Alcohol, ambition, and giving our power away
It’s a weekday in Autumn, 2008, and the world — my world — is ending.
I am wearing my Shame Trousers. Walking pyjamas. Mystery bottoms. I acquired them a few months ago, in time for festival season. Then, they were loose, slouchy, sitting below my belly button. Now, they are slightly less spacious. There’s a spare inch between my body and the waistband, where there used to be two. When I think about this — and I try not to — I rationalise it as a mystery of the universe, an unexplained phenomenon, something to do with the washing machine. Although, that begs a question. Have I ever actually washed these trousers?
The Shame Trousers are not business casual. Not even casual casual, really, because that might suggest they were appropriate for brunch, or Games Night. Yet I’m wearing them to the office, with an odd collection of vests, and some sort of cardigan. They are, to mix a metaphor, my hair shirt. I don’t deserve nice trousers, and I don’t have the coordination to organise any other outfit. I don’t remember showering, even though I definitely should have showered, after last night. I did something bad. Something disgusting. Something I cannot tell anyone about.
As long as I’m in the office, smiling, agreeing, refreshing my emails, pretending to type, I can try not to think about the Bad Thing. But every so often, someone will say something that will jolt me awake. I’ll need to deal with it when I get home. If I can go home. I want to cry. I daren’t start, because I might never stop.
I’m hungover. I’m always hungover, but so is everyone else. It doesn’t occur to me that I feel bleak and broken because my body is struggling to process pints of champagne, and white wine. My feelings are facts. I drank too much — SHAME — and I did the Bad Thing — SHAME SHAME SHAME — and there’s definitely something specifically wrong with me alone, because none of my colleagues are on the brink of tears. They seem fine. Tired, wiped out, but relatively cheerful.
At lunch, I go to M&S with Rachel and Felicity, and I buy a microwavable container of special fried rice. I eat it all. Then I check the calorie count on the box and discover it was supposed to feed a family of four. I did not think I could hate myself any more, today. And yet…