My friend Paul quit drinking, which was the smart and responsible thing to do. I am happy for him. A few weeks later another friend went on the wagon ... then another. I was happy for them all. Well, I was happy for them. I don’t see them much anymore. Shortly after he quit drinking, Sue and I invited Paul, Maureen and Larry over for dinner, and since we knew they weren’t drinking, we didn’t drink, either. We didn’t want to tempt them or make them feel uncomfortable. Besides, there’s plenty of bottled water, fruit juice and soda on hand, it’s not like we needed liquor to stay hydrated. It was a pleasant evening and we all had a good time. Things did break up a bit early and there was no big scene at the door with the guests hugging and kissing telling each other we’d have to get together and do this again real soon.
Our next dinner went the same way: civilized and polite. We talked about movies and TV shows and politics. There were long, empty pauses between sentences. There were no funny stories from Paul about forgetting where he parked his car and waking up in strange apartments looking for his clothes. Maureen had taken up quilting and Larry whined about his long and expensive custody battle over his kids. No one said that it didn’t help that he couldn’t remember their names at the first hearing. At midnight I started saying things like, “It was good to see you but I have to get up early,” trying not to yawn.
The guests practically jogged out of the house with quick goodbyes. After they left, I realized it was only 9 o’clock.
Sue and I went back to having regular get-togethers with friends with beer and wine and some mild over-imbibing. Oh, sure, there was the night I accidentally stabbed myself with a corkscrew and the time Trish backed into a stone fence as she was leaving, and the time Winston fell asleep on top of all the coats in the spare bedroom, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Yesterday I ran into Paul, and he looked 10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter.
“I guess you heard about my promotion,” he said. “I manage the whole East Coast now. You should come to dinner Friday night and meet Chardonnay, she’s so busy with her lingerie modeling that it’s hard to keep up with her schedule.”
“That’s great. I’m glad that everything’s going your way for a change.”
“Yeah, I never realized how much I missed when I was drinking and how easily amused I was. It came to me at dinner at your house, really. I never realized how boring you are when you’re sober. Some people shouldn’t drink. I’m one of them. Some people should. You’re one of them. I never knew how much you drank until I saw you sober. Not a pretty picture.”
After that, Paul and I drifted apart. Mainly because I hate him, and two, because he and Chardonnay live in Dubai and have servants who refuse to take my phone messages.
Now my doctor says I should stop drinking altogether, it’s not good for my heart.
“But isn’t a bottle of wine a day supposed to be good for you?” I asked.
“No, a glass of wine a day might be infinitesimally good for you. If it’s taken with food, and I mean a balanced meal: vegetables, whole grains. Not a burger and fries. If you’re drinking wine as a bacon-and-egg chaser for breakfast, it’s not going to help.”
“But breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”
“Not when you’re dead.”
“OK, I get it. I can take a hint. I’ll cut out the bacon and eggs.”
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at email@example.com
Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.