I picked up my second shot of the evening, brought it to my lips, then flicked my wrist to shoot its contents directly to the back of my tilted throat. The warmth hit my ears and nose simultaneously. I quickly bit into my lime wedge. Its tangy juice washed away the dirt taste and constricted my gag reflex. I blinked back tears and smiled.

“Happy Birthday, Chloe!!” I exclaimed, clinking the plastic bowl of my Bulldog Margarita against hers, steadying the upside down Corona bottle among the slush with my already wobbly left hand.

The night gets fuzzy after that. More tequila. More bulldogs. More and more bad memories shoving themselves to the peripherals of my mind.

I tried to focus on my best friends around the table. The last time I saw them was at New Years at the cottage. Bad night. The culprit was Bloody Caesars with vodka that time. It’d gotten messy. I’d gone into a really weird state where I went on a little too long about death. Now here we were all sitting around the table, pretending it hadn’t happened. Some of us wishing. Gulp.

“Feliz Cumpleanos!” I looked down for my tacos but noticed my plate had been cleared. My stomach gurgled beneath the table. I couldn’t remember finishing them, but suddenly I was eating a churro with chocolate sauce. I was wearing a sombrero and clapping with delight as the resident mariachi serenaded Chloe.

The next thing I knew, we were slipping down the icy sidewalk to the van we’d chartered to take us back to Paul’s. I worried my stomach wouldn’t be able to handle the trip, I’m prone to motion sickness. We shuffled inside the nauseatingly warm van, and I climbed all the way to the back right corner.

Christmas lights lining the streets caught my eye. See Paul, I thought bitterly, nothing wrong with having Christmas decorations up two weeks after Christmas. I wondered if it really could be two weeks after Christmas already. It felt like Christmas hadn’t happened yet.

But it had. My parents had inadvertently forced me to choose between going to their house or my uncle’s, and I’d chosen my uncle’s without second thought. Then there’d been that email from my dad that went ignored. Paul hadn’t even asked, not that I would have told him. Not after the way he scoffed at his ex’s family issues. No, he couldn’t save me back in his dorm, and he couldn’t now either. The tequila swam its way up to my chest, making it burn.

“It’s snowing!” Chloe exclaimed, jolting me back into the van. My head was feeling heavy, and I didn’t respond to her. Instead I looked into the black night that was being sprinkled with soft icing sugar. It was falling slowly like on that morning. Cracked engine block. I thought you were dead, the lady who’d found me had said.

I shut my eyes firmly and rested my clammy forehead against the cold fogged up window. The front of my hair was damp. A shiver ran up my spine. It felt like something was caught in my throat.

“Hey, we’re here,” Paul said softly nudging my thigh. I couldn’t believe 40 minutes had gone by that fast. I wondered briefly why my car wasn’t in the driveway as I ran to the house, missing the second step and stumbling forward. Oh right.

Inside my tree was gone too. And my town. And my family. Push it away, I commanded, though I could still see myself petulantly laying on the couch like I was wounded, watching Paul box everything up for the last time. It had only been that afternoon. I burped and tasted tequila and tacos again, as I swallowed hard.

“Let’s play King’s Cup!” Brendan suggested, and soon we were gathered around the table. Somehow, I’d already landed myself a shot. I’d ran to the bathroom immediately after taking it, uncertain if I was going to puke or cry. It was both. Tears streamed down my face as I kneeled over the toilet bowl.

I was sad and angry and scared and hurt. Because what the fuck. Everything was wrong despite nothing really being wrong. Except Christmas, and death, and my grandma had been acting really funny, and lights, and fights, and camping, and that one time, and being run off the road, and houses in the suburbs, and closure, and totaled cars, and happily ever afters, and you really thought that was okay but I wasn’t okay.

Were you okay? I remembered myself asking Seth Grady a few weeks back. Maybe a little too okay, he’d replied. If anyone could understand how I was feeling right now, it’d be Seth. He knew a thing or two about using substances to supplement feelings. As much as I hated him for that summer, I hated him even more so for being so nice this time around.

“Wanna ggofor a ride ain my carr??” read the text on my screen under Seth Grady’s name. I squinted and turned the brightness of my phone down, it was blinding. I frowned. Had Seth just texted me? Had I just been thinking of him and now he’d messaged me?! Had I manifested this?! My heart soared.

Oh. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I had texted him that. Oh shit. I’d drunk texted Seth Grady!

“ALEXIS, I’m gonna hurl!!!” Chloe bellowed from the kitchen as my phone vibrated in my hand. I quickly reached up and locked the door before she crashed into it. “ALEXIS!!”

“I’m busy!” I called back from my little wedge on the floor, “use the sink, or a bathroom upstairs!”

“Well it depends,” Seth had texted back. “How drunk are you right now?”

I threw up again.

How does he know me so well?! I wondered, feeling flush, prying myself away from the toilet and sitting against the bathroom cabinets behind me. I cursed myself for being too drunk to go for a ride in a car with him. He would go! He seemed down! Ah.

“No, nnot now,” it took me a lot of concentration to type. “When I get my new red car. On Tuessdayy, wanna seee it??”

“Alexis, are you okay?” Paul was knocking at the bathroom door. I jumped. I called back politely, “just a minute!”

“Yeah, for sure,” Seth texted me back, a fresh wave of tears streaming down my face.

I splashed some water on my cheeks and opened the door to go back and join my friends. I knew even in my drunken state that I’d made everything worse, but somehow I felt so much better.



14 thoughts on “The Tequila Talking

  1. I could relate to this story immensely. No matter how hard you try to suppress the bad memories, alcohol will be there to bring them back and make things worse. As much as Christmas is about birth and joy, it’s also about death and loss. But whatever the case was for you, I hope that the hangover and reflection the next day gave you the clarity to continue living, and to continue loving life.


  2. Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:
    Not all Christmas gatherings are joyful. My Featured Blogger this week is Alexis Ryder of Stories I’ve Never Told. A gifted Canadian writer who draws from her own life and journals, turning her experiences into semi-fictional stories, Alexis (whose name is also at least partly fictional) never fails to intrigue and compel us. This raw, anything-but-joyful family Christmas account is a reminder that, as Thoreau put it, most people “live lives of quiet desperation.”

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great story telling. I felt the desperation. But to fail to remember eating that delicious food— that’s a bummer. 😂
    The rest, the desperation was sad.
    Wonderful story telling. 👏


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