All The Wrong Choices

February 8, 2013
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It can wash away regrets. It can heal a broken heart. It can blur the viciousness of reality. It can also destroy a friendship, a relationship and burn all your bridges in seconds. Striving as a writer to paint the perfect picture in my reader’s mind, I would wonder what it felt to be under the influence. Alcohol wasn’t new, I’ve had half a glass of champagne and little sips of wine and beer at odd times but never enough to dive off the edge of soberness…then I met him in the summer of 2010. On an exchange to Oshkosh that lasted three weeks, I learned many things about him: he partied; he was an aspiring artist, he played the piano and performed for talent shows at his school…but above all, his heart was bleeding with hatred and sadness towards the world and the lack of a father figure. Naturally sympathetic, I felt the need to help him anyway that I could because I was privileged to have a complete family.

On the morning of our return to the Sheraton Hotel at Pearson Airport, I fully convinced myself that I would never see this wild yet sweet boy again. Little did I know, he joined my youth group days later and we ended up supervising a field trip. It was then that I learned how he dealt with kids, he opted for vulgarity and yelling. This resulted in upset parents, landing myself in front of angry superiors. However it cost me, I vouched for him and assured that I would address the situation. Although he didn’t like being told, he promised that he would improve his interaction skills.

A week and many emails later we watched Step Up 3 with his friends. Being overprotective, my parents made my siblings stay within the movie theatre; my father marched in with the classical if-you-try-anything-with-my-daughter-you’re-going-to-deal-with-me kind of expression. He ended up coming fifteen minutes late, therefore cutting fifteen minutes into the movie and not at all giving a good first impression to my father. I myself was a little embarrassed and unimpressed too. Eight hours later, the unexpected happened. He had called my father (who had been out of town) at a quarter past midnight, asking for me. Butterflies fluttered from my stomach to my throat, my heart tumbled to the floor as my father reported that his words came out slurred, his responses thickly laced with alcohol. This jostling event had not only become the topic of discussion at mealtimes but also the reason for constant interrogation after we met for youth group. This time things had gone too far, I was strictly advised that I should break off the friendship. I knew they were worried; it was unlike me, they said, that I’d surrounded myself with troublesome people.

Desperately wanting to steer my friend in the right direction while keeping the peace with my parents, I decided that I would call him the next afternoon. To prevent myself from saying anything irrational, I’d written a couple drafts and rehearsed what I would say. But even then, my dry lips trembled with nervousness, my pulse drummed in my ears and it was hard to focus. After finally mustering enough courage, I composed his number on the cordless phone, compulsively checking that I dialled right. Riiing…Riiing…Riiing-Click. During the few microseconds that filled that space in time, my diaphragm ceased to exist, the air was suspended in my half inflated lungs with nowhere to escape. A muffled distracted voice sounded from the other end. Clearly he was still hungover. Despite myself, I couldn’t concentrate on the silly little speech as the anger that I had denied barged its way through my mouth. “What the hell were you thinking?!” I half-yelled through clenched teeth. He muttered inaudibly then hung up. Receiving no contact until seven days later, he came around with an apology, a promise and a clearer mind. As much as my parents disagreed, I compromised to give him a second chance.

Weeks before the winter holidays, it was a tradition of mine to make a small gift for my friends. Having raided my local craft store, I painstakingly tinted each sixty millimetre iridescent glass ornament. His ornament turned out to be semi transparent phthalo blue with a basket bead cap glued to the bottom, beads and charms dangling freely. A centimetre large white nylon ribbon with multicoloured squares traced the circumference of the sphere. Hoping to make it a meaningful reminder, I delicately painted in cursive silver font, ‘You always have choices.’ I had aimed this to be a permanent seed that would hopefully grow into better decisions.

Months had passed and he had kept his promises, staying away from alcohol and being honest. My parents even began to like him, which was hard enough to do. Although, I will never forget the night of February ninth. I was listening to a lecture; he walked in casually grinning from ear to ear with a plastic bottle in hand. Although the content wasn’t water, it looked like he’d filed it with root beer, his favourite beverage. Moments later a staff member had come in, jokingly commenting that it was my fault and my responsibility that he was not at his post supervising the archery activity. As the night came to an end, something didn’t feel right: he was nowhere in sight. Then, I caught the gist of the situation: he’d been caught drinking alcohol during a live range. The ‘root beer’ was actually wine. He was suspended permanently and possibly charged. Although my heart wanted to give him another chance, I had to let him realise on his own.

After that, I no longer wondered about being under the influence. Alcohol meant that I had lost a friend, he had poisoned his decisions…all for a stupid drink. I too learned a valuable lesson: both parties need to equally want to reach the goal to be successful.

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