As he walked through the door, no one turned around. No one looked up. No one noticed him. That’s just the way he likes it. With his cane in his left hand, he reached for his wallet. He sat down at the bar and waited for the bartender’s attention. She asked what he wanted without looking at him. “Gin and tonic.” She served it to him without a lime.
There was a ball game on in all corners of the room. No one was watching. He remembered when there would be one on in a corner and the whole bar would cheer for a base hit. He picked up the glass, the first one he has had in twenty-three years. He licked his lips, swallowed his saliva, sighed and took it in one drink. He did it with his eyes closed. This allowed him to shut everything else out. He felt the contrast of alcohol and water. He felt the ice on his tongue.
He set his drink down and thought about his first drink. He was eight and his family was having a dinner party. After all the guests had left and his mother was in the kitchen washing up, he snuck down to hear what all the laughter was about. He missed the party but found a prize. There were still drinks on the table. He quickly picked up the first one he saw. It burned his throat and made him sad. He stumbled on the first stair trying to run away. He was never caught and he never told his mother.
At the bar he laughed. Oh what a sweet kid he used to be. He picked up the glass and raised it to signal another. With this one, he took his time. The first sip he swirled around in his mouth. He smelled the pine as regulars came and went. This one had a lime and he fished it out of the glass and threw it in his mouth. He relished the sour flesh, the tangy peel.
The day he turned twenty-one he walked fifteen blocks to meet his friends. He was early and the bar was empty. The waitress was reading a book. He sat at the bar and made some noise. She came over annoyed and asked him what he wanted.
“Gin and tonic.”
“I don’t know, what’s the best?” She didn’t tell him. She walked away and came back with the shiny liquid. “Six dollars.” He gave her seven and she walked away tapping her fat fist on the bar twice after counting the money. He had mixed emotions about the fact she didn’t card him. He liked that he looked his age, at least, but a little upset that he hadn’t tried it earlier.
It was the third drink that gave him the buzz. He felt it first in his legs. He was getting impatient at the noise the baseball game made. It was much slower than he remembered. Too many commercials surrounded the ball players. He couldn’t see the score and he was getting hot. His beard was itching. He took off his coat and stood up. It rushed from his legs to his head and he had to breathe deep to stay on his feet.
He met Sam this way. Well kind of. He was out of college for two years and just moved towns. The best friends he had were the ones he drank with, so when he got to the city he unpacked his things and went to the closest bar. After his third drink he got up to piss and tripped on the stool next to him. The girl sitting there was alone but not about to let that go. She turned and looked him up and down. He apologized and she smiled. She wasn’t used to that. When he came back there was fresh drink waiting for him.
“That’s from me.” She liked his eyes and how they looked directly into hers. He felt very comfortable, just like it was his smile he was looking at. “I’m Sam.” She held out her hand, stiff with her elbow locked. He noticed a scar between her thumb and her wrist. “Arturo, but call me Turo.” She hated that name and the confidence he didn’t say it with. They went home together that night. Two years later they were married.