“First you take a drink,” Fitzgerald said. “Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes you.”
Like Bacchanalia, the so-called Hemingway ethic was an easy mythos to throw oneself into, lazy college days spent churning out drafts in the little pub across the street from the Language building. We partied hard, wrote fast, and bullshitted with the best of them. By the time graduation rolled around and I’d read all of the books, knew it was all bullshit, it was too late, because that’s simply how addiction works.
Give-or-take a few teenaged indiscretions, I was a late drinker, and I thought that offered up some level of protection. I had years on my peers, a decade or more of catching up to do when I returned to University to finish my degree at the age of 27. And I surely made up for lost time. The creative writing program was angling to gain national notoriety, and for a moment I was its golden child, the one proclaimed by faculty and my peers most likely to succeed. Like a tipsy award-winner I thanked alcohol for a good chunk of my success, and held court in my little corner booth, the one with the low light and accessible outlet. Anyone knew where to find me, blissed out with a pitcher of cheap beer, cigarette hanging from my lips and fingers just flying. Out of my mind, quite literally, running just fast enough to keep my ever-intrusive inner voices at bay.
“First you take a drink,” Fitzgerald said. “Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes you.” I remember cheering the first time I heard the quote: yes! Let the drink take us! And when I awoke last week, lying in my driveway covered in puke and tears, I thought maybe I’d gotten it wrong way back when. Yes, I thought, it’s finally got me, hasn’t it?