the fact guards (Gards?) aren’t breathalising and go to the beach with a bag of cans and one pack of Camel’s (bought out of sheer opportunism on our last day in #Lanza) to gaze ruefully and intensely at the sunset. We watch the sun sink over the water and shoot all of the COVID shit. It is the most reverent kind of synchronicity, this tidal balance of the amount of liquid we tip back our throats being the equal amount of the simultaneous shite-talk and profundity exiting our mouths. It is ebb and flow, cascade and flood on my favourite kind of scale: an alcoholic one.

*Just to clarify for our international readers, fag means cigarette. It is not a discriminatory slur and I am certainly nobody’s beard (but I totally would be if it meant you would offer me unconditional love and affection).

Why we feel the need to lie about our behaviour, I’ve no idea. Although I suspect it’s something to do with the aforementioned teenage regression and the obvious fact that it’s simply more fun if it feels forbidden.

On can #2 I suggest a cheeky fag.

This really is cheeky because they are my sister’s fags. She also coincidentally bought the cans. What did I bring? you undoubtedly ask. Sesame sticks AND THE F*CKING CRAIC.

Anyways, sister indulges me (as she always does) and we light those bad boys up as two non-smokers now believing the only pleasure in life exists in the Kate-Moss silhouette stick of nicotine. We exhale the day, the week, the multitudinous dissatisfactions, frustrations, and moments of comedy gold only living at home can create, and measure how much we’ve regressed to our adolescent selves in the preceding seven days.

Update: despite the itch, neither of us has returned to the slamming door phase (yet), eyeliner is still sparing in its application (but I’m pretty sure one more week will change this) and there have been no recent sightings of the short-shorts that were the only garment ever to force my parents to do what they’d vainly hoped never to be prevailed upon to do: ask an already irate and angst-filled teenager to curb their need for self-expression and validation and kindly change their attire into something approaching respectable. NOW.

Just to be clear, all of the above teenage instances refer exclusively to my sister. I was a fucking angel*.

*Also can be read as overly-sensitive, hyper-emotional, blisteringly insecure

I am hopeful the ra-ra skirt will make a return though. Nothing makes you feel quite as fun or carefree as a too-short ra-ra skirt in a clashing colour pattern.

While to the untrained eye it might appear we are exiting the building respectfully, opening, closing and walking through the front door in civilised and unassuming fashion, in my head we are leaping through glass-shattering windows, parkour-ing and ricocheting off cars and walls, slamming open patio doors and stained glass panels with Karate Kid levels of agility, and destroying everything in a prison break so dramatic it could provide enough content for a whole new retelling of the actual Prison Break.

And this now firmly-established ritual is my favourite part of not just a lockdown week but any week ever. The Guinness has never poured smoother down my thirst-ridden throat, the lighter licking the rump of the cigarette never flickered with more hope, warmth, promise, the sky and sea never more beautiful – even when grey and dull – than on these illicit Friday nights where we tell our parents we’re going for a walk while edging out of the room to the clink and rustle of beer bottles in a Dunnes Stores Bag for Life.

Why we feel the need to lie about our behaviour, I’ve no idea. Although I suspect it’s something to do with the aforementioned teenage regression and the obvious fact that it’s simply more fun if it feels forbidden.

Last week, we returned home from our “walk” elated with Guinness and the lifebuoy of something approaching a social life that didn’t begin with a sombre launch into the day’s “covid-by-numbers” (number of tests, infected, dead, times Simon Harris has been on the radio) or a Zoom call. Savouring the secret smell of nicotine on our fingertips and clumsily ushering in our empty bottles while our parents were distracted with the news, we were already plotting next week’s escape when Leo once again intervened and our big bag of cans excursions were no more.

To say I was devastated would be an insult to my emotions. I’ve been pretty calm throughout this lockdown and corona malarkey – I’ve relinquished my life, independence, friends with a laissez-faire ease that has inspired within me a smugness that is only rivalled by my own surprise. But this, this new curtailment, was too much (but also perfectly understandable #FlattenTheCurve, #StayHome).

Ohhhhh, two kilometres. What is the measure of your pleasure and pain? You take so much but give so little.

We are giddy – half on the fag high, half on the rebellion high of having the fag, and a quarter on the fact my status of lightweight has gone up several notches since lockdown made me an unwitting and unintentional pioneer.

So this week we had to recalibrate, refine, re-strategise. We found another body of water within the guidelines – why it’s necessary for water to be present remains undiscussed but also non-negotiable – and planned our route accordingly. Doritos were set aside, blankets and throws hoisted secretly into the car boot, Camel’s and solitary lighter lined up with tender precision, phones looked at every fifteen minutes from 7.30am Friday morning in the vain hope time might move faster.

Somehow we make it to 6pm and nervously put on running gear, scarves, padded layers because we are nothing if not vigilant against the ever-present threat of a kidney infection. We whisper through our checklist, holding counsel in cloakrooms, utility rooms, that weird space in the kitchen where groups always hover to conspire (except that’s usually over who’s left to sign a birthday card and did someone do the washing like mum asked?) While to the untrained eye it might appear we are exiting the building respectfully, opening, closing and walking through the front door in civilised and unassuming fashion, in my head we are leaping through glass-shattering windows, parkour-ing and ricocheting off cars and walls, slamming open patio doors and stained glass panels with Karate Kid levels of agility, and destroying everything in a prison break so dramatic it could provide enough content for a whole new retelling of the actual Prison Break.

We make it to our body of water and huddle – in a contradiction of sun glasses, Asics runners, and father’s unflattering fleeces. It is every bit the bliss we had imagined. We crack can after euphoric can in the darkness, verging on hysterical because this is the first time in three weeks we’ve left our home for anything other than a dash to SuperValu or what my family consider an unhealthy amount of evening walks on my part and, to be honest, the freedom of sitting here in the quiet, away from a house where every room has a person or animal and every door is never really closed, is what I imagine a first hit of heroine is like. We are giddy – half on the fag high, half on the rebellion high of having the fag, and a quarter on the fact my status of lightweight has gone up several notches since lockdown made me an unwitting and unintentional pioneer.

Except, these acts of rebellion come at a price. That price being the fact I’m not sixteen but rather twenty-seven and therefore no longer blessed with a self-absorption and entitlement that not only precluded any whiff of a hangover but also the incumbent guilt, shame, acute anxiety and general apprehension that accompanies any inhalation of alcohol.

This is being written from my bed, early on Saturday morning where I am tossing in my own sticky bedclothes with a sick heart and unidentifiable conviction that I have done something very wrong and at this exact moment, even though everyone else is still asleep, a family meeting is being called where no one will be angry but everyone will be “disappointed.”

Lads, I had four cans. Four cans and I’m terrified of my parent’s judgement. Four cans and I can barely swallow the tea I lugged myself from bed to brew to cure me (not a bother having four slices of toast though – I hear soakage has a 12 hour rule?) Four cans and I’ve blown my daily time limit on Instagram before 9am in a vain attempt to distract myself from the sin I KNOW I committed but I just can’t remember.

Never again, neeeeeever again, I wail into my pillow, thinking of the men – both real and imaginary – I would give anything to have lying beside me right now, rubbing my shoulders , telling me how beautiful I am, generally distracting me from any and all existential angst with their killer body. All I have is the smell of regret on my hands – the stale, stained, stomach-turning scent of fags.

Tree Tings

Pffft, as if joy exists when hungover! As if there is even a sliver of hope, light, love to be found in the abyss of self-loathing, shame, and actual nausea of a Guinness-filled stomach. Nevertheless, the eternal optimist persists! Three things I summoned myself to be grateful for…

  • High School Musical. DO NOT @ ME, IT’S FANTASTIC, SHUT UP. My sisters – the same terrible influences who gave me the cans and fags I asked for – shoved pizza in my face, High School Musical on the TV, and me onto a comfy bed and all I can say is…”We’re soaring, flying, there’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reeeeach………” I played Mrs Darbus in our Transition Year poor imitation of this classic so really enjoyed reciting every line word-for-word and relishing the dexterity and tenacity of the human brain in remembering every singular detail of a past trauma
  • Strobe Lighting Videos on YouTube. We had a midnight feast in my room after the body-of-water-cans that ended in a 10-hour-long (we didn’t make it that far, don’t worry) strobe lighting video that we put on to match the weird culty 1990s music we decided to revisit. Stellar combo.
  • Water. Tea. Any beverage that you can drink that will end the necessity of conversation AND hydrate you at the same time. Cracking.

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