I don’t drink anymore, but when I did, I’d get white-boy wasted. There were mornings where I’d wake up at an unfamiliar subway stop — that was a popular reoccurrence, waking up to a place that looks as if it never belonged to a city, let alone New York. That still holds a special spot in my alcoholic memories. I often wonder how I got myself home sometimes. How did I NOT fall onto the train track? That’s the true sign of a shit-faced veteran.
I live in Uptown Manhattan and the trip to and from Brooklyn is a pain-in-the-ass…especially at night. I always trust the L train to get me back into this greed-sucking island.
It was at the 14th Street station on 8th Avenue where I would routinely spend many a night. The newsstand workers could probably distinguish me from the other Mexican drunks just by the glimmer of my drool, or the illustrious dopiness of my drunken stagger. I’d always purchase a 16.9 fluid ounce bottle of Poland Spring on an early morning. I picked the same spot to sit at: It was on the second closest staircase to the 16th Street exit, because I don’t believe in sitting next to anyone on those wooden benches, because I didn’t want to tip over and fall asleep on anyone, and because I’m a New Yorker who, like most of us, feels more comfortable sitting on anything resembling a stoop.
Many important decisions were made on this substitute stoop; many harsh realities were faced there; many bags of Ridgies were eaten there…and by the way, I feel that Ridgies get heavily overlooked in the potato chip world. It’s a top five potato chip. If you don’t agree, fight me.
A lot of time was lost in that station — time I won’t get back.
Sometimes, I take this same train when heading home from business or pleasure, and I still walk back to that same staircase, where I find myself retracing my old, drunken steps. But I see the difference now lies in the company I keep; now that I find myself walking with clear thoughts, I smile.
Although, this walk down memory lane is occasionally coated in a vague mist of nostalgia, I smile because I remember those thoughts –both good and bad — when I flashback to certain nights. They pop back into mind like crystallized photography, immortalized forever. Brief moments with strangers suddenly walking into my life, make their existence known…many without faces to reveal. Not an inch of detail to hold onto, except a blur of carefully smudged colors filled with energy. It was enough to let me know that these are souls that do exist. And as a grey streak of noise moved past me, announcing its obnoxious, mechanical arrival, I’d board the train…clinging to the seats at the corner of the train as if it were my savior.
Recently, I went out looking for a drink or two. I walked past most of the bars I’d frequent; some hadn’t changed, others had, and the rest no longer existed. And I couldn’t bring myself to walk inside.
Had my need for a drink dissipated? No. I still wanted to sit down and relax with a beer, but the bars were just so packed. “So what?” I thought. “They’ve always been packed.” Had the crowd changed that drastically…or had I?
I found myself sober, sitting on the same platform where I’d spent many nights in a drunken stupor. I overheard a conversation between two women about love and relationships, and one drove home the point that communication is key.
It’s amazing what you can remember when you’re sober.