*Warning. This post contains a first-person account of an evening under the influence of alcohol. Such material is only of interest to person or persons who experienced those events. Do not read.*
I completed the final stage of my dissertation process the other day. My 58-page, 13,000 word report had been submitted, and all I had to do next was present my project to others, explain and demonstrate the software tools I had developed, and describe how I had obtained my results.
There was no little amount of stress involved in doing this – especially when my bag decided to vomit my laptop out onto the street just beforehand.
But I’m not here to write about that.
I’m here to write about the aftermath.
The department at my university had decided to celebrate the end of the dissertation process with a barbecue – hotdogs and wine. Naturally this barbecue took place in the rain, because that’s how we do things in the UK.
I spent my time chatting with some classmates. I’d seen these guys around over the last three years, but only this year had I got to know them, because another of our assignments was a group report – we’d found ourselves working together, avoiding working together, pretending to work together, refusing to work together, and so on.
Although I’d been sharing classes and lectures with these people for three years, I’d never socialised with them before. I’ve always had to work at my stupid job. It sucked my evenings and time and enthusiasm away around the U-bend of meniality. Once the rabid frenzy of friend-finding and social-circle-forming was over at the start of the process, I was left out on my own, and unable to fit in socially with other students. It didn’t help that I was – and am – not of their age. I’m what’s referred to as a ‘mature student’, which only serves to hilariously underline the subjectivity of the word mature.
So this was my first opportunity in three years to interact socially, outside of timetabled hours, with my classmates – and we did so by standing in the fine English drizzle, making fun of each other.
But soon I noticed that I was having problems with my plastic cup.
Every time I looked down, it was empty.
‘I think there’s something wrong with this cup,’ I would announce. And I’d look over to my classmates cups, and see that they had varying quantities of wine in theirs. ‘Hmm,’ I’d say. ‘You’re not having this problem.’
They laughed at this. But they stopped laughing when I turned my stony gaze upon them, and said, ‘Why not?’
Shortly afterwards, they discovered they had the same problem with their cups, and we made a trip to the table with the bottles of wine, to fix the problem.
This happened a couple of times.
Eventually most of the students and staff had gone their respective ways, and the remaining staff decided that they were wet enough, and we should move into the department lobby. By this time the table of wine was looking noticably depleted, but still contained a few unopened bottles.
I looked left. I looked right. I looked behind me, where the porter sat at his desk, obviously not too thrilled at the presence of a bunch of loud students in his lobby, and shuffled a little further to my right to block his view. I looked up, at the shiny black orbs of surveillance on the ceiling, and thought, fuck it. Then I looked one of my classmates in the eye.
His eyes widened as I slowly extended my arm towards a bottle of red.
‘And… and… and a white,’ he said.
A moment later the bag that contained my laptop was approximately two bottles of wine heavier, and another young student – to whom I was clearly some kind of Robin Hood-esque hero – had pilfered another of the reds.
Not long after that, with the alcohol just about gone, the remaining members of staff drifted away to get on with their lives, saved from the perils of alcoholism by my sacrifice. The student numbers thinned even more, until it was just my friends and I – apparently the hardcore crowd. Then the porter got up from behind his desk, grabbed his umbrella and started to head for the door.
‘Hang on… are you… just going to leave us here?’ I asked.
He shrugged. ‘It’s six o’clock. I’m a porter, not a security guard.’ And that’s how we found out that the security guard in our department had never actually been a security guard.
So there we were. Six or seven students, a little inebriated, and at the stage where we had familiar problems with our cups.
When I opened my bag and produced the bottle of red and the bottle of white, I felt like Prometheus handing out fire; Jesus handing out crumbs and teeny bits of fish; and a roadie handing out the band’s handwritten playlists to enthusiastic members of the crowd after a show – all at the same time.
There was cheering. There was drinking. There may have been hugging. Unless I dreamt it, there may also have been an entire duet of Bohemian Rhapsody between myself and the Czech kid who won a video award earlier in the day.
But all things must end, and soon we looked mournfully at our problematic cups. Except me, of course – there comes a time in Ash-Matic’s evening where the most satisfying way to drink wine is directly from the bottle.
‘To the pub!’ several of the students declared, the words coming as naturally to them as a squeak to a mouse, a bark to a dog, or an I’m not racist, but… to a racist.
I followed the students to a pub just behind our department. I’d had no idea of its existence until that point. Looking back now, I’m still a little unsure how we got there, or where it might fit in the surrounding block of buildings. My memories of that night are a little hazy – if something supernatural had happened, I might describe it as a fairy pub, that flits out of existence when not looked at – yet is always there for the weary traveller at the end of his dissertation. Or something.
Upon entering the pub, my fellow students noisily claimed a table and a bunch of seats. My priorities were different – I went straight to the bar.
The girl behind it looked at me. Noted my wild beard and rugged good looks. Then looked sideways at the table full of noisy students, the male members of whom, I seem to recall, may have been climbing over each other to sit next to the lone female student.
‘Ah. They’re okay,’ I told the girl. ‘Just high spirits. Finished our dissertations today.’
‘Oh, okay, I was wondering,’ she said, relaxing a little. ‘I remember that day myself. Well… No. I remember not remembering it.’
A few moments later, I was heading back to the table with my beer. The students were a little more subdued than when I’d left them. They looked at my pint.
‘Oh… you got a beer…’ they said.
I looked at my beer. I looked at the pub. I looked at them.
‘Uh. We were thinking…’ one began.
‘Of going somewhere else…’
‘But you just brought me here.’
‘I don’t want any more drink,’ said someone else.
‘I think I need a walk,’ someone else said.
‘I might get some water,’ said a third person.
I looked at my beer. I looked at the pub. I looked at them. ‘But you just brought me here,’ I repeated.
I don’t think I can describe the looks they gave me. I’ve been bungee-jumping a couple of times. It was like the looks of people standing on the edge of the bungee platform. The look of the formerly-gung-ho. The look of, ‘I might have changed my mind, and now I feel silly for my all my previous vocal enthusiasm.’
I looked at my beer. I looked at the pub. I looked at them. ‘Well,’ I said. ‘I’m going drink my fucking drink.’
And that was how I ended up as the only one drinking, while they had waters, or Cokes, or nothing at alls. When they realised I wasn’t going to force them to drink with me, their high spirits returned a little. I think there was jumping and joking and shouting. One guy was telling us about his fuckbuddy, who was clearly into him more than he into her, and simultaneously making advances on the lone female – who in turn was declaring her love for the institution of marriage, showing off her engagement ring and demanding that I get married to Miss-Matic. I think the Czech guy was talking to himself. Or maybe me. It might have been the same thing. He might have gone home by then. I’m not sure.
At some point I found myself talking to Miss-Matic on the phone. I can’t remember who called who, but our conversation was limited, because I think I passed the phone to the female student so she could explain her theories on marriage to Miss-Matic, whereupon Miss-Matic could shoot all her arguments down and get her to shut the fuck up.
When I got the phone back, I think I recounted the entire tale up until this point to her, including the bit where I passed the phone to the girl next to me. I think at that point Miss-Matic decided to let me get back to my evening, and so I did.
I think I had more beer, but I can’t remember. The students started drifting away. Eventually only one or two were left, trying to persuade the female student to go somewhere and do something and drink more, or something, but it was clear she wasn’t interested in prolonging her evening, so we put a stop to it, and soon it was just the two of us.
‘Food?’ one of us said.
‘FOOD!’ the other concurred.
So we had food. The kind of food you only ever have when you’re drunk. The kind of food that could burn through several decks of the Nostromo if there wasn’t a coating of alcohol to protect it. Lovely food. And we talked and shot the shit for a bit, until her fiancee’s brother came to meet her to take her home, and I wandered into the night, tired and drunk and full and happy, in only a teeshirt as the rain came down all around me.
But my night didn’t end there.
Just as you can get a second wind when you’re tired and you’ve been going at something too long, so, when I arrived home, did the alcohol.
I wandered in, said something to Miss-Matic, who was in bed. I later found out she’d had a bad day at work – but didn’t know this then. Then I wandered out, and carefully took my laptop out of my bag. Then I went back to Miss-Matic, and told her about dropping my laptop earlier in the day. I may also have recounted the rest of the evening as well.
Then I went to brush my teeth – or at least, get my toothbrush, and return with it. I remember lying, still soaking wet, cross-ways over Miss-Matic on top of the bed, brushing my teeth. Apparently I was only brushing one tooth, very slowly – or so she tells me. Then, at her urging, I might have gone away to finish brushing my teeth. But then I think I ended up lying on her again, either still brushing my one tooth, or telling the story of my evening, and still in my rain-soaked clothes.
At some point, Miss-Matic decided that enough was enough.
I’m not sure how much there was, but I think it was definitely enough. I have vague recollections of a whirlwind tour through the bathroom, visiting all regions of it in her company.
And then I woke up the next day.
Upon trying to get out of bed, I found myself wearing bright-white boxer shorts.
‘What the fuck?’ I think I said – because although I own one pair of bright-white boxer shorts, bright-white isn’t really my style, so I tend to avoid them.
‘Yes,’ Miss-Matic said, dressing for work, looking quite sleep-deprived. ‘I had to put those on you.’
‘Yes. After getting you undressed, making you brush your teeth, putting you in the shower, getting you out of the shower, drying you, putting you in those clothes, and putting you to bed.’
‘Yes. And you were talking the whole time.’
‘Yes. Making high-pitched squeaking noises.’
Apparently the last recounting of the tale of my evening to Miss-Matic – which had apparently become quite a lengthy tale, that went on long after we were both in bed and the lights were out – had been told in the style of:
‘… and I was, like, “EEEAYR!” and she was, like, “EAYRRH?” and I was, like, “yeah,”, and then he said, “OOEERH?” and we were, like “EEAYRH”, and then we had some more wine, and I was, like, “EEEAYR!” and they were, like, “OWEEAH?”, and I was, like…’
I’m not sure what happened to my brain, but Miss-Matic didn’t sleep so well.
And then the following evening, Miss-Matic got home from work. We sat at the kitchen table, talking. I told her about dropping my laptop on the way to demonstrate my project; about how I was terrified that it wouldn’t turn on – but that the only consequence of my dropping it seemed to have been to shake several years of crumbs out of the keyboard…
But as I was telling this tale, I realised Miss-Matic was holding up four fingers.
‘What?’ I asked.
‘Four times, what?’
‘I’ve heard this story, four times.’
‘Yes. Don’t you remember telling me?’
I shrugged. ‘No… I was quite drunk. They had lots of wine. I smuggled two bottles into my bag. And then, when most people had gone home, we still had…’
I tailed off, realising Miss-Matic was holding up four fingers again.
So I don’t talk about that evening any more. I had to piece quite a bit of it together afterwards, from things Miss-Matic said. So this might not even be an accurate account – but to make sure, I’m going to make her read through this and check it.
Five times, baby.