Her choice of jeans has changed over the years. When we first met in Grand Central Station on a frigid New Year’s Eve seven years ago, she wore baggy jeans that accentuated her adorned belly. She stayed warm with a silk blouse under a mink jacket, which ended just inches above her belly.
Three years later, when we met outside her favorite bar, her belly was no longer on display. Salads and crunches had been replaced by free drinks, courtesy of her bartender neighbor. Unlike Kiddo, I avoided bars.
I used to spend a lot of time in bars, where I met Kiddo’s Mom. We were regulars until Kiddo came along. After Mom left with Kiddo, I found myself drinking alone. It was only when Mom passed away from liver failure that I decided to quit. Quitting was an uphill battle. My brain had grown dependent on alcohol; I couldn’t write, solve crosswords, or focus without it. I attended AA meetings with a dedicated sponsor for a couple of months, dove into “The Big Book” and “The Small Book” and finally managed to quit.
For a year, I avoided alcohol and anyone who drank. However, it’s hard to escape it completely. I moved to Kentucky, where residents collect commemorative bourbon bottles.
A few guys convinced me to stand in an excruciatingly long line for a collectible Coach Cal bottle. Hours passed as we waited. My bottle entitled me to visit a website, enter a number, and join an even longer line to get Coach Cal’s signature on this expensive bottle.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a number. I put the bottle on a shelf and studied it daily for a week. Once or twice a day, I read the label and scrutinized the seal. I pondered its weight and, eventually, what it might taste like. That’s when the idea of calling my AA sponsor to discuss the flavor crossed my mind. Instead, I called someone else and sold him the bottle.
I almost forgot about drinking, until I met a woman on Craig’s List. She asked for a drink as soon as she arrived to play cards. A drink? In my house? I excused myself and returned with an $18 pint of imported vodka. She consumed most of it. I deleted her from my contacts, after I put her in a cab.
Then I met Linda, her frugal successor, in a grocery store. I prepared for her visit with a $9 pint of domestic vodka and free trials of Hulu and Netflix. Linda finished the imported vodka and half of the domestic, after three visits. While preparing her drinks, I sniffed the vodka, and it didn’t appeal to me. We watched several movies together until her son convinced her to move to Colorado with him, where they could legally grow marijuana.
Last week, Kiddo dropped by for a visit. I greeted her outside to check out her new car. I was the final stop on her vacation route. She wore skinny jeans, no heels or bare midriff.
Kiddo found Linda’s bottle during her visit. I pretended not to hear her open it or smell it on her breath. Later, when she stepped into the bathroom, I discovered an empty bottle in the freezer. She didn’t see me cringe as she drove away.