Tequila is a Deceptive Bastard

Author: Sean Cunningham

A young man working a down and out job explains a typical, insane night out where the edge is always closer than he thinks and his inability to feel or connect with people is made crystal clear.

I don’t feel the greatest I’ve ever felt, and this asshole is all I need. He shoots me that look that makes assault seem so tempting, and says: “Jason, what the fuck are you at? I mean, I give you�” he looks at his watch, “an hour,” he lies, “an hour to do this one thing, and you’re still here, still fucking around when I come back.” I know anything I say will make everything worse, so I just look at the palette, creaking under the strain of a hundred of so frozen chickens, and look back at him. Hunched, squinting, a caricature of idiocy an artist could never capture. He squints harder, which impresses me. “Well?” he says. Resist.
“Sorry,” I say, “I can’t go any faster. I’ll try, but I’ve been going as fast as I can, really.” He sighs, desperate with disbelief at this primitive ineptness. He starts to say something, stops, and walks away.

I continue packing. Numb with fatigue and frustration. Deep down, I understand this man is in exactly the same situation as I; answering to a force too stupid to reason with and too powerful to fight: the walking, grinning epitome of thick who calls himself the store manager. Worldwide, this is how things work. This is a brief eye-opener and I should be thankful, and kill myself while I still have nothing to lose but an mp3 player and eight John Player Blue. Pack. Rotate. Face-Off.

I’m rostered until 9pm. After a half dozen pointless errands and a couple of staggeringly meticulous quality checks on my section, my manager lets me go. 9:45pm. I walk to the bus stop, wait, get it, get home, get changed, walk to the bus stop, get it, and reach town just after quarter past eleven.

I see a dog on my way to meet Ben. Rugged but healthy. The dog stops to glance at me. He licks a stream trailing from a toppled can of beer nearby, sees a crowd of prancing girls dressed as gay male cowboys, and skips merrily behind them. The little bastard has the right idea. I follow him. He leads me all the way to O” Connell street where the commotion gets to him and he aborts his party pilgrimage. I watch him fleeing for a moment, then continue on to the top of the busy road. Everywhere there’s shouting, staggering, vomiting, cursing, kissing and falling. The eight hour, government taxed lunatic-control relaxation period us folks call Saturday night. Fun, merriment, extreme escapism, call it what you will, all I know is I need a heavy dose.

Ben’s there. We get the greeting out of the way and get down to the drinking. Some underground cellar beneath a hotel, pulsing with muffled sound. The doormen look at you like they’ve just recognized a known serial killer and you say: “Eh, yeah, all my mates are already in there.” This is the keyword to entry anywhere. A refusal could lose an establishment a fine gaggle of drunks, so they usher us through after a flash of a passport. I protest about the ten euro entry fee required to merely stand on their floors, but only to myself. The sound inside is a cocktail of bad music, arguments and human incoherence. I enjoy it. I give the lady a fiver along with my coat, she hangs my coat up and stares at me. It takes me a moment and a nudge to realise that there’s no change. I walk away towards the bar.

Don’t ask me why, but something inside me says Tequila. Maybe it’s the Mexican embassy of my mind, run amok. It speaks to me and I obey: “Two shots of tequila please.” Two? Fair enough, who am I to complain? I stare at the scene behind the bar while the man gets my order. The staff move with an urgency that makes me nervous, standing here completely idle. They involve themselves in complex movements that seem so routine they appear robotic. I feel like helping, but I’m no robot. Hectic immediacy. The bartender returns with a pair of tiny glasses and places them in front of me. I pay him two hours pay and wander into the dangerous abyss of the lounge.

At our table I feel comfortable enough to face my surroundings. I can see the dance floor from where I sit. A couple of women dance with one another. Their display is of overt sexual desperation, that much I gather, even all the way over here. They want to seem like lesbians but are so obviously not lesbians that whatever attention they get is from people they definitely don’t want it from. They endure. Nearby, men dance with enough balance of casual nonchalance and good natured involvement to make themselves look like indecisive idiots. They tilt their heads upwards slightly but catch sneaky glances at nearby girls whenever they think its safe. The only men I can see going all out in this charade are the complete drunks. They stagger and shout, jump and gyrate and are given a noticeable extra amount of space to do so, alone. I don’t see them lasting, too much energy for this place. Or anywhere, for that matter.

“You’re not in a good mood are you?” Ben says.
“I’m not.” I say.
“What’s wrong?” he says. Ben is a decent guy. Not many men ask this question.
“Nothing.” I say.

I drink my two shots and get another two. I drink one of them and look at Ben. “Do you ever just fucking hate everybody Ben?” I say, smiling.
“What?” he laughs, mistaking it as a joke.
“Nothing.” I can see he’s nowhere near my current mindset. I leave his mind purer than mine. I drink the other shot. We’re sitting with a group of people we know in some way or another. They’re friendly and warm but the tequila isn’t working. I drink some more but cannot expel this wretched sobriety. I talk slightly but watch mostly. More tequila. Nothing. The bartender seems amused, at least.

Then, at a moment I cannot pinpoint, I fall into a sudden apocalyptic drunkenness. I can only depend on my friends” narration for the events that follow. Though snippets here and there are crystal clear. One involves a girl, immaculate and with the eyes of some ocean goddess. I remember her clearly. She is small but perfectly formed. Prettiness, along with a detached sense of wisdom, distinct intelligence and humour. She asks me my name, general chatting, routine nonsense. We are in the reception area of the hotel, the chaos of the dance floor through double doors to our left. It is relatively silent, completely empty. And we’re standing despite the large chairs a couple of feet beside us.

“You write?” she asks, tilting her head. She has a cute nose.
“What do you write about?”
“Everything. Anything. I don’t really choose.”
“I’ve never met a writer. Are you good?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think you are,” she says, “You have something. I don’t know.”

She moves closer, drink in hand. She holds it like a precious artefact. She stares at my eyes, one by one, she seems to be looking for something. She touches her bulk against mine slightly, but I feel something between us. She goes to kiss me and I let her. I do nothing. She is perfect, but I can’t connect. I can’t. She withdraws carefully and searches my eyes again.
“Is something wrong?” she says.
“I think so.” I say.
“I wish I could tell you.”
“You don’t like me.”
“You’re beautiful.” I give her one final look, turn, and walk out of the room.

More devil tequila. By numerous accounts I start numerous fights, end none and dance like a maniac alone in a bunker after Armageddon.

Another memory. Smoking and talking in the makeshift beer garden. I say garden, though the area is so obviously indoors its brazenness seems funny. It even has a roof. The smokers surround themselves in an atmosphere of inviting pollution. I’m talking to a trio of young students. At least I assume they’re students, they give that terrible aura. One male two female. None of them are smoking. At some point during our conversation I embark upon a journey of outlandish lying that surprises even me. The short, brown haired young man is talking about his sister, and I feel the need to speak about mine. I don’t have a sister. “Yeh,” I say, frowning at some nearby riot, “My sister’s twenty five. She’s involved in media. She organises gigs, big events, that sort of thing. She gets us in free everywhere, she’s handy that way. She was away in Puerto Rico there for the last couple of months, doing something important. She’s great though, she’s gonna help me get into the industry.” One of them asks me what I do.
“I’m an acrobat.” I say, baffled at the words and regretting them as soon as I’ve said them. The next twenty minutes involves a complex routine of deception while my entranced audience asks increasingly specific questions about my acrobatic work. They seem interested and I give them my number and promise to get them into some upcoming gig in the Red Box. That memory stops there.

The final event I can recall is me, running frantic up a quiet street. Couples and loners scattered here and there, watching me. I reach a deserted road and stop. I turn my head, and there he is. Rugged but healthy. He seems to recognize something about me, and tilts his head slightly. A moment of nothing. He approaches me, wary but curious. He sniffs me from the bottom up and stares into my eyes, one by one. I kneel and pet him, hug him and smile. He gives me one final, knowing look with a trace of something sympathetic, turns around and walks away.

The sun wakes me up. I squint. The sun has a habit of showing up when its totally unwanted then disappearing again until the next atrocious hangover. My head throbs and feels like its attached to a machine pumping it full of acid and pain. I can hear the oxygen particles wandering past my ears. I sit up. I’m fully clothed, and have on a woman’s coat, too tight to remove. I wonder how I got it on as I struggle with the sleeves. I escape its grasp finally and make my way to the bathroom. My face. Jesus, my face. I look like a prisoner of war. I spit in the sink and remove a dozen or so crumpled receipts from my pockets. Tequila x2. Tequila x2. They keep coming, more than a hundred Euros worth of white, telling paper. I let them fall to the ground by my feet and glance at my watch. 8:15am. I’m late.