Today is January 8, 2018. It would be Robert’s 94th birthday.
I was signing books in Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, and I looked up and saw a white-haired man smiling down at me. I should mention that by this time my hair would also have been white if it weren’t for Lucy at Woodstock Haircutz.
“I probably shouldn’t ask this, but do you remember our midnight cocktail party in Kenan Stadium?”
I remembered being in Kenan Stadium in darkness, and then I recognized a fellow student I had dated at Chapel Hill.
“But it couldn’t have been midnight,” I said, “because in those days McIver Dorm girls had to be in by ten-thirty.”
“Oh, then it was earlier. We thought we were all alone in that empty stadium. It was so dark. There weren’t any stars. Then we heard this other couple talking…”
We got together later and went over old times. We talked of all kinds of things, but I never asked him what we had been drinking at our cocktail party in Kenan Stadium. I still don’t know. It must have been wine (that cheap kind that came in a little basket), because beer would have been too clumsy to carry and we couldn’t afford spirits. I simply don’t remember.
“I probably shouldn’t ask this, but…”
And that is what characterizes the next eleven years of my drinking life after that fight Stuart and I had at 1000 Sunset Drive. I don’t to this day remember what I drank during those following eleven years. And I remember no occasions of being drunk. (Did I get drunk at Kenan Stadium? I never asked him when I had the chance.)
Yet I know I was drunk many times, because during those years I perfected a method of Enduring the Dizziness of Drunkenness. Once I got it right, it never failed, and I continued to use it until I gave up drinking at seventy-two.
First you lie on your stomach on the bed. Then you put the leg closest to the edge of the bed on the floor. You have to scoot far enough to the edge of the bed so that the foot of that leg can stand flat on the floor. I don’t know why, but it controls the dizziness. I wonder what other inebriates have perfected for themselves.
My fully-remembered drinking years began when I graduated from UNC and went to work as a reporter on the Miami Herald. From then on I noticed what everybody drank. When the ladies from the Women’s Pages asked me to have lunch with them, I joined them in their vodka martinis and spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the couch in the Women’s room with one foot flat on the floor.
The man I liked most took me to his elegant beach club and we sat on high stools at the bar and observed the night life around us. He drank Cutty Sark, and when we had refills he murmured, “two more Cutty and waters.” I never got drunk with him because he wouldn’t let me. I never saw him drunk. Later when I lived in London, someone took me to the Cutty Sark. Until then, I hadn’t realized it was also a ship.
“Two more Cutty and waters…”
(To be continued)