Look who you find when you’re drunk and locked inside!

We were drunk, the lights were off, and the doors were locked. You see that large white building on the left side of Vitosha Boulevard? We were in that building. The communist bosses from Moscow would stand on the roof of that building to deliver their speeches to the masses below.

(I could post a picture of who I was drunk with–my soon-to-be travel companion from yesterday’s post–but this is where I flinch.)

Our swearing-in Peace Corps ceremony had ended and a few of us were very drunk even though the American Ambassador, the Minister of Education, and the Elvis impersonator were there. But my story starts when everyone else was gone, chains locked the front doors, the power cut off, and the employees gone.

We stumbled down the stairs and back up. We stopped at a landing and looked out the window that went from the ceiling to the floor and corner to corner. The city, Sofia, stretched out before us, and I thought, no one here knows anything about me.

My companion saw our bus waiting under a streetlight, our fellow volunteers milling around too far away for us to tell who was who. They were waiting for us, we supposed, and we pounded on the glass and shouted, “We’re locked in!” But they couldn’t hear us.

That building is even bigger when you’re drunk. We staggered in circles until we found a kitchen and the backdoor. I still remember the August night air hitting my face and how much I laughed and spun on the sidewalk.

I never drank in high school or college, and the alcohol wasn’t the only thing that went to my head in that former communist stronghold. When I climbed on the bus, hearing not one word of the scolding we got from the Peace Corps director, I forgot who I was. My companion and I found our seats and I rested my head on his shoulder. I forgot who he was, too.

It’s a rush to think you can be somebody new and get away with it.

Characters in fiction make this mistake. They run from their enemies, their past, themselves, and the reader often hopes that, yes, this time they will get it right. In the happy ending, bodies may fall but the hero is proven right, forgiven, redeemed, or saved. In the unhappy ending, bodies may fall including the heroine’s own. She gets sucked back to where she came from, pays in heartbreak, or dies.

Can’t you think of stories like that?

4 thoughts on “Look who you find when you’re drunk and locked inside!

  1. Oh Lordy.

    How can anybody not like a story which includes a sentence like, “Our swearing-in Peace Corps ceremony had ended and a few of us were very drunk even though the American Ambassador, the Minister of Education, and the Elvis impersonator were there”?

    There’s a truism to the effect that evil characters are more “fun” than good ones; I think it refers primarily to writing them rather than reading about them (there are a lot of decidedly un-fun evil characters to read about). But maybe what really makes these characters interesting isn’t their faults but, as you say, their fall. That makes them much more sympathetic, even if they never go through a traditional redemption, because everybody sees him/herself in the physical/moral/whatever collapse. Especially a collapse involving alcohol, alas. 🙂

  2. Lot’s of stories where people run. My favorite though are where the characters learn that they can’t run from themselves, and so learn to turn around and face it all. I wrote a novel like that. She sits locked up in storage. I don’t know why I always remember that novel when I read your blog. She might need to come out of hiding.

  3. JES, I try not to think of any of my characters as evil because I worry I’d make them too cardboard. I like writing about characters who fall but get back up.

    rowena, get her out of hiding.

    shelli, I suspect that story is happening somewhere at any given time.

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