|April 5, 2001
Still Speaking of Bottles
Even after more than two years of confirmed California Grrrlhood, I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept of the "grocery store liquor aisle."
They sell VODKA at SAFEWAY here.
In Washington State (where Young Secra's drinking career began, around age sixteen or so) -- and in Oregon (where it ended, twenty-some years later), grocery stores generally carry a modest selection of beer, wine and trendy malt-based beverages. (I still have no idea what "Zima" is, btw.) But no hard alcohol. No vodka. No whiskey. No pre-mixed martinis or Kahlua-wannabes or Tequila-Sunrise-In-A-Can. So it blows my mind every time we walk into the local Albertson's or Safeway and I see one entire grocery store aisle -- plunked, usually, between the Rice-A-Roni Aisle and the Discount Diaper Aisle -- devoted to alcohol of varying proofs, price ranges and toxicity levels.
When David and I grocery shop, we generally tend to steer clear of the liquor aisle as much as possible. It isn't so much that we're afraid we might be tempted to relapse -- although we remain respectfully mindful of that possibility, at all times -- but rather because it just makes sense. If you've made a personal commitment to avoid a substance that makes you sick, fat, stoopid, broke and dead, eventually, why would you want to spend any time looking at it in a grocery store?
(We're avoiding the Doughnut Aisle for pretty much the same reason.)
Still ... I have to admit that every once in a while, I'm curious. What exactly do they sell, down this aisle? Are any of my old favorites here? Have there been any interesting new 'developments' in the alcohol industry since I got sober? Anything I've missed? Anything I should know about? (They didn't invent Pull-Ups until about a year after the youngest Tot was out of diapers: all of the good stuff gets invented once you're no longer in the market.)
And -- maybe the scariest question of all -- exactly how much trouble could *I* have gotten into if they'd had a liquor aisle in TicTac ... ?
Whiskey was my first liquor of choice.
"Look!" I say to David, as he returns to our shopping cart carrying an armload of cereal. I am holding a large bottle of sale-brand Chardonnay ... hefting it up and down, like an arm weight.
David winces at the sight. "What are you doing?" he asks.
"I just wanted to see how it feels in my hand," I reply, setting the bottle back down on the display rack. It's been -- how many years since I held a wine bottle? -- two and a half?
"Yeah?" David says. "And how does it feel?"
It feels ... comfortable. And uncomfortable, at the same time. It feels familiar, and it feels unfamiliar. It feels natural ... and it feels horribly, horribly unnatural. It feels a little bit like saying *hello* to someone you used to love -- someone who used to make you feel incredibly warm and comfortable and good about yourself, a long time ago -- but who eventually betrayed you. (Someone who not only betrayed you, in fact, but who also wrecked your car, got you fired, emptied your bank account, turned your family and friends against you, set your oven mitts on fire, and eventually tried to get you to jump out a third-story window.)
I shrug. "It doesn't feel like much of anything," I reply. And I leave it at that.
As we head towards the produce department, I glance once again down the liquor aisle, with its astonishing array of glittering bottled toxins, ripe for the picking. A few feet away from me, a tired-looking woman in a wrinkled business suit plucks a bottle of Smirnoffs from the shelf and places it in her otherwise empty shopping cart. She catches me staring at her and gives me a look that says Yeah? What are YOU looking at?
I smile reassuringly at her -- No hard feelings, OK? -- but inside I'm screaming That could be me! That could be me!
And it could have been me, too, if I'd had this kind of ready access to all of my favorite poisons during the most dysfunctional periods of my life.
Would Teenage Secra have appreciated a grocery store liquor aisle, for instance? God, yes! It would have made her life so much easier: no more begging or bribing or coercing people to buy booze for her. She could have simply stuffed a bottle of Canadian Club into her purse once or twice a week, when no one was looking, and walked out of the store with it. (Until she got caught and was sent to Juvenile Court, and her heartbroken family disowned her, and she dropped out of high school and started spitting out babies when she was seventeen and eventually wound up serving drinks at Club Ecstacy.)
And what about Young-Married Secra? What if her husband had started bringing store-brand VODKA home from the grocery store every weekend, instead of beer or wine? Would that have made a difference in her life? (You bet it would! She'd probably still be married to that husband ... and still throwing plates of spaghetti/broken hairdryers/burning jack-o-lanterns at him. She'd probably have six or seven kids by now, instead of three. And she'd probably be waiting for that new liver, even as we speak.)
Would Dysfunctional Cyber-Secra been excited about the liquor store aisle? (Umm ... no. Probably not. She was pretty serious about not wanting to get too fudked-up while she was online: cyber sex was confusing enough when she was sober.)
And what about Oregon Secra? Would SHE have seen the value of the grocery store liquor aisle? Without a doubt. No more hauling those heavy, cumbersome boxes of Mountain Chablis/half-cases of Saxer's Lemon Lager home on the bus every night: a one-gallon bottle of vodka, every two or three days, would have been infinitely more convenient. And cost-efficient. And the empties wouldn't have collected so quickly under the kitchen sink.
Plus she wouldn't have felt a thing when she finally hurled herself out that third-story window.