I will never drink again

I will never drink again

My head is throb, throb, throbbing with a dull aching pain. Oh god. I place my palm gingerly on my forehead; then rub my eyes. What time is it? I check my cell phone blearily and the sharp electronic light of the screen jabs my eyes. Shit. It’s almost 8am. “Portia!” I say, “Portia!” She groans, rolls over and looks at me thinly through her half closed eyes. “What?” she asks. “It’s almost eight!” She opens her eyes properly now – her stare hits me like a hammer. “Sam!” she says, “Get up!”

Portia’s flying in two hours, and we still have to shower, pack her bag and drive to the airport. Groan. That last glass of champagne was probably a bad idea, I realise as I creep out of bed and make my way to the shower. Yawn. The last two glasses were a bad idea, I think as I squeeze the fat tube of toothpaste, minty green paste crawling onto my toothbrush. The guys at the little Bohemian restaurant last night were just so nice. They gave us a free bottle of the sweet bubbly as we sat lazily chatting on the mattress they had squeezed into a corner upstairs by the window. It was past midnight, and Portia and I were the last customers. We were playing Truth or Dare, even though Portia is my oldest and closest friend. Well, not oldest; I’ve known other people for longer, and I know other people that are older, but nonetheless she fills the special ‘Best Friend’ hole in my heart. We met in the first awkward year of high school. I still had braces and hair to my waist, Portia had braids and funky self-confidence. Our nickname was Pinky and the Brain because we were inseparable and did everything together.

Samantha Steele (23) and Portia Mauntlala (23)
We always find something to laugh about. I think we'd make a great Top Deck!

I spit the toothpaste into the bowl. The bottle of wine was probably a mistake too, I think as I undo my hair. Yeah, the bottle of wine was definitely a mistake. I try to count in my head how many bottles we’ve drunk this week. Well, we had one when she arrived, from Joburg, ten days ago. I smiled, remembering what happened when I fetched her from the airport. She greeted me, then said: “Sam,” a bit anxiously through her smile, “I’m not sure this is my bag.” She leaned over and tried to find something she could identify through the clingwrap the bag was suffocating in. She looked up nervously. “OK wait, this isn’t my bag.”

Bag on airport conveyor belt.
Portia either didn't see this sign, or thought it made no difference to her life. Hmph. Sign reads 'Please take the right bag from the conveyor belt'. PHOTO: Samantha Steele

We were standing by my car at the drive-through Pick Up area at the airport. She’d grabbed this bag from the conveyor belt, walked all the way to the Pick Up area and was only now beginning to wonder if this was the right bag. All I could do was shake my head and laugh as she ran back to find her bag.

Samantha Steele (23) and Portia Mauntlala (23)
To Saturdays! We managed to 'cheers' everyday of the week. Think my liver might give up.

I rub my eyes again, stretch, and step into the shower. Then we had another bottle of wine last night. We drank that one while sitting on Table Mountain in the brisk evening air. The Mother City sparkled gold beneath us while we discussed sex, relationships, choices we’d made and why. We talked about the path our lives had taken – she in New York, me in Cape Town – was it the right thing? Lessons we’d learned, people we’d met, fun times we’d had and whether or not the line “Have you ever kissed a South African before?” would work at the World Cup. It was her last night here, and we’d been having conversations like this – over wine, margaritas, Hunter’s Dry – all week.

I snap back to now. The hot water gently drumming my face and running through my hair wakes me up as I hurry to get ready. We’d also had a bottle of nasty Woolworths red when we were cooking. And three at the Franschoek Cheese Festival on Saturday. She was furious with me because in my naïve optimism I had tried to get us to the Festival – we were meeting people – in time. “Sam,” Portia said, exasperated with me rushing her, “you’re always late anyway! What are you stressing about?” Well, I told her, that doesn’t mean I don’t hope this time will be different. Of course then Murphy (that dick) and his frikkin stupid Law decided to make my friends late – meaning we could have waited ten minutes for her to get her eyeliner. (By the way, Portia’s death stare is scary). And there was that party we went in Stellensboch. Oh god. Six bottles? Seven bottles? And that’s just the wine.

Wine
Groan. PHOTO: Samantha Steele

I step out of the shower and wrap a towel around me. We’d agreed that hangovers were the worst part of growing up. Well, hangovers, and paying the rent. Years ago we got drunk together for the first time over a bottle of peach schnapps (neither of us can touch the stuff now) and now we spent the week swimming in margaritas and vino. A lot has changed, but the important things haven’t. We talked about stupid things in grade 8, and our worries and decisions were way more low-key (maths homework? Not that big an issue for me anymore). But the fact that I’ve had her to talk about these things with is really something special. Now get me the damn Disprin.

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