When I was a child,
I wanted to grow up to be tragic.

They say no one wants to grow up
to be an alcoholic.
But I did.
I fell in love with UB40’s version
of “Red Red Wine,”
alcoholism made even more attractive
by Ali Campbell’s handsome face
in the music video.
A siren song sung by a beautiful singer.

(It is only two decades
after coming out to myself
as bisexual
that I realize many of the guys
I thought were “cool”
are ones I felt attracted to.)

I watched The Lorax over and over.
I loved the Once-ler,
the Norma Desmond of Dr. Suess characters,
living alone in his tower.
He sings a song to himself about
his own wicked nature,
how he’s ashamed of it yet unable to defy it.
At the end of the cartoon,
the Once-ler gives the boy
a literal seed of hope.
“It’s too late for me,” he says.
“But maybe in your lifetime
you can undo all the damage I did.”
God, I wanted a regret that big!

At 13, I discovered Casblanca.
Hollywood’s most celebrated romance.
I wanted to be Humphrey Bogart’s Rick,
another broken-hearted alcoholic
full of regret,
of course.
But a really cool one.

My grandmother made me promise
to be careful with alcohol
since alcoholism ran on her side of the family.
I have mostly kept my word
except for a handful of times
when I felt self-destructive.

No one ever broke my heart
to the point of
driving me to addiction.
I never destroyed an entire ecosystem.
Or had a forbidden romance.
Even worse, I didn’t even get my own dog
until I was 34.