The last chapter of the book drilled it home. Alcohol is poison. Drilled home the fact, I, along with everybody else who drinks, is addicted – whether they knew it or not. Drilled home the fact we’d all been brainwashed from birth into thinking alcohol is always the answer. That it calms us, takes the edge off. Makes us happy and gives us confidence – when in fact it does none of the above. The last chapter encourages you to have one last drink, taking your time to savour the disgusting poison flowing down your throat. Once finished, focusing specifically on how disgusting the taste was, you’d be free. No longer brainwashed. No longer feeling pressured into drinking on social occasions. You could go and enjoy the rest of your life. A number of quotes from various celebrities on the back cover verified this.
My final pint was served to me in a glorious beer garden far from traffic on a summer evening, by an easy-on-the-eye barmaid of around 25, wearing tight denim jeans and a baggy Ralph Lauren shirt, far from buttoned to the top. She smiled as she handed me the card reader. ‘£4.80 please.’ ‘Thank you.’ I smiled back. Our eye contact lingered before she turned, walking away, hips swaying, giving me one last false hope of having random, wild sex round the back, behind the empty stacked kegs, a few hours later – what a send-off. I stared at the golden liquid fizzing away. The head, half an inch thick, sat prominently aloft like a crown. I was being spoilt. I put one hand around the sweating glass. This was it, my final first sip. No more anxiety leading up to nights out. No more having to down a couple of pints before a night out to dampen the anxiety. No more making a fool of myself, becoming a laughingstock. No more hating myself in the morning. No more bumming fags off strangers for a pound or snorting god knows what down dimly lit ginnels. Not to mention the two-day hangover and three-day session depression that follows.
I sipped. The disgusting taste of poison was surprisingly refreshing. I sipped once more, hoping it’d change – It didn’t. Christ, I’d been brainwashed good and proper. I frantically tried to tell myself I WAS DRINKING POISON, hoping to rile my anxiety levels. But the alcohol seemed to be acting as some sort of blanket. Felt like firefighters spectacularly putting out a blazing tower block.
Cigarette smoke glided majestically across the garden. A woman with purposefully induced swollen lips, Hannah Barbara tattoos and a shrieking laugh, who ordinarily wouldn’t be to my taste, but now seemed irresistible, sucked on her Regal Premium, blowing smoke rings. How I wished I had a quid on me for an exchange. I checked my wallet, finding a £10 note. If I pay with this for my next pint, I’ll have change. I thought. No! This is your final pint. Your farewell to poison, remember? A young hipster couple sitting on the table opposite, talking about pulling out of a cinema trip with friends to watch The Godfather on its 50th anniversary, because it doesn’t have strong female characters, suddenly didn’t seem like annoying little cunts anymore. Hemingway was right – drinking does make people more bearable. Or was it interesting? Ah who gives a shit? Same difference. I look down at my pint. Over three quarters gone already. I’m rushing my goodbye. I probably should’ve eaten beforehand. I’m rushing my goodbye. Did I just say that? I need to slow down, but every fibre in my body is imploring an opposite reaction. The barmaid reappears, serving drinks to another table. On her way back inside she glances over and smiles. Maybe I do have a chance after all. Sure, it’s never been the case before, but you never know. Plus, if it didn’t work out with her, then maybe “Pout” fancies a bit. I remember the book stating the reaction I’m feeling isn’t confidence but a numbing reaction to inebriation. ‘What’s the fucking difference?’ I muttered, causing an uncomfortable glance from the Corleone’s. I stare at the male half of the couple, with his round framed glasses, thick long beard and questionable combover. If he looked at me a second longer, I’d be inclined to start some shit. He looked away – lucky boy. I take a huge gulp. Did I taste an abhorrent flavour with that one? I took another to be sure – nope, tastes fine. Just fine. I wonder who’s out tonight? Could be a big one. No. I have the gym in the morning. That’d be three circuit classes in a week. Plus I’ve eaten well recently. Fuck it, this could be my cheat day. Scampi, beans and fries. Any sauces? Yeah, three more pints of lager please. Hahahahahahaha, fucking hell, that’s a class retort. Quick, write it down in your notes.
I walk to the toilets for a piss, trying in vain to postpone the last mouthful of my last farewell. Walking past the bar I can’t see the barmaid from earlier, but a new one seems to have started her shift. Maybe she’ll want to fuck me instead?
After pissing in a urinal with a sign above reading, “out of order”, I stand by the sink, staring at myself in the mirror. I pull down the skin below one eye for no reason, revealing the white of my eyeball. A quick key would go down a treat.
Back in the beer garden I flirt with the idea of texting random friends, asking if they’re out tonight. No, finish this mouthful and leave. Once you’ve finished this last mouthful, you’ll be free. I finish the lager. The shackles have been removed. The original barmaid comes over, picking up the empty. ‘Same again?’ She asks with a flirtatious smile. I look at her. Then the empty glass. Every foggy, regrettable, intoxicated memory that fills me with despair rips through the forefront of my mind. It takes so long for me to answer, a concerned expression begins stretching across her face. Finally I look up, meeting her eyes. One more would be great, thanks.’ I reply, opening my wallet, reaching for the tenner.