Nowadays, when people offer me a drink, I often shake my head. I am now even more selective when it comes to alcohol because I have to keep an eye on my fluid intake. Just about a liter of liquid per day. More than that and I get congested. And those who know me know I could easily lose myself downing one cocktail after another.
When I was just new in the newspaper business three decades ago, drinking was one of the first hazards of the trade I picked up. That and coffee.
In most cocktails and dinners, you always get offered a drink. Somehow downing glasses of soda and iced tea seemed déclassé. Eventually, you learn to reach out for the drinks tray. Take your pick — beer, red wine, champagne or a cocktail.
I was not crazy for beer, but then there was only one kind of beer then. I never had a liking for it, although I could down one bottle after another. I kept a mental count and stopped at Bottle No. 3, because Bottle No. 3 could lead to Bottles No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6. After that, you would have to carry me out of the place.
That’s how I discovered vodka. Its clean and antiseptic taste is more to my liking. Give me a shot with just a couple of ice cubes, and I’d be very happy if you can just leave me alone in a corner. I will enjoy my drink thank you.
Most nights then, you would find me downing vodka tonics at the National Press Club. We developed a taste for the cheap vodka they used — it was good enough to use as a disinfectant, we declared. Years later, I discovered it cost not even a hundred bucks for a bottle. I was such a cheap date then.
That’s why, one night, when they ran out of vodka, even gin, we found ourselves nursing bottles of Pilsen. I had not developed my three-bottle rule yet. I made it after that night.
I don’t remember anymore how many bottles I had then. I knew I barely made it into the car of my friend’s boyfriend who drove all of us home every night.
We dropped off the first passenger in Caloocan, I was next in Pasay, and she would be the last to be let off in Parañaque. When the boyfriend wasn’t around, our taxi driver suki would bring all of us home following the same route.
I knew I was giddy when I knocked on our gate. Even before my uncle could give me a scolding for coming home late again, I was already up the stairs, heading straight for my room. After I’ve taken off all my clothes, I settled myself in bed, except sleep wouldn’t come to me. I had this sensation of floating like I was on my back in the middle of the sea. It was with that feeling of weightlessness that I did finally close my eyes and fall asleep.
The next morning wasn’t really hell as most people would describe a hangover to be. I was so thirsty I think I downed a pitcher of water in one go. And I wanted to go back to sleep again.
But that episode was followed by another one. And this one takes the cake.
We were all invited to a cocktail party in QC. There was an open bar, and guess what I did? I had nine G&T — they didn’t have vodka — one after another. I wasn’t happy with just that. I also had a couple of beers — maybe six.
I was ready to call it a night if someone got me a cab.
But someone said one of our hosts was inviting us to his place a few minutes away.
Did I call myself galaero? Call me kaladkarin, too.
We stuffed ourselves into someone’s car. I didn’t even feel squished somewhere in the back because I was already half asleep.
Somebody shook me awake when we reached our host’s place. There was a shoe rack outside the door; we had to take our shoes off.
It was dim inside. There was a pool table somewhere, but we found our places inside the game room. As we were getting settled, our host came out with a bottle of Johnnie Black, glasses and a bucket of ice.
Greedy me reached out for a glass, topped it with ice and poured a shot of whisky. I downed it like water. And I had another one. And I don’t remember what happened after that.
I guess it was time to go home when someone woke me up. We split up into different vehicles this time. I rode in the front seat of someone’s jeep.
“Where do I take you down?”
I remember raising my head and seeing the stoplight at the corner of Kamias and EDSA before passing out again.
When I felt again a nudge, I was already at Evangelista in Pasay. My stop. I got off the jeep, said good night.
I have no memory how I reached our house or how I even got to my bed. And no one told me if I made a fool of myself that night. I hope not.
And I’ve kept a tight watch on my drinking ever since.