New Year’s Day, 2010.
It was still dark when the act of coughing up sludge awoke me. Shit, I thought. No cough syrup available because of the alcohol content. No soothing Benadryl or Tylenol PM to rock me gently to sleep despite the lung ratting. We couldn’t even take allergy medicine with antihistamines, which would cause a dirty result if the director decided to randomly drug test us.
Thankfully I had the room to myself. I’d have hated to wake up a roommate before 8 AM on one of the only days off we got here.
I kept hacking, regretting the cigar I smoked last night to ring in the New Year. Though I’m not a smoker, I needed something to help me celebrate. With no bottle of champagne to myself, my usual New Year’s tradition, I felt skittish all day. I talked too fast during our break, and when Delia offered to pick me up something for tonight, I asked her for a cigar. One of the flavored ones, preferably grape.
Fraternizing with the opposite sex was usually forbidden, but on New Year’s Eve the rules loosened a bit, and we all stuck in nervous clumps on the cafeteria patio. It looked like a junior high school dance at first, but we gradually crossed demarcation lines.
As I lit up my cough syrup-flavored cigar with Delia on the patio, a group of the men buzzed around her like a swarm of bees. She had that kind of effortless magnetism, a personality that made you feel as if you were better than you were.
Terry, one of the men who worked on kitchen duty, pointedly asked me as I took a deep breath of the cigar, “Wait, you don’t smoke, right?” He looked surprised at the cloud of smoke around my head like a dirty halo.
“No. I’m just celebrating the New Year,” I said. Though I felt a little light headed, this wasn’t what I wanted. I took another deep inhale.
“Are you inhaling?” Jim asked me, raising his eyebrow. I didn’t even know these guys knew who I was. So far, I had tried to make myself invisible here.
“Wow, that’s hardcore,” he said, shaking his head and chuckling a little. What was he talking about? Hardcore? I thought the point of smoking was to inhale.
“I’m a hardcore person,” I told him, which was a lie. Sort of. I wasn’t really sure what kind of person I was.
Now, in the wee hours of the morning, I was paying for that uncertainty. As I spit out some of the crap I coughed up into a tissue, wheezing and feeling my lungs contract in familiar pain, I understood why inhaling a cigar is a bad idea. It probably didn’t help that I had recovered from a severe case of pneumonia the month prior. I am so stupid, I thought.
I threw the tissue on the nightstand, then also realized that I wasn’t drunk. Last New Year’s began the time of life when I didn’t stop drinking, no matter the time of day.
I am coherent, I thought, and I’m coughing up shit. So far, this is a very different New Year’s.
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Back from blogging hiatus to be with my favorite peeps at yeah write.