“Did you put Doritos in the cat bowl?” my wife, Meghan asked me a few weeks ago. It was noon. I could tell by the blinding sunlight streaming through the windows. Noon in New Jersey tends to hold court to a blazing, bright sun.
“Hmph?” I asked, not sure if I was fever-dreaming or wide-awake. Not sure if Meghan was a mirage or a real, live, lesbian that I happen to be married to.
“Did you put Doritos in the cat’s bowl? There are smashed up Doritos in her bowl.” Meghan repeated. She was definitely not a mirage.
My head pounded inside of my skull like an angry, elderly neighbor demanding we turn the music down RIGHT NOW! My mouth felt drier than a teenager’s skin after three months on Accutane. I peeled open my eyes. I looked right at my wife. She looked as if she’d been run over by a truck. The whites of her eyes, normally so vibrant, were a dull red. A soviet red. Her signature bangs stood straight up in the air as if they were protesting their dismal existence of laying flat against her forehead. She reeked of booze.
I reeked of booze.
“So was it you who put the Doritos in the cat bowl?” she asked, exhaustedly.
I had a sudden flash of myself breaking up Doritos and putting them in the cat bowl. She’ll love these. She deserves Doritos. We all deserve Doritos. I remember drunkenly thinking as I shoved a few whole ones into my mouth for good measure. The flash abruptly ended right there.
“Shit, I think I did give the cat Doritos,” I said rubbing my head, which felt swollen like a cartoon bubble.
Meghan chuckled. I chuckled. Meghan went upstairs and snapped a picture of the Doritos in the cat bowl with her phone and uploaded it to Instagram. “We got drunk in quarantine and this is what happened,” she captioned it.
It wasn’t the first time we’d been drunk whilst quarantined. In fact, I personally found myself rather quickly turning to some old coping mechanisms in order to dull down the razor-sharp edges of reality: We’re quarantined due to a deadly global pandemic. That’s a hard pill to swallow. A horse-sized pill!
What were my coping mechanisms you ask? Yoga. Breathe work. Meditation.
JK. More like: burying myself in work all day long and then guzzling wine all night long. Scrubbing the kitchen until the whole house grew bleach-sick while blasting podcasts, as a way to avoid hearing my own thoughts. Pouring myself cocktails so strong they could wipe out Mike Tyson in a boxing match. Losing myself in lowbrow lesbian romance novels, the kind that can only be bought on the kindle and have lots of horrendously written sex scenes (that I may or may not furiously masturbate to when my wife falls asleep).
Basically, I’ve been doing whatever I can to run away from my feelings. Which wouldn’t be, like, that big of a deal, except I’m currently promoting a book to be released in less than two weeks, that’s essentially about the utter importance of feeling your feelings. I was literally numbing myself while telling everyone to buy my book about the dangers of numbing. Oops. My bad.
Anywho, my first quarantine blackout wasn’t all that dark. I mean if the worst thing you do is attempt to feed your Siamese Doritos when in the throes of a tequila-induced stupor, I’d say that’s a big win. Plus, it was a one-off. It wasn’t like, a habit, or anything dangerous like that.
But the second quarantine blackout was a far darker story. It was a Saturday. Meghan and I decided to watch the movie CATS (which is a total kooky masterpiece. I don’t know why it was ever marketed as a blockbuster family movie, it’s fucking brilliant arthouse weirdness). We decided to drink whiskey. We never drink whiskey.
The next morning I woke up sweating. Not pretty girl sweating. Shame sweating. The kind of sweat that’s hot and cold at the same time. The kind of sweat that makes you teeter between throwing the covers off your steaming hot body and wrapping yourself up in a blanket shivering and afraid that you’ll never feel warm again.
I was too afraid to wake up my wife, who was wearing clean pajamas. I looked at my own body. I was nude. When you’re nude and your partner is in clean, freshly-pressed silk pajamas, you know that you were the drunken idiot that night, not them. I felt vulnerable in my nudity, not sexy. I hobbled over to the mirror. I was on the verge of a real panic attack. I couldn’t remember a thing. No cute flashes of feeding the cat Doritos.
I hadn’t washed off my eyeliner and my complexion looked sallow. Like a malnourished Victorian Child in one of those creepy portraits you find hanging in seedy pub bathrooms in the UK. My contacts scorched my eyeballs. I haven’t slept in my contacts since I turned thirty. The same year I vowed to stop blacking out. I looked at the puffy, pale, hungover girl staring back at me in the mirror. I’m going to have a nervous breakdown, I thought to myself, as depression saddled up and threw its clammy arms around my waist.
That’s when my higher-power, Lana Del Rey, appeared. I swear I’m not making this shit up (I am a journalist, after all. How dare you question my journalistic integrity?). Lana Del Rey appeared in my bathroom, wearing an ivory, high-necked prairie dress. Her skin glowed so intensely my dark, window-less bathroom glimmered with gorgeous beams of light.
“Zara, it’s me,” she purred, puffing on her jewel.
“I know who you are.” I hung my head. Lana only comes to visit me when I’m about to spiral downward into the depths of a self-destructive hole of darkness. I don’t want to be in a place where I’m about to spiral downward into the depths of a self-destructive hole of darkness.
“Look. I know shit is rough right now. I know all you wanna do is drink ’till you drop because you’re so scared right now. You’re so afraid. Drinking gives you a nice false bravado. But it’s not real. It makes you feel weak and uncreative and numb and victim-like the next day. It lowers your vibrations. It stops you from living up to your potential.” She examined her long pointy nails with her movie-star eyes.
I looked at Lana, tears welling up in my eyes. “But I don’t know how else to sleep! And being awake hurts!”
“Maybe now is not the time to sleep, babe. Maybe it’s time to be the most awake you’ve ever been! Maybe it’s time to start paying attention to what’s going on in the goddamn world! And feeling the weight of it all. For once.”
“Maybe now is the time to be radical in my thinking and moderate in my drinking?” I said proudly.
“Yes! But don’t pretend that’s a new line of yours, you used it years ago in another essay for another publication.”
“True,” I said smiling.
“Also, like, blacking out is always terrible for the mental health and excessively dangerous, but — ” Lana got really close to me. Her breath smelled like smoke and roses. She pulled me away from the mirror and peered deep into my soul. “It’s worse in quarantine. Far worse.”
She sighed. “Because you’re stuck in your shame spiral! You can’t go for a walk and breath in the city air. You can’t distracted by the city energy. You can’t go to the bodega and order a bagel. You’re stuck at home, stewing in your own hell.”
“You’re right!” She was right. When you’re hungover in quarantine you stay stuck in the hangover depression because you can’t leave the place in which you chose to self-destruct. You self-destructed in the living room and now you’ve got to spend the day there. Soaking in your weakness. It’s bleak.
“I’m leaving you alone, now. And whatever you do, and however badly you feel, do not have a glass of white wine to take the edge off.”
“Promise?” She said, puckering her famous bee-stung lips.
So, kittens. It’s Friday. And we all want to get wasted, don’t we? I know I do. But while a couple of drinks are harmless for most of us, I caution you against taking it too far. The world is dark right now. And blackout hangovers destroy whatever remaining light you have swirling in that beautiful brain of yours.
But if you do blackout, don’t spiral. Wait. Actually, you should spiral! Because sometimes the most beautiful life lessons and the most intense feelings (the ones you’ve been trying to avoid your whole little life) emerge in the spiral! So find the beauty in the spiral, but don’t do that shit again. Stay here with me. It’s better when we remember.