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.
There is a panini station at my work’s cafeteria with only one panini press. When lunch breaks at noon, people order paninis at about a 6:1 ratio to the amount of time a panini needs to be correctly pressed. And so, a group of around 6 people will patiently wait for their respective sandwiches while the sole panini operator, a middle-aged Hispanic man with large bags under his eyes and hardened patience in his throat, sort of stares through us—as if, over the years, he has accepted that we are all ghosts—without looking any of us in the eyes. We, in turn, stare fixedly at (or perhaps into) our respective virgin paninis. Today I looked up from between my loose flaps of ham and cheese and caught the panini man looking right at me. Both somewhat embarrassed and inexplicably offended by the other’s transgression, we each quickly looked away; how sad it is that sandwich maker and eater cannot facetiously smile at their joint venture. Back at my desk, I swallowed each oily knob of semi-chewed food with mild disgust mixed with dopamine-transmitted joy. “Sorry,” I seemed to have imagined saying: to the panini man I didn’t thank; to the intelligent swine hence slaughtered, smoked and sliced; and to myself, to whom I promised I would only eat half, and not the entire thing.