You were exhaling whiskey, spooning it into my mouth.
I woke up and there you were, splayed out across the bed like some kind of king taking up all the space.
You smelled sharp, mannish, uncomfortable and sour, like maybe the enzymes in your mouth and skin couldn’t neutralize all the alcohol in your body and it was seeping out your pores onto the sheets, trapped in cotton. The smell of you woke me up and I looked around thinking, “Oh no no no, no no no no.”
My dress was there on the floor. I remembered watching it slither off the bed. My shoes too, their heels caked with mud (had I stepped in wet, soggy grass?), collapsed against each other near the door where I’d kicked them off. I hurt — my hair hurt, my head hurt, my hips, my feet. Where was my car. Where was I. Why had I done this again.
And you were there, unmoving in your sleep, breath droning on and on, oblivious to my beating heart and texting fingers. My phone battery dipped dangerously low. I slipped out of the room, dress all bunched up around my hips because I didn’t care about the folds of the silk that early in the morning, and walked to my car with my feet bare, heels hooked around a finger. The streets were wet and I left footprints on the sidewalk.
When we were younger, Tony kept a bottle of Johnnie Walker on his desk and it sat there, silently bragging about its exorbitant cost in the face of our cheap, throat-burning vodka and Becky’s off-brand rum.
I would wake up in the middle of the night and see it there, radiating its amber heat. The taste of it always made me wince. It tasted too smoky, too fiery, too grown. I understood why my mom didn’t drink beer until she was 40; sometimes things don’t appeal to you until just the right moment. But I learned to love it.
Whiskey became something I could curl myself around.
I craved the snap and bite of Jameson and the smooth, warm rush of Crown Royal. That was what my dad drank, so that’s what I asked for and it became a standby, the drink I requested everywhere I went. I learned just how to bat my eyes right into the brain of the man across my table, learned how to flirt over the rim of the glass, exactly where to press my lips and leave the telltale smudge of lipstick. A little Jameson swirled around in my mouth made me prettier, smarter, more enchanting, ballsy.
Whiskey never hurt me the way other alcohol did, never had me pitching up my guts in the early hours and wobbling around smelling vodka all day. I would always come back to men who hurt me, but never alcohol.
The scent of tequila still makes me feel queasy, shaky at the knees remembering all the times it has come right back up. No, whiskey would never do that. Tempered with ginger ale and a lime it was my ultimate cure, my one true barhopping love. Whiskey was for girls in country songs, and I’ve spent most of my twenties trying to be the center of one.
But whiskey would lead me crashing and banging into people, into beds, into mornings like that one. It’s not that it made me make bad decisions, because Lord knows I made them sober. It’s just that sometimes you’d forget to eat and have a few drinks and then wake up with bruises you didn’t remember acquiring. I would’ve made all these mistakes with a sober brain, but whiskey preferred to act as the catalyst.
Drink carefully, little girl, the bottle says to me now. Make your bad decisions but blame them on wine and your silly girlish impulses.
Don’t mar our relationship blaming it all on me. Drink up, but drink with caution.