We’re sitting around a high table somewhere in the jungle of Hong Kong, plates of steaming food in front of our growling tummies, and tall glasses filled with deep red wine in our hands. We sit, we drink, we talk, charmed by the exhilarating splendor of Dionysus. The longer we’re there, the lighter our heads feel and the looser our conversation becomes. The alcohol on our breaths becomes audible.

It’s 11 p.m. We step onto the crowded Soho street, becoming one with the sea of people that flows between the concrete walls. My head spins, my laughter comes easily, and the world around me, lit by LED signs and fruit stalls, slowly blurs. My face begins to flush, growing warmer and redder with each step, glowing with the richness that comes only with a bottle of happy hour wine.

As we meander through the crowds, making our way to the bar we always stop at before a night out, my friend has to pause to tie his shoelace — already dared into four shots on top of his wine, this task proves difficult. I giggle as he fumbles with his brown laces, laughing freely at the absurdity of a 20-year-old boy unable to do what we learned in primary school.

We sit for a while, mojitos are drained, shots are downed and the bar hopping commences. Salt and lime licked off my hand, a rainbow concoction at the 10-shot bar, chocolate shots from Chocolate. The world swims. The once crystal clear grime of the streets and the profusion of neon lights dance a duet; the Milky Way has somehow been stolen from the sky. A smooth symphony of discordious sounds trembles in my ears — thumping club beats, shrieking laughter, beckoning bar promoters, the shrill How ARE you? from acquaintances long forgotten.

We’re dancing now, around an ice bucket of champagne and Belvedere at our favorite table in our favorite club. I’m standing on the sofas, elevated above everyone else, just the way I like it. It’s well past midnight and bad decisions are on call. My arms are on someone’s shoulders, someone else’s are around my waist. The world is a zoo and towering bottles of vodka are our watering holes. Under the strobing lights and flashing music, walls fall away and my spirit, like my shaking head of hair, is free.

4 a.m. and inevitably, I take a step back. I sit on the sofa instead of standing on it, quiet, eyes searching, a glass of vodka-cranberry that I probably shouldn’t be drinking in hand, and I think back to words left unsaid, to the stirrings in my heart, to that face across the room I once knew so intimately well but that refuses to make eye contact with me now.

The rush of endorphins slows to a dull trickle and the alcohol beckons patiently at the secrets lodged firmly at the back of my throat — the words I promised myself would never see the light of day come creeping forward in the dark comfort of a drunken night. Blurry thoughts, blurry words, blurry feelings, a break in my voice and the knowledge that I will wake up with eyes swollen and red. They’re invited, wanted or not. The ugly things, the abandoned burns, the shining scars left unhealed, the fermenting gems of a past I thought was uninhabited. I want to be heard. I want to be known.

But really, I don’t. And as my eyes open the next morning, mouth dry, head pounding, hair laced with the smell of cigarettes and whiskey and 6 a.m. fried noodles, a specific kind of regret spurred by my unabashed honesty is all that remains. I assure the senders of the concerned texts that light up my phone screen that yes I know we spoke on the steps outside for what felt like hours, but no, I do not mean what I said, it was the champagne and vodka talking, I promise, I’m okay, don’t worry about me, and anyway how did your night go?

Liquid courage? A way to have a good time? A method of forgetting our sorrows? We drink for all and none of the above. The ease it provokes spurs a good time. It loosens barriers, brings together old friends, releases the specific type of endorphin or serotonin that comes from dancing, swaying, jumping in a sea of familiar faces.

Yet the thoughts we’re too afraid to articulate under the judgmental gaze of sobriety knock on the door as well. And so just why precisely do we pour that extra shot when we know we’ve already had one too many? Maybe some part of us wants to experience the metaphorical self-immolation that comes with the confrontation of brutal truths, maybe some strange twisted-up part of my chewed-up insides needs the emotional release unlocked only by the flow of vodka and wine through my blood, maybe it’s my brain’s peculiar manner of balancing the liquid happiness. I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.

Hana Davis  | hana.davis@yale.edu .