I think it was when I tried to shift in the back of the cop car and noticed my balls sticking to the cold vinyl-upholstered seat that I finally began to sober up. It had been a long, strange Wednesday evening in Hyde Park.
It started simply enough, with 5 p.m. Bottomless Wine Night at the Bungalow. For $10, you had two hours to drown yourself in all the cheap reds or whites you could handle. It was the perfect setting for another prolifically drunken evening.
My old band, The Lion Faced Boy, had just gotten back from tour. We were still trying to crest the booze-filled wave we’d been riding for months. I'd come home with a chip on my shoulder and a high-water mark on my liver that told me “excess” was not in my lexicon.
So we drank. And then we drank some more.
It was our singer Rob, guitarist Mark and me. Our bass player, Freddy, was not quite old enough to partake.
I started out with a full glass of red, then another and a steady flow from there on. My pace was quicker than my compatriots'. We drank all the reds.
Barely an hour in, I had to make a reluctant switch to whites. Then my ex, whom I'd moved from New York to live with less than a year earlier, joined us. I was grasping at the fringes of a friendship that didn’t seem to have a place in our lives. But it seemed worth the fight. And I was still thirsty.
After navigating my way to the little drunkard's room and back around 6:45, having consumed several glasses of wine in an hour and 45 minutes, I climbed on my barstool and asked for the check.
That was the last clear memory I had.
The ex went off to some work obligation, while the remaining three of us headed to the Deck for $1 beers and pizza. We had two hours to kill until All You Can Drink started at MacDinton’s.
We arrived, I am told, shortly after 7. Approaching the counter, I said I had to make a call and would be right back. Out the door and around the corner I went.
It was the last they saw of me.
Some kind of Top 40-type music was playing when I came to. I was in a side room at MacDinton’s. My head was pounding. I looked at my phone for the time — 10:30 p.m. And less than 5 percent battery left. Shit.
It took a few moments to realize where I was. I surveyed the crowd, but could not find my friends.
As I moved through the bar I felt a draft up my leg. My jeans had ripped at the crotch. What the fuck happened over the last three hours, and how did I get here, alone, with a drink in my hand? With no phone or friends, just a thick layer of drunk, I began to panic. After trying to adjust my junk, I hurried out to Howard Avenue, trying to figure out how the hell I’d get back to St. Pete. Relieved, I hailed a cab, jumped in the front and mumbled enough words to set us in the right direction. Feeling like this sudden rush was coming to an end, I reached into my pocket for cash. Nothing.
The cabbie didn’t care for anything I had to say. I managed to steer him to a bank somewhere on 62nd Avenue North and convinced him to let me pull cash out, all of which was in my savings. The ATM wasn't having it. Throughout the ride I'd been stabbing at the power button on my dead phone. Nothing. Then, while cursing Bank of America’s incompatibility with Wells Fargo, its screen lit up. Not only that, but I had a text from my ex. She wanted to meet back up with us.
In a frenzy, I typed what I hoped was a brief explanation of where I could be found. I hit Send as the phone died again. I prayed she’d received it, and prayed harder that this wouldn’t be too much weight on our fragile relationship.
I turned around to see another car had joined the cab. A cop. Given my inebriated stupor, he chose the cabbie’s side, and threw me in the back of the cruiser.
I told him someone is coming. I pleaded. Buying time wasn’t working.
Then, like Aragorn at dawn on the fifth day of the Battle of Helm’s Deep, I looked east, and saw the shape of my ex's white Toyota clunking its way into the parking lot.
We had managed, it seemed, to weave those fringes of friendship into a rope.
I cried all the way home.