Grapeshot Challenge: Cheap Wine and a Tutorial Presentation

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Words || Nikita Jones

DISCLAIMER: Sorry mum for all the swearing. Most of this was written while still drunk… sorry about that too.

In the cupboard under the stairs in my parent’s house there’s a shoebox full of VCRs with my name on them. Nikita’s Home Video Tape ’98-‘01, Nikita Playing Piano, Nikita on Motorbike. On one of those tapes is a video of me, at age six, sitting in a rocking chair with borrowed sunglasses and a toy-electric guitar doing a deep, scratchy Jimmy Barnes impression. Just after that gold comes a to-camera piece. I’m staring down the barrel of our old analogue video camera wearing the grimmest expression my little face could muster and in a level, yet inevitably high-pitched voice, I say, “I will never, ever, ever, touch beer. Ever.” Years later nobody in my family is totally sure what prompted this oath. Had I accidently taken sip of Dad’s VB? Had I watched an A Current Affair story on binge drinking? Had I been brainwashed by Healthy Harold? No matter the reason, my family has been trotting that line out at barbeques and parties ever since. It’s been almost fifteen years, and despite how cool I think it would make me look, I’ve pretty much kept my promise. It wasn’t hard: beer is some nasty shit.

Vodka though…

Listen, I’m no stranger to benders. I went on schoolies, did a European Contiki tour, and lived on campus for two years. I’ve done 6am shots of tequila, fallen asleep in the pot plants at Ivy, and squinted through more than one drunk-as-fuck iLearn quiz at 11.58pm. Drinking straight vodka is a party trick of mine that I discovered in my first year of Uni. It gets really handy when I’m out of mixers and there’s only five minutes till the train. Also, you can tell who’s gonna be the mum-friend for the night by which of them deigns to try and hide my Red-Square under the sink.

I awoke on day one of my planned three-day bender with a very kind of naïve excitement. It’d been exactly three days since my last hangover (a 21st party: I’m not an actual alcoholic, just play acting as one) and I tend to forget about hangovers the same way mothers forget about childbirth: so I can make the same mistakes all over again. I began my week with the Lucille Bluth breakfast of champions: vodka on the rocks… and a slice of toast. It was doable. I think my talent for skulling straight vodka only really kicks in at 9.50pm, before you have to pay entry for the Ranch Hotel, but I made my way through it. Then came an iced coffee with vodka, a cocktail which I insist upon incorrectly calling a ‘white Russian’ because it sounds classier. That was significantly easier to down. I filled up my sports bottle with a half and half concoction of lemonade and Smirnoff, chucked a flask in my backpack for extra measure and began my day.  

Let me tell you, I was walking on fucking air. I was at my perfect pre-club tipsy stage at 9am and life was a goddamn dream. I was giggling on the train and making eyes at sexy strangers on their way to work. I was fucking living, Barry. The first adult responsibility to knock out of the way was a tutorial presentation. Normally there’d be a sense of dread curling in my stomach from the moment I woke up, but as it was I don’t even remember making the speech.

After class our Features Editor, Emma, informed me that my intonation and overall aggression reminded her of my frequent ‘drunk lectures’. Like, the ones I give when someone tells me they don’t like Jane Austen but I’ve already had eight shots. Fortunately for me, apparently my patent pseudo-intellectual, rage-fuelled, drunk rants can also be interpreted as general passion and enthusiasm for ‘genre hybridity and its impacts on interpretation’. My tutor approached me afterward to compliment me on my analysis and ideas (or maybe to smell my breath). So far, alcoholism: 1, sobriety: 0.

It was after midday that things started going downhill. You see, this was a busy week for me. I had assignments due, work to be doing, and it was also the editing week for this magazine. I needed to call my landlord about fixing the oven and it was my turn to cook dinner. For authenticity’s sake, I took some of this work to the local pub. I ordered two vodka tonics and spent almost three hours trying to focus on some English marking like a proper high school teacher with a drinking problem. Those assholes make it look easy. In all that time I got through three papers, and even then I had to redo them later for quality control. I’m really not used to functioning through alcohol. The modus operandi for drunk Nikki is falling asleep in bushes and making bad decisions about boys, not calling landlords and replying to professional emails.

I left the pub to do the grocery shopping and discovered my drunk tendency for self-serve kleptomania; I stole all the fruit and veg. I also forgot half the shopping list and my housemate had to eat dry cereal for breakfast the next day. I went to bed at 10pm with the same feeling I’m used to having exclusively at 4am. It was not a good night. For the next two days, drinking was a chore. I dutifully sipped my way through an entire bottle of vodka and some mixed bevvies from various lonely establishments.

‘Alcoholism is not fun’, I said at 2pm on day three with my head on the kitchen table. It wasn’t just the grimy feeling lining my stomach or the pounding headache that never truly went away, it was the fact that, for three days straight, I’d not once been in my right mind. My ‘right mind’ is something that I cherish. As a creative person, as someone who delights in learning and considering new ideas, my ‘right mind’ is the state in which I can properly be myself. For three days, I was starved for intellectual thought (and Macca’s, I was really starved for Macca’s, like, most of the time). It’d never really occurred to me before how much alcohol inhibits your ability to process thoughts and emotions. I guess that’s what makes it such a shitty coping mechanism, but also such an easy one to fall into.

Anyways, there were some upsides; the fact that I kept forgetting to eat regularly, combined with the dehydrating effect of the alcohol, left my stomach flat and my skin clear. A plus. Overall though, and rather unsurprisingly, being an alcoholic for a few days was not the most fun I’ve had with a bottle of vodka. I got nothing done, could barely focus, was tired and cranky most of the time, but, surprisingly no one outside of this editing team guessed what was up, until I started giggling. I really can’t stop the tipsy giggles.

I also really fucking hate the taste of vodka right now. And so, I will end this piece with another proclamation: I will never, ever, ever, touch vodka again (before midday).