Yesterday I may have inadvertently helped a real estate agent sell a $1.4 million dollar house. That this was through the very auspices of being me makes this story notable. The house in mention resides in an opulent neighborhood next to a café whose outdoor seating—consisting of quaint wooden benches, potted herbs, and child made ceramics embedded in the concrete—I had solely occupied during my morning coffee. It was very brisk out, and while others sat inside, I hunched inward bracing my shoulders against the wind, reading a first edition hardback of a well-reviewed book whose author’s œuvre is looked favorably upon. I wore leather loafers, harlequin socks, orange corduroys, and was looking rather bookish. In short, like the kind of person you’d want to occasionally see forlornly reading outside your window, as some demographical extension of the cultured and/or cultural city one imagines themselves living in, whose steep cost of living may then be seen as a surcharge of sorts. I solidified the stereotype, while making myself nauseous. The real estate agent, a stunning “hapa” woman of mixed Caucasian-Asian race, who draped an intricately hand-knitted shawl over a slim Ann Taylor dress suit, gave me this sharp smile, if my entire existence as an aimless gnat had somehow led me to that critical point: I, the faceless mannequin of dying literature suspended in a cryogenic vat of self-contemplation, frozen in a lost pastoral, which felt so real at the time (the freezing part), as the fog slid under the sun and the silver fingers of wind went up my shirt. The prospective buyer looked at me with longing, my eyes corroborating the moment with falsity. He’ll likely buy the house. In the imagined fashion show of our lives, the anorexic look well fed. To the real estate agent, I lowered my gaze into my book of lies. May I waive my commission for a chance to wave back.
Because of the holiday, the first two places at which I usually get my morning coffee were closed, which indignantly took me a few extra blocks to another cafe, in which a line quickly formed behind me as I made my order. People made facial expressions of exasperation when it took me awhile to realize that what I presumed was ham (as represented by a photo stock image of a “breakfast bagel”) was actually a dark shadow created by the egg; and yet oddly, they had ham available for an extra dollar. The cashier was a gaunt woman with spiky hair dressed in early-’90s grunge-esque flannel, who exuded this slightly disturbed vibe of someone who, at whatever delinquent hour, and from whatever oblivious slumber, always feels as if they have been woken up too early. As she took my order and began executing its logistics, she ran a verbal commentary of doing so, likely on her own behalf, systematically invoking her own consciousness more than once. So what appeared before us, somewhat confounding, was a kind of meta-awareness of not just what she was doing, as she was doing it, but of the very origin of such thoughts. “My brain,” she kept saying, “I just need to, my brain, wait,” somewhat pleadingly, so early in the morning, which I did, waited. And as the second hand made its full revolution on the wall clock, only to begin in the same apparent moment it had just been a minute earlier, time felt less of an accommodating thing than this liability cosmically incurred by accident, of something condemned to move forward, thusly demonstrated by the very footsteps which carried myself, and my bagel with incidental ham, out the door.
A co-worker, whose neighboring acquaintance abruptly moved last week, gave him a bunch of alcohol because the weight to value ratio of booze, in the frantic context of moving, is approximately 1:1, in the sense that the former is most paramount. I, in turn, wind up with this Colonel E.H. Taylor “small batch” straight 100 proof (i.e. 50% alcohol) bourbon, because he doesn’t drink it, and as per my research online tells, is a respectable $47.00. That day, I immediately go home, pour myself a “double,” and sear my throat. A little trivia here: bourbon is effectively whisky, but made with 51% corn, instead of wheat (whisky) or rye (rye)—at first distilled in Pennsylvania and Maryland—the latter being the United States’ version of Scotch, with which the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Sazerac were intended to be made. Enter slavery, and any first-year economics student will tell you that it was far cheaper to make this drink in the south, where corn was more prevalent, and labor inhuman, which gives us bourbon. Hence, rye sort of dies in America, save the oblique reference to it by Holden Caulfield being in its field, as Van Gogh was to a wheat field, in which he shot himself in the stomach while painting what would be his last work. Anyways, I decided to make Old Fashioneds for myself, both for the sake of novelty and because it would dilute the present bourbon’s acute alcohol percentage, which I usually drink “straight,” on dire behalf of my sexual orientation. Last night I refilled the ice cube tray and told myself not to forget to come home, today, with one lemon, having already had some brown sugar out of which I could make the simple syrup. I stop by an organic store manned by a depressed looking vegetarian and/or socialist—who likely has a UTI, three cats, and a graduate degree—and buy one sole lemon for 99¢, telling her to “keep the change” with my Washington, a phrase sadly ridden with entitlement. Upon returning home, I immediately make myself this fated Old Fashioned, about which I had been fantasizing at work the entire day. With a peeler, a gather a gentle curve, spritzing it into my tumbler, then coating the mouth of the glass with its redolent oils. I even set the lemon peel on fire, as I had seen stoic bartenders do, which imparts a burnt smell, as if the coffin I was metaphorically buried in had caught fire, flames as silent orange wisps in the night, or capes for an invisible super hero, wavering, crackling, BBQ-ing his corpse. A cocktail is a lie that a recipe could make you feel better. It slides down my throat, like water to a flopping fish, air to a drowning lamb, or simply an old fashioned way to end an old fashioned day; that is, a preempted future already realized, contained, and endured in the past.