I still imagine my way back to the bottle. It can’t be helped.
You know the feeling. We’ve all found our way back to something we’ve left behind. Not because we want to slide backwards, but, because it’s necessary to remember certain things before we can move forward. There’s something inherently human about leaning on the things we know — for better or for worse. If nothing else, it’s familiar. Comfortable. The past provides a static level of understanding. A foundation. A trail of breadcrumbs. We’ve been here before — we know it. We’ve mastered the idea of it. And, every once in a while, we have to get close to it again — just to confirm that we still understand. We’re compelled to test the water. We’re curious if things still come to us naturally.
But, like any of the pieces that I’ve left behind — my drinks are only memories I visit. Stories I tell myself. Because, really, there is no going back.
So, instead, I imagine it: Cheers! A birthday toast. A new job. Bad news! I pour a good pour for my crap day — and a better one for my good day. I feel the energy that the cork is suspended in. Then — Pop! All that pressure evaporates. It bubbles over and spills down the sides of the bottle and over my knuckles.
They return to me — moments where I sat at the bar and drank cocktails with purpose.
I’m watching the bartender pull the beer. He paints a semi-circle with his damp bar-rag before he places the glass down with a well-rehearsed sweep of his arm. My partner-in-crime puts his lips to the edge of the pint glass and little bubbles rise up and cling to the tip of his nose. I smile and I sip my bourbon — the kind that’s aged in sherry oak casks. It coats my tongue with wood and vanilla and something else — something smokey, something spicy. My lips curl into a telling smile that, without effort, contains the entirety of this moment. I try to remember why I’m here. Maybe it’s some kind of celebration — or better still — maybe it’s just a regular day. Either way, I look happy.
Then, I remember. The ending. My face sinks when the very same man who’s handed me my perfect drink tells me that he won’t serve me any longer — not tonight. The same toast to which we raised our glasses will spill on the floor when I slip from my bar stool, looking back at the bartender with a face that is half humiliated and half apologetic.
I wake up on my couch in all my clothes at a strange hour and wonder how the day got away from me. What did I say? Was I mean? Funny? Did I complain about work or the weather? Did I insist I was fine to drive in slurred, sloppy sentences? Next time, I expect the bartender will greet me with the oh-it’s-pitiful-you look as I pony up to the bar. But, I won’t care. This routine. — It’s comfortable.
So, I allow it. I make make space for it. I give in to the bottle. The old one, that still tastes good. I dream about bar stools and other people’s liquor cabinets and white teeth stained with good, red wine. I allow myself these moments. Moments where, eventually, I recall that the time I spent happy and drunk — well, that was imagined too.
So, I find myself back here. In this moment. Because, a trail of breadcrumbs will only take you so far. And, now, here, sober, I allow for my greatest re-imagining. This moment, it’s uncharted. Maybe it’s some kind of celebration — or better still — maybe it’s just a regular day.
Either way, I look happy.