March 29, 2002
Old Friends

An old friend is waiting for me when I get into the office this morning.

Making my usual first-thing-off-the-elevator pit stop at the Dirt Company kitchen -- to drop off my lunch, to start the coffee, to make sure nobody has plundered my secret stash of Laffy Taffy -- I swing the refrigerator door open ...

...  and there it is.  Eleven bottles of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, lined up in two neat, glistening rows on the top shelf of the office fridge.

Hiya, Secra! says my old friend. Remember me??

I feel momentarily gut-punched. Whut the hell??  BEER in the office Frigidaire??  And then I remember: Yancy's farewell party yesterday. After sixteen years with The Dirt Company, Yancy is leaving to start his own consulting firm. They threw him a party in the conference room yesterday afternoon. I stayed long enough for the obligatory slice of seven-layer double fudge cream cake and a few minutes of polite, Nice working with you/Best of luck in the future chit-chat.  But then I headed back to the front desk, right about the time they were dragging out the liquid refreshment. The leftover cake is sitting on the counter next to the sink, and this apparently is the leftover liquid refreshment.

In three-and-a-half years of sobriety, this is the first time I've opened a refrigerator -- any refrigerator, anywhere -- and come nose-to-nose with temptation.

I've got a great idea! says my old friend. How about if you slip a couple of bottles into your bag ... right now, before any of your co-workers get into the office  ...  and sneak them home?  You can drink them on Sunday, when David is out of the apartment all day.  It would be so eeeeeeeasy.

And my friend is right. It WOULD be easy. I could drink the beer on Sunday afternoon, while David is out with his kids for a few hours and I'm home alone. It would be fun: I could toss a little Jesus & Mary Chain onto the CD player, plop my feet onto the desktop and i.m. with my online pals all afternoon long, just like old times. (While I'm at it, maybe I can call up a couple of ex-boyfriends, order $500 worth of crappy jewelry off the Internet and accidentally set something on fire!)  When I'm done, I can sneak the empties outside to the dumpster and gargle with a bazillon gallons of Listerine before David gets home.

Nobody would ever have to know.

Except that *I* would know. And so would David, because I would tell him. And although neither one of us would scream or file for divorce or send me to my room without supper, I know that David would be disappointed, and I would be disgusted with myself, and neither one of us would go to bed happy that night.

"Sorry," I say to my old friend. "I've got better things to do with my weekend."

My old friend shrugs indifferently. Have it your way.

By noon I'm a frazzled, bitchy mess. The menstrual floodgates have finally opened after days of crabby/weepy/zit-intensive anticipation. Now I've got those uterus-in-a-meat-grinder cramps I get once or twice a year. It's making it difficult to concentrate on office supply orders and Fed Ex tracking.

Here's what you do, whispers my old friend. Tell JoAnne you've got to 'take care of girl business,' and then sneak across the hall and chug down a quick bottle or two. It would be so eeeeeeeasy.

And once again, my friend is right. It would be easy. In fact, it would be EASIER than easy. Nobody ever goes into the supply closet but me: I could sit on the floor, behind the boxes of paper towels and pretzels, and slug down two or three of those Boston Lagers before anyone even realizes I'm away from my desk. A little alcohol, on top of a couple of ibuprofen, would probably knock my cramps right out of existence.

Along with my precious three-and-a-half year sobriety record.

"Nope," I say to my old friend. "I've got better things to do with my afternoon." I'm going to stick to tea and Motrin.

My old friend shakes its head. Fine. Suffer. See if I care.

By late afternoon things have quieted down around the office. As a matter of fact the place has turned into a veritable ghost town: even my boss has slipped out a couple of hours early. I sit at my desk and listlessly leaf through an office supply catalog, praying for this workday to hurry up and end already. I want to go home and put on my Happy Pants and curl up in bed with my heating pad, my husband and a couple of junky pop culture magazines.

You'll love this idea! says my old friend. Why don't you go grab a bottle out of the fridge, open it up and slip it into your bottom desk drawer, just like old times? You can sip on it, whenever nobody's looking. It would be so eeeeeeeasy.

And of course my friend is right, as usual. I could sit here at my desk, with an open Samuel Adams in that bottom desk drawer, and every so often -- when I'm sure I'm unobserved -- I could take a quick sneaky pull off the bottle. It would be like the old days at The Phone Company, when I used to keep a Friday afternoon split of Cold Duck at my fingertips.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? my old friend says, seductively

And it does. It sounds like a great way to pass the rest of the afternoon. Except that one bottle of Samuel Adams -- or two, or even three -- wouldn't be enough to get me where I want to be. By the time David picked me up after work the buzz would already be fading, and all that would be left is the sour afterburn ... and the craving for more.

"Forget it," I say to my old friend. "I've got better things to do with my life."

My old friend laughs. OK, OK, it says with a smirk. Be a party-pooper. But one of these days ... you're going to come looking for me again.

That may very well be true. Maybe one of these days -- under circumstances I can't possibly foresee right now -- I won't be able to resist the lure of my old friend. All I can tell you with any certainty at all is that it isn't going to be today. Today I'm going to finish the rest of my workday -- all twenty-two and a half minutes of it -- and at five o'clock I'm going to switch the phones over to night ring, turn off my computer, pack up my stuff and head out the door for the weekend.

Right after I stuff a wedge of seven-layer chocolate fudge cream cake into my purse.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

p.s. have a great ride this weekend, bev and bitter hag! [don't forget to wear your GLOVES.]

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