one tequila, two tequila, three tequila…

Tequila is a force to be reckoned with. It’s not something I drink very often, as it is quite a different drunk than other poisons such as wine, beer, or bourbon. There is a sleazy quality to it I can’t quite put my finger on. Tending bar is one of the many ways I have come to this conclusion. The people who order tequila, especially shots of it, are always on a mission of some sort, whether it to be the party chick, the stud that can ‘take it,’ or the worst combination of these, the slut/manwhore. However, it is a major summer spirit because of the popularity of the margarita—a truly refreshing treat on a hot day.

And exactly what my mother was serving at her 4th of July barbecue.

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of even attending my mother’s barbecue. But she had moved recently and was excited about getting to know some of her neighbors, and surprisingly enough, seemed actually excited to see me. She also mentioned that she was making her famous bacon wrapped stuffed sweet peppers and so my judgment wavered.

I’m a weak person.

Unfortunately, the whole thing reminded me of the whole ugly Rabbit episode—the horrendous couples-party barbecue, the breakup that hadn’t been, the Hooters catastrophe. Since then, things had calmed down and he had secured the reconciliation with Beth, leaving me halfway relieved and halfway heartbroken.

In retrospect, however, it had been quite silly of me to think that one dumb fight amongst two engaged people would lead to the dissolution of their impending marriage, their living arrangements, and their lives as they both knew them. The whole thing was simpler than I gave it credit for. I had an ill-advised crush on Rabbit and it went further than it should have.

I’ve seen him only once since ‘the incident,’ a casual coffee date, and neither of us really talked about it. We stayed on safe topics like movies and music; he mentioned Beth and asked about Drew, which was particularly interesting because he knew that we weren’t quite the hot item we once were.

His brow had furled as he lingered over his espresso, staring out the window. I didn’t know what to say to him, to make him feel better about the whole situation. And though it had been better that we hadn’t ended up having sex, things had still changed. I finally had to end the silence because it was cutting into me like a cold blade and I felt absolutely wretched that a friendship I cherished had started to feel like a bad one-night-stand.

“I’m not going to tell anyone.”

His eyes brightened a little and his brow had relaxed. His hands, which I had remembered being warm, were now a bit chilly despite the warm drink he had been enjoying. “Thank you.”

And that had been it. Parts of me wanted to tell him I loved him, that I was furious at him for being involved with someone that appeared to be so manipulative and controlling, that she was changing him into someone he would end up hating. But it was his life, his choice. I had enough problems. It was time to let go, no matter if it meant losing a close friend and gaining a casual one. It was harder trying to contend with my feelings about his situation and mine, never knowing who was right for me, wondering what the consequences were for not caring.

I couldn’t commit to anyone anyways, there was too much fear embedded within me; the fear of losing my connections to all these people that individually, created and molded my universe and collectively, made my life more difficult at the same time. Sometimes I craved the familiarity of Drew and his cynicism; but I also enjoyed fantasizing about Rabbit and the interesting life that would be possible if things were different.

It was always ‘if things were different.’ If James didn’t have a bitchy girlfriend he couldn’t shake, if Drew cared more, if Rabbit could grow balls. Things weren’t different; they were just as they were. And I was in no position to change them.

So rather than trying my luck with any of the above or interrupt Vincent’s Independence Day, I opted to go to my mother’s. I figured it would pose as a minor escape to all the travesties I’d been enduring.

To my amazement, she embraced me sincerely when I opened the door. If it didn’t feel so good I would suspect she wanted something from me. I felt honest warmth from her for the first time since maybe I was a child, and it melted into me, healing me like chicken soup, healing me from illness I didn’t know I had. 

The moment was brief but mattered. I was even surprised by her outfit, something that could only be described as a sundress. She sauntered into the kitchen, beckoning me to follow after her. There were two men there, drinking Coors Light out of sweaty glass bottles. The blender was going. I saw a few bottles of Patron Silver on the counter.

“We making margaritas!” I laughed at her candor. She was never this upbeat. My eyes wandered through the living room area into the backyard where there were a few more people, then settled on the two in the kitchen.

The one who my mother introduced to me as Ben was tall and dark with chiseled, mature features. I couldn’t tell how old he was but I could tell he was quite older than I, and a bit younger than my mother. I wondered if she had a crush, if he was the reason she was this enthusiastic. He was wearing a white, loose-fitting t-shirt and tight jeans that fit him well. I couldn’t decide if I was attracted to him or not.

The other, Sal, was younger for sure, dark skinned but only because of his ethnicity. I couldn’t tell if he was Latino or perhaps Filipino, since he had the slightest bit of a slant to his eyes. I noticed a bit of a beer belly beneath his faded Metallica shirt and cargo shorts. He was cute in a boyish way, nothing serious. But the look of him made me smile.

Suddenly, I was double fisting it, a margarita in one hand, a Coors Light in the other. I drank the margarita quickly and my head suddenly became overwhelmed by the pain of the cold. It had been awhile since I had a blended margarita. I emptied the glass and we made our way to the backyard, the muddy aroma of grilled meats flowing into my nostrils. The sun felt like it was massaging my back, but that might have just been the tequila.

For the tiniest of moments, my thoughts trailed back to Drew and the dark room where tequila possessed me the most fervently. It gave me a chill and I suddenly wanted more. I looked around and nobody had even finished their first one yet. I drained my bottle and headed back to the kitchen, intent on making a margarita myself, since I was the bartender and all.

I prefer what is known as a natural margarita, generally made with fresh lime juice rather than sweet and sour mix and served on the rocks. So because my mother was busy mingling in the backyard, I had a moment to make a batch of my own, which was much stronger than the first batch.

I brought the pitcher out to the backyard and there were plenty of takers. I met a few other people and everyone seemed pretty nice and somewhat interesting but nobody seemed particularly intelligent. Not that I was used to going to barbecues where everyone was a brainiac; they certainly didn’t depict the epitome of educated.

But the liquor was flowing and I was actually having a good time, more fun than at Rabbit’s, that’s for sure. There was Gayle, a blonde who had just started going to college and was only now discovering the evils of marketing and politics, and had started a tangent on the presidency that I was enjoying listening to but avoiding joining at all costs.

There was also another girl, a little older, on the heavyset side that was wearing classic black slip-on Vans and faded jeans. I noticed she was drinking bottled water. I took a margarita glass over to her, not sure whether or not she was not drinking on purpose. She shyly took the glass and sipped it. “Thanks,” she said with the tiniest of smiles. I soon discovered her name was Veronica, and she was a poet. Apparently she was a lightweight though; after that margarita she started getting pretty obnoxious, if only in a girly way, pawing at the boys, giggling at everything anyone had to say.

And Sal turned out to be quite the comedian, which was unexpected for appearing so quiet beforehand. He was telling stories that probably weren’t particularly that entertaining or interesting on their own, but he was a storyteller, and most of the party listened when he was talking.

And then there was Ben. He worked in construction mostly, and never quite told me exactly what he did, but then again maybe he didn’t think I was interested. He was smoking Marlboro Reds, which merely the thought of disgusted me most of the time, but didn’t affect me then for some reason. He was doing most of the barbecuing, what looked like tri-tip and a slough of boneless skinless chicken breasts, painting, slathering them all with barbecue sauce, every once in a while dipping his finger in and tasting. He had a stern look to him, which lightened up only when he laughed. His skin smelled like sweat and expired cologne—but good.

I couldn’t believe my mother was hosting this shindig. Most of the people were roughly 20’s and 30’s and she was a good couple of decades older than that. It was obvious she was either putting on a show for me, or she had gotten inexplicably cooler than the last time I had even spoken to her.

She came up to me while I was heading to the bathroom. “Are you having fun, dear?” It wasn’t how she always said it. There was affection in her voice. I was certain it had to be the tequila.

“Actually, yes.” The words erupting surprised even me.

She smiled. “I do so like the kids around here. I thought you could make a few friends.”

I hoped that was not the reason for this unforeseen turn of events, but I was too loose to be angry or even irritated. “Yeah,” I said, “they seem nice.” Then the thought hit me, and I knew it wouldn’t again afterwards. “How old is Ben?”

She laughed. “He’s 43.”

My eyes widened. “Are you guys, like, dating?”

The smile faded. “Heavens no. What do you take me for?”

That was when it began to get hazy for me. There was the flavor of ice and lime in my mouth again and again, the unforgiving tequila lingering on my breath. It was ruling my conversations, it was creating a monster. I remember pointing in someone’s face, making some ridiculous statement about Oingo Boingo, exposing my constant belief that I was always right.

I remember hearing John Mellencamp, lying on the couch, my legs somehow making their way over Ben’s thighs, his strong, calloused hands rubbing the balls of my feet. Calling him Benjamin, kissing him, apparently not caring that my own mother was roaming around playing den mother to the rest of the crowd. Seeing those Marlboro Reds rolled up in his sleeve, while I pretended he was the Stanley Kowalski to my Blanche Dubois.

I woke up on the couch, a throbbing between my temples. The room was dark except for the porch light from the patio outside. I was alone with nothing but my embarrassment. Which unfortunately, for me, was nothing new.


1 Response to “one tequila, two tequila, three tequila…”

  1. 1 Kismet
    July 16, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Awesome. You’ll have to tell me the rest of the story when it starts coming back to you…

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