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Monday, February 06, 2006

My weakness for the strong stuff 4/13/03

Tonight I watched as a young man sipped scotch and I told him about you. I asked him if he drank scotch often; or maybe he professed his love for the drink and had already answered my question before I asked it. He began to talk of something else, but the bar was noisy – I could not hear a word he said. My mind was stuck on the scotch.

I nodded at him and mentioned how you once had scotch for breakfast. He laughed. He said he thought that was going too far. He had missed a wine tasting that day because it was scheduled for 10 a.m., he said. He leaned back from the table, and lifting up his brown knit cap, he rubbed his eyes, forming puppy-dog wrinkles on his forehead. His re-enactment revealed a tuft of brown hair and I wondered what the rest looked like. Suddenly he became more attractive to me. Of course he did. He was drinking scotch.

And so I must wonder how hard liquor makes boys feel like men.

My college boyfriend wanted to be Frank Sinatra. On hearing the news of the singer’s death, he woke me from his dorm room loft with tears in the corners of his light blue eyes. A contact lens irritation, he explained. At a party that night, he toasted scotch with friends in honor of Sinatra – a man famous for his emotional renditions of sappy love ballads. A man from a generation who called women “broads” and wore hats with their suits. A romantic idealist with tremendous talent, charm, and intensity. That was Frank. Donning a tough-guy facade to protect such vital sensitivity, his talent alone could reveal him. To drink like Frank was as close as my boyfriend could get to being him that night. His hero had succumbed to his own mortality.

When I saw how you attempted to emulate Bogart and the men of film noir (fictional characters, no less) through your habits and your dress, flashbacks of my first love flooded me. How comfortable this would be, how familiar, I thought. Another man enriched by fantasy. And such a romantic fantasy, at that. Of course, my college boyfriend could never drink like Sinatra. He was not nearly as lost as you are.

I found myself first drinking scotch on an evening out with my campus newspaper’s editorial staff. The national news editor ordered it on the rocks. Gradually evolving as my latest crush, he offered me a sip, and sped up the process. I placed the rim hesitantly to my lips only to reveal a squeamish femininity kept hidden so well in the newsroom. My crush had a calling unlike any of the other writers, a complete immersion in his passion, and an egotistical flair for debate. He became my favorite distraction from the stressful juggle of new responsibilities. I laughed at his antics. He soaked up my intelligent asides. He reminded me why I was there in the first place. And though we referred to each other by last name only, he had given me that sip and let me in on his intensity. This was something I could never do with you.

You protect yourself so tightly, so afraid, so afraid. You drink your coffee black. You smoke cigarettes unfiltered. And you drink your liquor hard to keep your heart from breaking. I fall in love with boys who hear their mind too loudly, whose eyes burn with longing for the reason. When women cannot soothe them, they calm their waves with poison ... the quicker the better. But you like it almost deadly. Your well is buried down so deep I can barely stick my toes in. And this is why I won’t drink scotch. We’ve too much animosity.

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