Liquid Courage

I've never tasted alcohol.

You think I'm joking? No. I, Esteban Sanchez, am twenty years old and not once have I had an alcoholic beverage.

Wait, I think that's a lie. I have had the occasional sip of champagne at weddings and such. However, I can't name the different brands of rum, vodka, or bourbon. I'm not sure what kind of glass is best for serving Martinis. As for Manhattans, I always thought that was some place in New York.

So why was I standing in a Chicago apartment of someone I didn't know while countless others surrounding me proceeded to get plastered?

"Hey, Bumlets! Don't just stand there. Go talk to people! Have fun!"

That's right. My roommate, Jack Kelly. An all-around nice guy, Jack enjoyed the party scene more than I did. Having been stuck together at the Columbia College dorm, we socialized with one another, but did our own things: He'd go out on the weekends and I'd stay in and read. It was a nice set-up.

However, when he found out I would be back at the dorms during New Years, he took it upon himself to invite me to a party some friends of his were having. By "invite" I mean he dragged me out.

And thus I found myself in the aforementioned apartment surrounded by the aforementioned drunkards. Huzzah.

"Hey! Everyone shut the fuck up already!" someone cried from across the room. The music was turned down and a hush fell upon the crowd. The guy grinned. "That's better! Now we still have a couple of hours 'til midnight, but none of you will appreciate this by then cause you'll all be drunk!"

He turned his attention to a guy nearby who held drumsticks. With a nod, the guy with drumsticks began a drumroll on the table. The first guy began speaking. "May I first introduce the old year!"

The door where he was standing opened and out walked someone dressed in a bathrobe and made-up to look about one-hundred years older than I suspected he was. The crowd around me booed and hissed at him as he raised the cane he was holding.

"Ok, that's enough! Shut up! Now, I present to you, Baby New Year!"

The crowd cheered as the door reopened, this time revealing a fresh faced young man. Peeking out from under a top hat were strands of the lightest blonde hair I'd ever seen and his blue-green eyes were accentuated by glasses. I could tell just how pale his skin was because he was dressed only in a large diaper and a sash reading "Baby New Year 2006."

The people around me began pressing forward chanting "Dutchy! Dutchy! Dutchy!" Feeling claustrophobic, I tried to push to the back, but to no avail. The Baby New Year, or "Dutchy" as he was apparently called by friends, raised his hands in the air, quieting everyone. When there was total silence, he took a long pause, a grin spreading over his face.

"LET'S PARTY!"

That's all it took to get everyone in motion again. This time, I managed to push forward through the crowd. As I rammed through the final threshold, I found myself face to face with the Baby himself.

"You okay?" he asked, steadying me. "You're not already drunk, are you?"

"Who? Bumlets? He doesn't drink." I looked and saw Jack standing nearby. "Hey, Dutchy, love the ensemble."

Dutchy gave Jack a high-five. "Thanks. I do try my darndest." He turned his attention back to me. "Don't drink? Well we'll have to fix that. Do you not like the taste or is it a moral issue?"

I shrugged feeling a bit uncomfortable. "I just never tried it. I mean, I never really wanted to."

When I tell you his eyes widened to the size of golf balls, I kid you not. He shouted to someone behind me, "Hey, Brandon! We got an emergency over here! Fix something up quick!" Looking at me he added, "Not too strong, though. We got a lightweight over here."

"A what?" I asked.

"You probably won't take to alcohol very well at first, so we'll start you off slow."

"But, I really don't wan--" I was interrupted as a glass was shoved in my face. Inside, the liquid was fizzing slightly. "Uh...what is this?"

"Gin and tonic," replied someone who I assumed was Brandon.

"...What's in it?"

He looked at me as though it was the dumbest question he'd ever heard. It probably was. "Um...Gin and tonic water..."

"Trust me, you'll like it," Dutchy assured me. It is usually against my instinct to trust someone who wears a diaper, but his eyes were sparkling and his smile was so darn charming.

I reluctantly took the glass and raised it to my lips. With one more glance at Dutchy, who was still grinning, I lifted the glass back, letting the liquid slide into my mouth and down my throat. I felt a burning sensation in my throat and coughed. "What was that!?!" I sputtered. The sensation in my throat died, but an after taste was left in my mouth. It was quite good actually.

Dutchy's grin didn't falter. "Try it again."

I wanted to say "no," but again one look at his face made me obey him. This time I braced myself for the taste. To my surprise (and I suppose to my delight) I enjoyed it. The taste was a bit sour, but still nice. I slowly began lifting the glass, letting the liquid spill out faster and faster.

Dutchy reached for the now empty glass. "Whoa! Watch it! You want to pace yourself!"

I blushed, not wanting him to think I was becoming an alcoholic. "So..." I began as nonchalantly as possible, "What else have you got?"

*

An hour and a half later, I began to understand what Dutchy had meant about "pacing" myself. Perhaps I should tell you that in that time period I'd had another Gin and Tonic, a Sloe Gin Fizz, a Screwdriver or two (or...three?), and some shots of various alcohol. Drunkenness is a very strange feeling. I think the background music started getting much louder. The floors began moving slightly, making it harder to walk. Also, things got blurry.

"Are you drunk?" Dutchy's face floated into my vision. I didn't say a word. I simply fell against him. "Yeah," he muttered, wrapping his arm around me to get a better grasp, "you're drunk. Come on." He began pulling me toward what had been set up as a bar. "Hey, Shelly, do we have any coffee?"

"Sure. We have Irish coffee, Kahlua Coffee, Irish Amaretto Coffee..."

"Just regular coffee."

"Oh. I think we used it all up."

He sighed and bit his lip, obviously thinking. "Do we have any hot chocolate?"

*

We settled onto a vacant love seat, each with our own steaming mug of hot chocolate. "I'm sorry to take you away from the party," I murmured, becoming slightly more sober.

"Nah, it's ok," he said with a shrugged. "I mean, it's kinda my fault you're drunk."

"No, I should have listened to you about pacing myself." I leaned back and closed my eyes hoping the sickness in my stomach would pass. Maybe this was a punishment from God for giving in to temptation.

"So I just realized I know nothing about you other than your drinking habits. Bumlets? Is that your name?"

I groaned slightly. "Nickname. It's a long story."

There was a bit of silence. "I've got time."

Sighing, I opened my eyes and faced him. "It's not all that interesting. When I was little I would walk around the house saying 'bumlets.' Hell if I know what it meant. My mother thought it was the most adorable thing, so she began calling me her 'Little Bumlets.' She sent me something when I first moved in and in it she used that name. Jack thought it was the most hilarious thing he'd ever heard and now takes great pleasure in referring to me that way as much as possible."

There was another pause from him. "I think it's cute."

Having sobered up enough to fully comprehend what he had said, I felt my face flushing and my heart beating faster. "Thanks," I mumbled.

He smiled. "No problem." He glanced over at the party and grinned wider. "Hey, it's almost midnight!"

I squinted at my watch. 11:59. Sure enough, the party goers began the countdown. "10!...9!...8!...7!...6!...5!...4!...3!...2!...1!" Choruses of "Happy New Year!" rang through the apartment and a group of people began singing (or shouting rather) "Auld Lang Syne." Dutchy just smiled at them before turning back to me.

It may have been the alcohol. I hear many people say it makes you do crazy things. Maybe I just want to blame it on the alcohol. Whatever the case, something suddenly gave me the courage to lean forward at that very moment and press my lips softly against his.

I think as wonderful as my first taste of alcohol had been, this was much better. His lips were tender. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I still heard all the fireworks and felt all the butterflies you hear about in those awfully written love songs. My left hand slowly worked its way up into his hair, grasping softly. My right hand ran over his bare chest, memorizing every curve of every muscle. My eyes were tightly shut, images of his face and body flashing through the darkness.

When at last I felt the need to breathe again, I pulled away slowly, allowing myself to savor every moment. Opening my eyes, my brain finally realized what I had done. I began stuttering. "I-I'm...I don't know...That was just...I mean the alcohol..." Still startled by my brash actions I sprung up and made my way quickly through the crowd.

"Hey, Bumlets! Wait!"

I didn't wait even a moment. I clamored out the door, down the steps, and back to the dorm building.

*

The next morning I was up early at the computer, my head pounding. By the by, whoever said coffee helps with a hangover was lying.

"Morning," Jack trudged into the room.

"Were you out all night?"

Jack nodded as he yawned. "I met some girl at the party. I think her name was...something...with an 'L' maybe?" He grinned sadistically. "Have fun at the party? I think AlcoAnon has a new member."

"Oh, fuck off already..."

"I do declare, the boy can swear!" He went about the room picking up a bit. "So I saw you and Dutchy making nice."

I groaned. "I just hope I never have to see him again."

There was a bout of silence behind me. Then a bout of laughter. I turned around slowly to face Jack. He put a hand over his mouth to stifle the laughter. "Uh..." he began between laughs, "I gave him your screenname."

Before I had the chance to respond, a ding came from behind me signaling a new IM. I turned around expecting the worst. What I saw made me grin.

Dutchman: You/me get together sometime? *hopeful* Had a blast talking with you at the party! Maybe we can finish up where we left off...?

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