I can no longer count the number of times my friends and I had a virtual drinking party. Yes, you read that right. Virtual drinking party. It meant that we put on our clubbing clothes, turn on our cameras, and played some party songs while chatting and drinking until one of us passed out.
In all fairness, most of those events were fun even if we could not be in the same place together. My friends and I never ran out of things to laugh about, although all of us had not gone to the office or seen much of the outside world in months. Thanks to them, I did not feel anxious much about the COVID-19 pandemic.
This thing was, I could not say the same for my friend Jasper.
The problem with Jasper was that he had an unshakeable habit of overthinking. When we were in college, Jasper kept changing courses in the first year before settling with Communications because he did not feel good enough for the others. I kept reminding him how smart he was – that I could study hard and still not reach his level – but it did not do much. Jasper would merely say, “I know you’re a sweet friend, but you need not downplay anything to make me feel better.”
After college graduation, everyone’s goal was to find a stable job, of course. That’s what I did; I went to different job fairs and sent my application to multiple companies. I encouraged Jasper to do the same, but he refused to do so, citing that he might not be able to bear rejection. Even his parents could not persuade him, so they merely gave him capital for any business that he wanted to put up.
If there was anything that Jasper was confident about, it was his cooking skills. He did not attend classes for that – he was born with an incredible sense of taste. In truth, Jasper only needed to get one bite of a dish, and he could replicate it. Hence, it did not surprise me when his restaurant became jam-packed from its launch date.
Everyone saw Jasper’s happiness for a while. He walked with his held up high; he always had a confident smile on his lips. It was like my friend became the man he was meant to be.
Unfortunately, when the pandemic happened, Jasper was forced to shut down his restaurant. It was only temporary due to the statewide lockdown, but it bothered Jasper so much that he confessed to drinking every day, even if we were not having a virtual party.
Jasper’s mood improved a little after the lockdown because he got to open his business again. He could no longer accept dine-in customers, but he could still talk to them through the transparent panels separating the dining and prep areas, so he was grateful for it.
But then, two of Jasper’s employees contracted the coronavirus. While Jasper knew that he did not catch it, he had to stop the business operations one more time depressed him a lot. That’s when he stopped attending our virtual drinking parties and always gave lousy excuses for why he could not come.
Learning About Jasper’s Struggles
You might ask, “How did you know all this if you only did virtual parties?”
After a few months, we eventually had a chance to visit each other. No one could contact Jasper, so we decided to surprise him. However, we were more shocked than surprised when we opened the front door, and the smell of alcohol hit our noses. The entire living room was dark, but you could tell that the windows had not been opened in months since the house reeked of beer and bourbon.
When one of our friends flicked the light switch on, I let out a loud gasp as I saw Jasper on the floor, passed out, and laying on his vomit. While the boys carried him to the bathroom to clean and sober him up, the girls started fixing the rest of the first floor. There was not much trash to throw away, but there were cases of empty beers at the back. If you saw how high the piles were, you would wonder if there was a party in Jasper’s backyard every night. But no – he drank all that.
Once the boys returned with Jasper, he seemed to be half-asleep when he asked, “When did you all get here?”
We wasted no time doing an intervention with Jasper. He was wasting away – everyone could see that. We had no choice but to become his impromptu counselors, considering we knew it would take forever before he trusted a real one.
Every day, we made it our task to visit Jasper at home. There was not a lot on the agenda; our common goal was to make him less lonely. And when Jasper’s restaurant opened again, we were all back in the kitchen to support him. Little by little, our efforts paid off.