it makes your brain swell

i am the observer.
i am the bearer of facts.
i am the documenter of events.
i am the corroborator of stories.

i am the one who knows.  when the evening becomes diluted and dark and you can’t quite recall, i do.  i remember what you said; i know how much you drank.  i know your clumsy movements, your slurred speech, your loud laugh.  i know why your head hurts today.

the party itself is the same as it was last year.  dripping-wet ice chests.  citronella candles.  the same people, the same music and food, backyard and patio, sweat and insect repellant.  the bare-bulb porchlight glaring at guests flitting about in clusters.  i’m in the living room on the couch, drinking soda and watching a nine-year-old play video games.  he is an excellent player and an excellent nine-year-old; he’s answering all my stupid questions about the game.

“so where are you going now?”
“which character are you?”
“is that the gun you have?”
“how do you get your health back?”
“oh, no!  did you just die?”

i divide my time between watching him play video games, watching my friends paint the canvas outside, and listening to kitchen conversations.  when asked, i talk about my arrest and jail and probation.  when asked, i share some of the fun facts i’ve learned in my court-mandated education classes.

“did you know that the reason you have a headache the morning after you drink is that alcohol makes your brain swell, and it’s literally pushing up against the inside of your skull?  when they do autopsies on alcoholics, their brains are perfectly smooth on the outside.”

“when your liver oxidizes alcohol, it converts it into H2O and CO2.  but it eliminates alcohol at a rate much slower than you can drink it, which is why, after your last drink, you’ll get drunker before you start sobering up.”

“did you know that 80% of alcohol is removed through your liver, 8% through your breath, 2% through sweat, and less than 1% through urine?”

“my instructor told me that the absolute quickest way to get drunk is to give yourself an alcohol enema.  nothing absorbs alcohol faster than your intestines.”

outside i move from chair to chair, watching swarms of people sip and smoke and talk.  i’m not a part of this or any other gathering the way i used to be.  i used to be the funny girl who flew about from group to group, talking to everyone, introducing herself to all the strangers.  i used to be the one who made great drinks for everyone, whether they asked for them or not.  i used to be the first one to sing along when someone pulled out a guitar.  i used to be the last one awake.  as i will say to erica later, “you know you’re the party girl when you crash on the sofa not when you’re done partying, but when the last conversation available is boring.”

it’s not the party that’s different, i decide as i sprawl out on a papasan chair by myself at the edge of the patio.  it’s me.  alcohol ate away at the parts of my personality that kept me from watching video games and sitting in silence.  alcohol doused me in fun and threw me into the center of things.  without it, i’m the one who backs away from the group because there are too many people.  i’m the one reading a book or taking pictures of the ceiling.  i’m the quiet girl you didn’t meet.

i miss drinking, sometimes.  sober turns the volume up on everyone until they’re all shouting.  sober is wary of new people, and eats all the guacamole and chips because there’s not much else to do.  sober gets jostled, shoved by accident.  it knows which beer belongs to which person.  it knows who is in the bathroom.  it knows where you left your purse and why there’s orange juice on the floor and who has a crush on whom.

drunk alison and sober alison seem like two different people, and i can’t decide which me is real and which is fake.  for now, though, i am sober alison.  the bearer of facts.  the documenter of events.  the corroborator of stories.

the observer.