By Mrs. Prynne
Can I get you a drink? (innocent offer)
Yes, water please. No ice. (pleasant smile)
Sure you don’t want something stronger? (said with eyebrows slightly raised)
Yup. Pretty sure. (pleasant smile)
I mean, like a beer? Or a mixed drink? Some wine maybe? (eyebrows higher, eyes laser-focused on me now)
No thank you. (pleasant smile)
Yes, really. (pleasant smile)
Why? (truly confused)
I don’t drink. Just water, thanks. (pleasant smile)
Wait. You don’t drink? Like, at all? (eyebrows have disappeared into hairline, utter bewilderment)
Correct. Well, I drink. Water, coffee, the occasional cup of hot tea. But I don’t drink alcohol, if that’s what you mean. (pleasant smile)
That’s the question that lingers in the air. It is rarely spoken, but it is there. Whether or not people think it might be rude, I do not know. (But what’s rude after the previous interrogation?) Maybe they’re scared of the answer. Maybe they want to assume I’m on antibiotics. (But she said she doesn’t drink AT ALL, that would mean…) Maybe they think it’s because I’ve got the religion. (But she curses and cracks crude jokes and I know I saw the edge of a tattoo once…)
Either way, they typically don’t ask. I try to put myself in their shoes. How would I feel, were I a normal drinker, if I offered someone a drink only to find out that they do not partake? It’s hard for me, because I’ve never been a normal drinker. I don’t even understand what that means. Normal. Drinker.
My fear is always that they assume. Or rather, that they know. (She must be an alcoholic. Egads! A pariah.) I want to correct their assumption. Insert the word “recovering” right before “alcoholic.” But know that an explanation is tantamount to social death.
My deeper fear is that they assume more…(She’s an alcoholic. Her past holds dark, untold secrets. Is she really up to the job? Is she really someone with whom I want to be friends? Is she mentally unstable? Can she handle being around this much alcohol? Do we need to get her out of here? DO WE NEED TO GET HER OUT OF HERE? Is she going to judge me for drinking? How many drinks have I had? Well, she’s just a snooty bitch. She’d make all the rest of us feel a lot better if she’d just leave. Sitting over there all sober, acting superior. I bet she was a whore in her younger days….wonder if she still is? Wonder if I still have a chance? Wonder if she’s sleeping with HIM?)
I wonder if it holds a mirror up to their own drinking. I wonder if that’s the reason they never really connected with me. I wonder if they even gave it a second thought. I wonder, after almost 13 years sober, if the drinking dreams will ever stop.
I quit wondering. I am woman, and I contain multitudes. Knowing me does not mean knowing me. They have the right to their wonderings, but I have no right to mine. Too much wondering leads to drinking. Drinking leads to dying. For me. Not for Normal. Drinkers. Can’t wonder about that.
Sips water. (pleasant smile)
Polite banter. (make sure to include everyone, even her)
Laugh at the jokes, they’re funny after all. (notice a few getting tipsy, pleasant smile)
Water cooler talk. (she doesn’t SEEM judgy)
Settling in. (comfortable now, probably means it’s time to go)
Wait, wasn’t there someone who said they didn’t drink earlier? (huh, can’t remember now, need another drink)
Pleasant Smile. (excuses self and heads for home, still sober)
This is our new Wicked Short Stories page with submissions from various Authors. Please look for bio-snippets about the Author at the bottom of the various pieces. Enjoy!