Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

The First Time I Became Drunk

In Stories, secrets & dreams on August 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

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There’s no smoking, no drinking, and for small children there’s no running in my house.  I have a number of bric-a-brac and I don’t want any of them broken. Those were the rules of Ida Mae Pinnock, my grandmother.  My uncle on the other hand was a merchant seaman, and when he came home he brought the sea with him. He was an alcoholic and a chain smoker. He would drink in his room at the top of the stairs all day, but when he wanted to smoke he’d put his shirt on and walk around the block to smoke his cigarettes. Grandma knew what he was doing but he would always pay her with gifts from his trips so she looked the other way. He would always invite some of my friends up to his room to tell us stories of his travels, and while we were there he’d give us drinks — alcohol drinks — just a small amount, he said he was training us for the real world. My friends liked that stuff — he had an assortment of booze.  They would go for the Rum and Coke, me, vodka, his drink was bourbon. I should tell you he was about thirty-something and we were no more than twelve years old. My grandmother didn’t know this was happening under her roof or else she would hit the roof so to speak. He would let us go in his bathroom and brush our teeth and gargle before going home. This went on for a couple of years until I got somewhat to like the taste of alcohol, but I never became dependent on it. My uncle died at age 42 and left my grandmother a vast amount of money, and when she went into his room she got a surprise. She found at least 20 cases of assorted liquor. She cried for about a day, then she packed everything up, called a garbage service and had them take everything, including the clothes, the furniture, and the booze to the city dump. I know the truck men did not destroy the booze and my grandmother knew that too.

Fast forward to me and my friends starting to work. We got a job at the same store — E. J. Korvettes — but we would always party together. One Friday afternoon we all went to a bar around the corner from the job.  Vinny and Earl drank Rum and Cokes.  Me, I was drinking beer. Vinny couldn’t hold his liquor so we encouraged him to go home. Earl met with a lady and they left the bar together. Me, I stayed and changed my drink to Rum and Coke and started to remember who started me drinking.  My uncle, God rest his soul. I kept drinking until I fell off the bar stool. Somebody helped me up from the floor but I can’t remember leaving the bar. I got on the cross-town bus, getting off at my stop. All I remember is sitting on the stoop of my house singing “Day oh, Day-ay-oh, daylight come and me wanna go home,” a Harry Belafonte song. I was singing it at the top of my lungs so that my cousin had to come outside and shut me up. This was 2 am in the morning. I was drunk. The following morning my grandmother had a field day with me. This was Saturday so she had all day to get it out of her system. She compared me to my uncle, her son. She called me every name in the book. My defense to her was that I did not get drunk in her house as her rule says. She said I brought it to her house, that is the same thing. That’s as if I was drinking in her house. She never spoke to me again until the year before she died. We made up, had a good laugh, and remembered the old days with Uncle Ned. God rest their souls. That, I can say, is the first time I became drunk.

By George Cousins

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