Sunday, September 07, 2014

Time doesn’t stop for anyone; alcohol just keeps us from feeling it

Time and the Bottle - By Tim Kreider
March 30 2009

My years of heavy drinking were roughly coterminous with my youth, and looking back now, it’s hard to figure out which one of them I really miss.

The association between the two is not just Pavlovian. Drunkenness and youth share in a reckless irresponsibility and the illusion of timelessness. The young and the drunk are both reprieved from that oppressive, nagging sense of obligation that ruins so much of our lives, the worry that we really ought to be doing something productive instead. It’s the illicit savor of time stolen, time knowingly and joyfully squandered. There’s more than one reason it’s called being “wasted.”

Of course time doesn’t stop for anyone; alcohol just keeps us from feeling it, the way it’ll keep a man warm while he freezes to death. It elides the years as painlessly as it does hours; your 20’s turn into your 30’s the same way you’ll look at your watch one minute and it’s only 8:30 — the night is young, all the time in the world — and then suddenly it’s last call.

I woke up to find myself in my 40’s in much the same way I used to wake up disoriented on friends’ couches at 10 p.m. I don’t feel middle-aged — I just feel like I’ve been young a lot longer than most people. This lifestyle also leaves you with some conspicuous gaps on your résumé. I now regret never having played hooky from school, not least because if I had I might not have felt compelled to play hooky from life for the next 20 years. Because it turns out that you can blow off life for as long as you want, but you still have to take final exams.

I’m a little appalled at all the time I’ve lost, but then, wasting time wasn’t exactly an unforeseen side effect; it was part of the fun. Of course it was; if drinking wasn’t so much fun it wouldn’t be such a widespread and terrible problem. While responsible people were working their way up their professional ladders, my friends and I were spending whole days eating oysters, drinking pitchers of mimosas and beer, and laughing ’til we wept on decks overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. There is really no drinking half as enjoyable as daytime drinking, when the sun is out, the bars are empty of dilettantes, and the afternoon stretches ahead of you like summer vacation. The gleeful complicity you and your drinking buddies share in the excellent decision to have one more ill-advised round, knowing full well you’re forfeiting the day — you can almost physically feel something lifted from you at this moment, even if you know it will fall back more heavily later on. We used to raise a toast: “Gentlemen — our lives are unbelievably great.”

I don’t drink like that anymore. My old drinking buddies fell victim to the usual tragedies: careers, marriage, mortgages, children. As my metabolism started to slow down the fun-to-hangover ratio became increasingly unfavorable. I was scandalized to learn that alcohol is a depressant. And I don’t miss passing out sitting up with a drink in my hand, or having to be told how much fun I had, or feeling enervated and wretched for days. Being clearheaded is such a peculiar novelty that it’s almost like being on some subtle, intriguing new drug.

* * *
Пьянство и молодость спаяны беспечной безответственностью и иллюзией безграничности времени.
Конечно, время ни для кого не останавливается. Алкоголь просто помогает забыть об этом.

Оказывается, что ты волен прожигать свою жизнь, как тебе заблагорассудится, – но только всё равно придется выдержать выпускной экзамен.

Если бы пьянство не было таким веселым времяпрепровождением, оно не было бы такой распространенной и чудовищной проблемой.

Больше я так не пью. Мои давние приятели-выпивохи пали жертвами обычных трагедий: карьера, семейная жизнь, выплата кредитов, дети. По мере замедления моего метаболизма, соотношение «веселье против похмелья» становится всё более невыгодным. Я был скандализирован открытием, что алкоголь – успокоительное средство. Я не скучаю по временам, когда вырубался со стаканом в руках, или когда мне рассказывали, как я веселился, или когда дни напролет я чувствовал себя обессилевшим и жалким. Иметь ясную голову оказалось новинкой столь экстраординарной, что это напоминает действие нового наркотика, замедленного и интригующего.

Эссе Тима Крейдера в моём переводе на русск. яз.

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