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Stories from the Road: A little madness in your glass?

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Tobin S. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-17-11 04:17 PM
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Stories from the Road: A little madness in your glass?
This is a difficult story to tell because it involves a time when I was at my worst, but Im going to tell it because thats what I do- even if it hurts a little.

I think I was out in Santa Rosa, California. I had just delivered a load there on a Friday evening and there wouldnt be anything coming out of there for me until the following Monday. So I found a place to bed down which turned out to be a little mom and pops truck stop. There was nothing to do at all there aside from going to a bowling alley across the street.

I had just bought my first truck, an old cab-over with 600,000 miles on it and I was told when I bought it that the odometer wasnt exactly accurate. I was about twenty-five years old and five years into my long battle with a serious mental illness; an illness that I did not know I had at the time. The psychologists call that a lack of insight. Its like living in a different world than everyone else; one created by your own brain. But I managed to hold it together well enough to do some trucking and I was actually pretty good at it. And when the D.O.T. man checked my log book he didnt find anything wrong most of the time. I thought he knew all about my artful renderings in there and just let me go out of the kindness of his heart, or possibly to get my sorry ass out of his sight.

So there I was hanging out in my truck and listening to the radio. I was getting bored quickly and back then I didnt have a cell phone or a laptop to keep my mind off the boredom. I decided to get cleaned up and head over to that bowling alley. I figured there would be a bar in there and I was right.

There wasnt much going on there, though. The place was deserted except for the bartender and other staff and a friend of his who was just shooting the breeze with him. I think I had six beers in a short amount of time and decided to see if there might be anything else going on close by. Alcohol was like courage to me back then. It erased my paranoia, lifted my depression, and fueled my mania. The psychologists call that self-medicating and I think thats a pretty accurate description.

So with a good little buzz going and my mind actually clearer than normal somehow, I asked the bartender where there might be another place I could go to nearby and headed out on foot.

It turned out that there was a real bar just down the street and when I walked into the place I felt like I was at home. I was ready for some action, just any kind of excitement, and my spirits lifted as I lifted my glass.

As the sun went down the place began to fill up. I think I had about twelve in me when a couple of young Latino men sat down next to me at the bar. I started talking to them and one of them began buying me whiskey. They both seemed to be nice guys and even though their English was a little rough we understood each other just fine with the alcohol flowing. At this point my memory fails me as far as how many drinks Id had. Then the guy who was buying me drinks, Ill call him Juan, asked me if Id like to head over to his place. He was having a party.

The three of us hopped in this little pick-up truck and I decided Id try some of my high school Spanish with them.

Yo quiero una enchilada de chihuahua!

They laughed and asked, Do you speak Spanish?

No.

We stopped by a store on the way and grabbed a couple of cases of beer and then it was on to Juans apartment.

It wasnt much of a party. It was just the three of us and then another guy came over and we proceeded to get sloppy drunk. I thought about leaving at one point but I couldnt remember how to get back to the truck stop. Then things took a turn for the worse.

Juan and the fourth guy that had come over got into an argument. About what I dont know because it was all in Spanish. Then Juan grabbed the guy and shoved him. I stood up and broke things up. I should have been headed out the door, directions be damned, but I guess I thought Id be a hero. Two of the guys left, leaving me and Juan to ourselves.

I asked Juan if I could crash on his couch. He tried to tell me how to get back to the truck stop but we were both approaching incoherency. He was starting to get irritated with me, then he got a couple of more beers from the fridge, handed me one, sat down next to me and started to tell me a story.

Juan was originally from Mexico. He came to America to work about ten years previously when he was twenty. It would have been the mid eighties. He had somehow ended up in Tennessee where he ran into some big trouble. I dont know what he did, or if he did anything at all, to get himself into the predicament, but a group of white men tried to lynch him one night. They strung him up to a tree branch while he stood on a stool of some sort and then kicked the stool out from under him. The tree branch broke from his weight and he somehow escaped.

I had told Juan earlier in the night that my dads side of the family was from Tennessee.

I dont think Juan was making up his story. He told it with intensity and clarity despite the amount of alcohol running through his blood. He then asked me to leave and I said I couldnt. I did tell you I was crazy, right? Juan disgustedly let me crash on the couch and then, a little later, kindly brought me a blanket.

I awoke early the next morning with a terrible hangover and still half drunk. I had pulled the blanket up over my head as I slept and when I pulled it from my face I saw two small children sitting on the love seat. Juan came into the room and pointed at the door and said, Go. I asked him where the truck stop was and it turned out to be two blocks around the corner from his apartment.

I spent the rest of the weekend recovering in my truck and I felt crazier than ever. Self hatred boiled up in me as it would during the days following many of my drunken adventures. The side affects of self-medicating are worse than any psychiatric drug Ive ever taken. Not only does it break your body down, but it will also send you a little farther into the abyss of insanity after each dose- one step forward, two steps back.
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