May 3, 2017
I stop at the Buc-ee’s in Madisonville because I’ve been here before, they have clean restrooms and the wine that’ll work and it’s chilled. I choose the entrance at the opposite end from the wine because it’s the one we used last summer on the drive to Galveston with the girls. I flip flop in my flip-flops and cargo shorts, turning sideways to squeeze past the throngs, past the tee-shirts and electronics and food counters and snack aisles to the fridge and grab a four pack of Chardonnay and don’t care how unmanly this looks because I long ago stopped caring. On second thought I grab a second. One for before, one after.
Back in the car I consider knocking back a couple in a gulp or two. When they’re cold they go down so good in a way so wrong for wine to go down and so unmanly, but it’s not about the taste or the manly it’s about efficiency and keeping things more or less under control. One bottle equals one glass of wine, one beer, one shot, and you have to keep count of these things in order to get where you need to be, no more, no less. More gets you in trouble, more is for rookies, less is not an option.
I think better of starting in the car. It’s a company car, better not risk it. That’s the whole point of the four packs, though, to knock them out fast in the car and get rid of them fast, no open container.
In the hotel room there’s a fridge, and one pack goes in there. The other isn’t cold anymore and won’t go down as well but again this is not about taste this is about getting there. I crack one and it’s gone, crack another and collapse in a chair with the book. And they really do crack, the metal caps, when you twist them, makes you happy. The game isn’t for another couple hours and the stadium is walking distance.
It’s okay to read the book before you stop drinking, says the book. It encourages you to drink until you finish it, actually, and that’s the beauty of it, why you don’t mind reading even if you don’t want to quit. You get to feel good about what you’re doing, like you’ve got permission to be bad, get to tell your wife, look, see? I got this.
The only rule the book gives you is to read while sober, and I’m sober at the moment, just having a drink. You’re not really supposed to do that either but I’m an old pro, I got this.
I’ve finished number three when the girls call, and it’s only number three but I haven’t eaten and I work fast. There’s a risk they may hear it, I might slur a word, and this won’t play well with the wife since they’ll surely be on speaker phone. She told me, the wife, she told me last night she was ready to leave me and she meant it, and she knows I can’t be trusted. Plus I just got here, it’s not even dinner time.
It’s dollar dog night at the game so I get two and a beer, my seat’s on the third base side. I eat my dogs, snap a photo of the kid a few rows down in the Altuve jersey as Altuve himself is at the plate. It ought to make a great picture but I’m disappointed with it, like with a lot things, like some people with me. And this year the Astros will go all the way, and the Rangers will stink it up, though I don’t know this yet, it’s disappointment pending.
Four innings is typical before I lose focus, get up to wander. Another beer makes six according the formula of 1 = 1 = 1, but these are more than 12 ounces, so maybe it’s more like seven. I don’t feel drunk but then my wife says I can no longer tell, and I do only realize these things in retrospect, sometimes. It’s still dollar dog night, another couple should slow things down a bit, and they’re small. Another beer. There aren’t a lot of open seats, but there’s enough, and I wander and plop for a while, get up, wander again. One more beer, full to the brim. I spill it on my shorts and flip flops and just keep walking.
The roof is closed because of the rain, but there’s a problem in the outfield seats, a little waterfall pouring in, and what’s interesting is no one other than me seems to find this interesting. I can’t take my eyes off the waterfall, everyone else gives it room to land and splash and watches the game, but I watch the waterfall. It’s 2017, we have engineering, but this rain is coming in the with the roof closed and I don’t get it. I rinse my flip-flop feet, stick out my leg to rinse my shorts, maybe wobble a little, and a woman gasps, shocked, and I’m like what, I spilled.
My walk around the concourse brings me back where I started, nothing new to look at, nothing else to do. I’m not really looking anyway, not really seeing. I’m numb, beyond comfortably, but I get the sense everyone else is having fun. The game ends, I’m not really sure how. The time has passed, not sure where it went. Astros fans are making a woop-woop sound as they leave, and they won’t stop, though that would be nice.
The hotel is too close, so I pick a direction and start walking with whoever, going wherever. There’s not much around the stadium, and every few steps I lose a few friends until I’m walking more or less by myself. It’s not late but there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, and the word for being left alone as a crowd disperses is despair.
The four pack in the fridge is a three pack when I return because the bottles fit in cargo short pockets and no one’s the wiser — that one was in the bathroom while the anthem played, forgot to count that one. Two left as I crack one and lay back in bed with the book, and now I’ve thrown the rules out the window but I read anyway. If I time it right I’ll finish the last bottle in the last few pages. It’s okay because I’m almost done, and know how the book ends, it says “now take your last drink,” I know because I’ve read it before.