is the Muslim man’s beer”.

My son said this as we sat down to watch a movie together.

And the funny thing was I’d thought the same thing a few days earlier.

With all the shows of Intervention I’d seen, with so many times the mother going to the cupboard and pouring gin in her juice or coffee, there’s so many times I’ll pour myself some cranberry juice, just a half cup, and reach down into the cupboard and take out some diet pop and fill the glass with the rest. And for all the world it feels the same as the mother on Intervention–only I’m not getting drunk.

I don’t know what it feels like to be drunk. Never drank in my life. I’ve seen a woman drunk.

We were at a storytelling conference out west, she was native, and a lady had come to pick us up from the airport. But when I got there, we had to wait because this lady had gone to get a drink in the bar. Then that evening we went for dinner together. She ordered a bottle of wine, and basically drank it in front of me.

I’m not actually supposed to be sitting at a table where alcohol is being served. It’s against Islam. But there are many times I break the rules and hope Allah will forgive me.

For some reason alcohol just seems to go along with writing. So many writers drink.

There are always wine and cheese events, and in the beginning of my career I felt I should be there at those functions, mixing and mingling, making contacts.

I’m not sure if that did me any good.

I felt like a fool. Oh most of the people weren’t sloshed. They could control themselves with a glass or two, but this lady who went to dinner with me, she obviously couldn’t.

It’s quite embarrassing being around people who are drunk. I’d never been in the presence of anyone so drunk (at least that I knew of). I’m very obtuse when it comes to people being drunk or high, I usually just can’t tell. I guess it’s because I don’t know what to look for, but she was obvious.

I think I was contemplating the writing of the father in Wanting Mor, he’s an addict and he also drinks, so in a way I considered this encounter research.

Her eyes got very glassy, and as the meal went on she kept talking louder and louder.

It was a very expensive restaurant and for dessert I wanted creme brulee but I think it was eighteen dollars for three little tiny mini-brulees. I didn’t think it was worth it, and then I found out that two out of the three had some kind of liqueur in them, so that ruled them out. I asked the waiter if I couldn’t just have the one without the liqueur in it and pay one third the price, and he said no, they came as a set. So my dinner companion said she’d order them, and she wanted the ones with the booze in them and I could have the other one.

She kept wacking the top of them, you know they have that hardened melted sugar crust, well, she kept wacking the tops with her spoon to break the crust and scooping out the tiny bit of creme brulee inside, looking for the taste of booze.

Then she said something strange. I had asked her at one point what it was like to drink, and she said, “What’s your absolute favourite food?”

“Creme brulee.” I answered.

“Well multiply that by ten times and that’s what a glass of wine is like.”

I can’t imagine.

The stuff stinks as far as I’m concerned. How could it taste that good?

I had no desire whatsoever to ever find out.

And seeing her, kind of falling apart in front of me… well it was a real cautionary tale.

I know I must sound judgmental for those who do like their drinks, but I can’t help it.

Dinner was finally over and I said I’d better be heading to bed. She walked out with me, swaying on her feet, and at the door of the restaurant she asked the waiter if her mini-bar in her room was unlocked.

In the elevator she found it hilarious when she kept deliberately bumping into me.

The next day we had to be up early to do some presentations. I wondered how she’d manage.

But I saw her in the elevator, very sober, she avoided my eyes. For the rest of the time we spent at that storytelling festival, she hardly talked to me at all.

I did not seek her out either.