quarta-feira, 4 de janeiro de 2012

On Being Drunk

I've never been drunk. I mean: really drunk; drunk enough to lose control over one's actions and, I imagine, not remember them next morning. But I sure got close to it these vacations.

The setting couldn't be more prosaic. Sitting next to my wife on the back porch of her father's country house, browsing the web, looking at the beautiful garden and swimming pool, sipping from a caipirinha. But I drank too fast. When I had just finished mine, I noticed my wife's was almost full. The alcohol hadn't set in yet, so I ordered a second one. And then, before it arrived, my wife left me for some minutes to talk to her step-mother, and I felt the kick.

I'm not unused to drinking, and I can hold my own pretty well. I habitually drink a lot of beer, to little or no effect. I'm used to downing two or three tequila shots at one time. And I also regularly drink cachaça pure, especially when on vacation here. Perhaps it was my empty stomach; perhaps the maid masked the unusually high alcohol content with extra sugar; whatever it was, that single caipirinha took me where heavier doses, even on my bachelor's party, never had.

My distinct feeling was of being inside a submarine in my own body; a disconnection, a lag, between my mental states and my voluntary bodily movements plus sensory input. Every external action took a bit longer, and required a greater degree of conscious mental exertion, than usual. Now, I've been a little high in the past; actually, whenever I drink even a little wine I get to state in which I need a little more attention and concentration to do physical tasks. If I have to drive, I drive more slowly, conscious of the handicap. With that caipirinha, that experience was taken to a deeper level. A level in which simple things such as walking or talking required slow deliberation; in which the mind, though functioning quickly as usual, is also less rigorous, entertaining thoughts and finding renewed interest in things my conscious self would never indulge.

Why hadn't I ever got myself drunk in the past? In a nutshell: when I was old enough to feel comfortable doing it, I also believed it would be wrong. Yes, getting oneself drunk on purpose is, according to Catholic moral theology, a mortal sin. It is exchanging reason, man's higher faculty and what distinguishes him from animals, for a bestial dissipation in the pleasure of the senses. I always understood that, and even agreed with it, but I had never actually experienced it, or got so near to experiencing it, as with that innocent caipirinha.

I did not go the whole way. My conscious mind, even though requiring extreme concentration and exerting itself to the height of its power, was still in control. As proof of it, I decided to write a post for Dicta&Contradicta, and had the prudence to save it for later instead of having it published immediately; reason was still in charge. I got myself a bag of Ruffles to counter the ethylic effect with a dose of carbohydrates; and when the second caipirinha came, I decided to test my limits and see how far I could go.

I'm there now. Speaking comes difficultly. I would be very ashamed of trampling over my voice, so I speak with extra care. When my hands touch, I feel one at a time, as if each is, by its turn, touching a strange object.  Typing is unexpectedly easy, though with a higher degree of typos, which I'm still able to correct; I've even bothered to put the word caipirinha in itallics.

The line of complete unreason has not been crossed. And what have I learned? It's like peeping into the abyss. I feel what it would be like to let go of reason entirely, to lose myself in a mix of irrational passion and loose instinct; and I don't like it. Catholic orthodoxy has been vindicated by my near drunkeness. Who could forsake their humanity for the mindless abyss on whose edge I stand right now?

Perhaps someone who's trying to run away from something or himself. It's not a good place to be. Being near to the pit has had its effects. Why would I write in English rather than Portuguese? Alcohol is having its say and its pull too; and its speech has been shaped by Hollywood. I'm quite sure there'll be plenty to regret when I read this in a more sober state of mind; little corrections will be made - have been made - here and there. It will still, however, be a testimony of how, in this lazy vacation afternoon, when I could let myself go at almost no cost, I didn't. Reason won, however impaired it might be.

It's lunch time. My wife and mother-in-law await me. They probably won't suspect anything (well, I did tell my wife about my present condition and this blog post, but she doesn't know all the details yet). But you and I know the war just waged. The submarine rises and off I go. Let this drunken post be a monument to the power of human reason.
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