August 21st, 2008


straight up, now tell me

" think that's it," I said, shoving the last of my effects into the back of our station wagon. The car would soon be all hers. It was evening in late May; breezy and warm, but not yet oppressive like Kentucky summers can get. She and I had separated a couple of weeks ago, the culmination of several years of my own betrayals and an increasingly vast expanse of mattress. The impending divorce was only a legal formality. Then I remembered something else that I needed to retrieve.

When we got married, a fraternity brother of mine had given me a bottle of Crown Royal at my bachelor party. It was tucked away in a kitchen cupboard, still in its velvet bag. It had been saved for some special occasion, but after nine years and three kids it remained unopened in the name of sentiment. She stood beside me at the counter as I opened the cabinet door. The purple bag lay rumpled at the front of the shelf, the bottle beside it half empty. I looked at her in disbelief. She answered my silent question with, "It's been a rough week."

I pulled the bottle from the shelf and opened it. The sweet and acrid smell of Canadian whiskey quickly filled the kitchen. I raised the bottle to my lips and took a shot. It hit the back of my throat like a mortar round, the shrapnel moving hot and fast through my body. The sting of tears was in the corners of my eyes; maybe from the whiskey, maybe not.

"When did you start drinking it straight?" she asked.

I replaced the cap and returned the half-full bottle to the cupboard. "Tonight," I said and closed the door.