8. Bacchanalian addiction:
“Got my addictions, no one can fix them”-Lady Gagga
The ornate table groans with fantastic dishes, right down to the suckling pig with an apple stuffed between its teeth. Silverware gleams and crystal sparkles in the warm lantern light. Guests sit in the plush high-backed burgundy chairs and a low continuous murmur fills the room. The men wear exquisite velvet dinner jackets with white Egyptian cotton long sleeved shirts with frothy frills at the neck and wrists, the ladies’ dresses flow in rivers of silk and taffeta. The drip and gleam of jewels from throats and wrists echo the richness of the setting. Cultivation, education and finesse shines from everyone present. Our host is inexcusably late this evening and we pass the time with gossip about the uninvited and the down and out.
Lord Bacchus strides in, flinging the ermine fur back over his shoulder. He reaches his carved mini throne and picks up a silver butter knife and tinkles it gently against his crystal glass.
‘I trust you are all comfortable and ready for an evening of pure debauchery. Let us feast on what nature has provided and man has fermented. To all good health! Feel free to indulge your various addictions, for tonight we feast, regret is for the morrow.’ He sits down, instantly grabbing a juicy pheasant breast and a flagon of red wine. Fat and red liquid dribbles down his chin and stains the front of the green velvet tunic, turning it a dark brown.
I look around at the guests. In a few seconds the inner, addictive beast has shown its true colors and eroded the thin veneer of respectability. Lady Carlossa’s double chins wag at the sight of thick slices of pink, succulent pig with heaps of steamy potato and double helpings of bread dripping with butter. She manages to keep the flow of saliva to a minimum with a dainty lace handkerchief. She eschews the silverware, preferring to touch the food with her bare hands. Her voluminous flesh strains at the delicate rose pink satin. Her small, greedy eyes scan the table offensively for the next helping and the one after that. She would fight to the death for the last scrap of food, however tiny the morsel.
Father Bernini sitting across from me smears thick, heavy cream over the voluptuous bosom of Lady Angeline. He licks his lips in anticipation; his eyes nailed to her chest. Her husband, next to her, is oblivious to Father Bernini’s ministrations and is counting and recounting a heap of money and precious stones that Lord Bacchus places defiantly before him. His eyes twinkle like a crow’s at the sight of the bright, shiny coins and rubies. Master Crowley is licking the fat, little toes of Lady Georgina in ecstasy, the world around him, lost in a fog of desire. All indulge in their various, petty addictions and the skeletal face of the demon riding them super imposes their slack, exultant facial expressions.
My demon, you ask? The precious fermenting liquid in the fifteen or so flagons stacked in front of me. It lies in the rich burgundy color of red wine, swimming through the alcohol and vacationing in what is left of my liver. I am the alcoholic of the group, destined to be morosely undignified. I pour my demon into the glass and delight in the sparkle of the crystal as the liquid sloshes ever higher. I love the finer aspects of getting drunk; it seems to make the process that much more socially acceptable. It needs to be done right at the start however much it unravels at the end.
The liquid warms my belly like a delicious fur blanket on a cold winter’s evening. Usually, after the fourth or fifth glass, depending on the quality, my cheeks tinge pink with happiness and I become the life of the party. I hold my own in conversation and am the intellectual master of erudition. This is the point at which I am most satisfied with myself. Hereafter the alcoholic avalanche destroys what little dignity I have left. I become morose and tearful, depressed to the point of suicide. My thoughts become a swampy marshland in which I get stuck and harp on one subject for ages, driving my fellow diners to distraction. Eventually speech dries up and drinking becomes the only goal. Red wine is sloshed all over the crispy white table linen. My evening jacket is a work of art in various shades of red and light pink. My head lolls on a rubbery neck and the room tilts, sailing on the alcoholic seas. I lose all sense of reality and sink into an inebriated fog. Soon, I will pass out and my body will slip off the chair and land in an untidy heap on the Persian carpet.
The morrow will bring its regrets and headaches, yet the demon will rise again mightily and those regrets will be forgotten. The brief feeling of immorality and its fears will be allayed by the next divine Bacchanalian evening. Only the blissful feeling of escape will remain and will have to be attained again and again with growing amounts of alcohol or whatever the demon requires. The cycle rarely stops, until only an empty shell remains ravaged by a Bacchanalian addiction.
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