I walk into the kitchen and I smell it before I see it. Lime. Gin. Tonic water. I lick my lips. Remember the old movies? The alcoholic walks into a bar and his face contorts in misery. He licks his lips. He covers his mouth with his hand. He fidgets and shoves his hands in his pockets. And you think to yourself, He’s going to end up drinking. He looks so weak, in so much pain. How can he possibly hold on? Damn him. Damn his for surrendering.
I could walk over and drink it. Or maybe just take out the lime and suck on it.
That’s my favorite part. The lime. Just like my mom’s favorite part of a Manhattan was not the whiskey or the vermouth. It was the maraschino cherry on top. “Why, Mom,” I would say with childlike innocence as a teenager, “Can’t you just pour the cherry juice and a few cherries into a soda and drink the part of it you really like?” She would chuckle, and so would my father as he mixed the Manhattan. That’s one of the things he did well: mix drinks. My brother is good at it too. And then she would wave her hand with a devil-may-care bravado and eat the cherries and drink the whiskey and vermouth. After all, it’s the cherry on top, but the alcohol beneath it, that makes the fucking cherry taste like heaven on earth.
I glare at the lime and the gin and the tonic. It is not my friend. One time, before we had children, we drank many G&Ts and I said, “Let’s paint the dining room.” And he laughed and we got out the blue paint and the rollers and brushes and turned on the music and we had a grand time painting and dancing around until it was . . . stop. Good memory, and good memories are bad when you’re staring at a glistening crystal glass filed with gin and tonic and a lime on top.
When do you know you have a drinking problem? Is it when you lick your lips and imagine the liquid burning your throat as it works its way into your belly? Is it when you close your eyes and wait for the buzz that only a stiff drink will bring? Even bad buzzes are good buzzes at least at first. And bad buzzes make worse memories fuzzy. Fuzzy bad memories hurt less than clear memories, clear like crystal glasses filled with . . . stop.
When do you realize you’re an alcoholic? Is it when you mourn, and celebrate all in the same instant, the fact that you turn, and tighten your jaw, and walk away from the glistening crystal glass with the gin and the tonic and the lime on top?
I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Except that I turn, and even as I lick my lips, I walk away from the glistening crystal glass with the gin and the tonic and the lime on top. I walk away tonight, and that’s all that matters. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is another day and I don’t contemplate tomorrow until it’s today.