an innocent abroad

I was set. I was free. A vagabond — at least in my mind. I had arrived in Scotland for my exchange at the University of Glasgow in September of 2009 and it was now late fall. I lived in a building that had minimal heating but many parties. I attended a 500-year-old university, but sat in class with a ton of 18-year-old students and generally tried to screw up my life by drinking a lot of liquor.

I don’t want it to sound like I’m trying to impress anyone by saying I drank a lot, because I’m not. But the reality was I would start drinking at around 11 a.m. on Wednesday or Thursday and continue until Sunday morning where I would spend the whole day unable to eat, drinking only 7UP and spitting up blood or dry heaving in the shower. Every Sunday, I would look out my window and say, “Help me.” I have no idea who I thought I was talking to — maybe my family on the other side of the ocean, maybe the stars or maybe the ghost of James Dean. Mondays and Tuesdays were hazy and filled with dizzy spells and sure enough when Wednesday came I would start up again. Cyclical living would be a good way to describe it. I considered myself a religious man in a weird way, since I quit drinking every Sunday.

The truth was, I was sick. I had something that I had wanted to do for a long time, quit drinking, at the top of my list and I was not well enough to cross it off. I was still in love with the dark, drunk ideals; the Jim Morrisons and the John Lennons. I was them and they were me. I started drinking a lot of scotch, or “whisky” as the Scottish people call it (spelled “whisky,” not “whiskey.” There’s a difference).

What follows is a brief snap-shot of my life from last fall. It takes place over a weekend in November when I had a standup comedy show to perform in the city of Edinburgh, which is located two hours east of where I lived, Glasgow. I was to stay with a friend there and have a good time. Drinking, selfishness and a messed up state of mind made it otherwise…

Sunday, 9 a.m.

I caught the first bus back to Glasgow. I smelled like booze and no sleep. Still had some bourbon left in the bottle. I was trying to figure out if the past weekend was real or not.

Sunday, 7 a.m

I was woken up by a man lightly kicking me in the sides asking if I was me.

“Hey Jacob, what the hell happened?”

I looked like a homeless man. I was sleeping in a park by some big statue of a dead dude with my guitar and what was left of my belongings. I was drunk. It was early. He saved me.

Three days earlier

Friday, 1 p.m.

Bags were packed. I was excited. I had some shirts, socks, my guitar and a bottle of bourbon. I was very hungover from the night before, but wine with breakfast made everything okay. I hopped on a bus from Glasgow to Edinburgh where I was to meet Sarah, a girl I knew. I had a stand-up comedy show there Saturday night and I was crashing at her flat for the weekend.

Side-note about buses: I’ve always loved that feeling of motion in vehicles. When I was a kid my Dad would take me out driving if I was ever up too late crying. Being on the bus a little buzzed always feels good. There’s something about looking out and just seeing a blur that intrigues me.

Friday, 2:30 p.m.

When I arrived in Edinburgh, Sarah picked me up and took me to her flat where we put my things down. Then we both went out for an afternoon of sightseeing. Nothing really important happened here, except she asked if I would like to join her friend’s birthday party that night. There’s always drinking at birthdays, so of course I approved.

Friday, 7 p.m.

Pre-drinking at Sarah’s house commenced. I always had to pre-drink for pre-drinking because I was under the impression that I was more awesome on booze. I sipped my bourbon for a while in the washroom until I was ready to face the party. Once everyone felt good, we left for the pub.

Friday, 11 p.m.

I drank scotch for the first time that night in the pub and immediately liked it. You’re supposed to sip scotch, but I gulped because, well, why not?

Saturday, 2 a.m.

After a full night out, Sarah and I returned to her flat where we found her roommate still awake with two other friends. They were sipping scotch, smoking things that weren’t legal and watching ‘White Stripes: Under Blackpool Lights’ on DVD. Sarah informed me she had to get up early to rock climb with her ex-husband and I was to sleep on the couch. The problem was her roommate partying in the same room “my” couch was located. By default, I had to stay up with them. Drank a bit more. Smoked. Then brought out my guitar.

Saturday, 6 a.m.

I don’t remember much, but apparently we were still up at 6 a.m. (according to Sarah). All I remember is her storming in the room, yelling “Shut the fuck up, you loser!” and slamming the door. Her roommate’s friends quickly dispersed. I was shocked into a brief state of sobriety and realized that I had pissed her off by being loud and obnoxious while she was graciously letting me stay at her place. She was incredibly offended but I didn’t realize just how much until later that night.

Saturday, 10 a.m.

I managed to get some sleep and made my couch when I woke up. Sarah was mad. She went off and I went out.

Saturday afternoon

Met up with Sarah. Few words were exchanged. She took me to a museum where I saw an original Picasso, then visited the shop to get food for her to cook and wine for me to drink. My show was that night. Throughout all this, I never apologized once. I was very selfish and didn’t even think how my actions affected her. I was just mad that she got so mad, not once thinking I wasn’t the only one with problems. She was going through a divorce, recently moved to this new country and lived with a roommate she didn’t like. All I could think of was how she wronged me.

Saturday evening

After eating awkwardly with Sarah, I was off to my show. It went well and I stuck around until 11 p.m., drinking with the other performers, talking and laughing. I finally found something that resembled clear thinking and texted Sarah to apologize. The text looked something like this:

just wanted to say i’m sorry for being such a dick last night. didn’t realize it would make you so mad. just was trying to have a good time with your roommate. hope you can understand. still at the bar with the boys, but i’ll see you in a bit.

I didn’t receive a reply for 40 minutes. I wasn’t sure what was happening or if I was overthinking things and she just didn’t have her phone by her. By midnight I texted a question mark, then received this message back:

[2/2] … you’re not welcome here anymore. your things are on the street.

I started to freak out. It was late. My first thoughts were of survival — where was I going to sleep tonight? The only places I knew in the city were the club, Sarah’s flat and Edinburgh Castle. The club was closing, Sarah just kicked me out and I was pretty sure the city wouldn’t let me sleep in their castle. Then part one of the text came:

[1/2] Jacob: last night is something I feel like is beyond apology, especially at this point. I talked with Mark [her ex-husband] and he agrees. You drank too much and definitely over-stayed your welcome. I don’t feel comfortable with you staying the night …

I had a lot to say, but there wasn’t much I could say, you know? There are all these dark thoughts and words in your head, but for one reason or another, you can’t say any of them. I finished my drink then headed down the road to her flat. Sure as she said it, my belongings were on the street corner waiting for me. I flung them over my shoulder, looked at her window, looked at where I was going (nowhere) and left. I had half my bottle of bourbon left, so I sat down in some park, drank and sang. At least here I was sure no one would complain. I got good and drunk and took no time at all convincing myself this spot was the right place to sleep. So I passed out, with a $600 guitar, a laptop in my bag, an almost empty bottle of bourbon, a dirty pair of socks and the lightest belonging, my pride.

Sunday 7 a.m.

I was woken up, sadly just literally, by a friend I made at the club the night before. I got on the first bus back to Glasgow. It would be several months yet before I would truly “wake up” after hitting my bottom. I left Edinburgh still thirsty as could be.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.