Friday, August 14, 2009

The Autobiography of Someone Else - 14

Mom and Dad started drinking when we got home. Gin and tonics. Dad always made the drinks at the kitchen counter. The awful, hissing crunch of ice cubes wrenched loose in the lever-action tray. The happy rattle of the ice in empty glasses. A squeeze of lime. A little bit of gin, that deceptively sinister spirit: clear but imbued with the essence of mysterious vegetation, possibly toxic, possibly medicinal. Daddy held the open bottle under my nose and laughed at my contorting face. Beefeater Gin, with the man in the gilt red uniform and the top hat and the staff. The incongruity of the name and of the picture somehow underscored the adult quality of this product. I couldn't imagine ever understanding what it all meant. Beef. Eater. Gin.

I'd tasted tonic before, in a rocks glass with ice and lime so I could pretend to be a grownup. Cold, green, prickly bitterness shot through my brain. As the tonic suffused my mouth and throat it seemed to leave them drier than before; it was anti-liquid. I poured the rest into the sink with a heartful of regret, for even though I could not drink it I wanted it very, very much.

Dad brought Mom her drink and they sat serenely in the living room, reading the paper and listening to country music on the radio.