Gin and Gentle Kissing
Michael Maiello
I 'd never had a drink before, no alcohol had ever entered my 19-year-old body. But after my lover killed herself the editor of our college newspaper, a cute girl with lovely hips, said "you need a break" and took me to a journalism conference in the Big Easy. We never saw a bit of the conference, but with our hotel and airfare taken care of, and a stipend from the University of New Mexico giving us temporary reprieve from student poverty, we walked down Bourbon Street until I found a little pub called "The Absinthe House" and I led us inside.

A sign said: "Mark Twain and Andrew Jackson used to drink here" but after my second gin and tonic, I could only imagine Mark Twain and Samuel Jackson drinking together, Mark saying "You know what they call a Big Mac upriver? Royale with Cheese." Every time I ordered one gin and tonic they brought me two, such were the dynamics of happy hour. At the end of my fifth, with a blind blues man singing "Mastercharge" and occasionally running his hand past the face of his Braille Rolex, with his raspy voice and three piece band, I drowned in sweat, gin, and humidity. I saw only a tray with drinks from the extended limbs of pretty waitresses, I took each one offered and eventually lost count. For the first time in days, poor Jen and her .38 revolver let my psyche rest.

That's when I really noticed Kristen's bright blue eyes and the casual way in which she downed drink after drink without showing the effects, how her hair stayed perfect, bouncing above her shoulders while mine was matted flat against my skull, how her skin retained that ruddy tone, while mine had gone pale hours ago. I thought how nice it would be to take her to the banks of the Mississippi river and make slow love to her as a cool breeze penetrated the thick atmosphere and I leaned towards her, to whisper something romantic, but rather knocked her drink into her lap and watched a piece of ice slide down her shoulder, into her shirt.

She accepted my repeated apologies and led me home, out of the sweaty bar where the blind man kept crooning, up Bourbon Street and through the air conditioned lobby, up twenty-three floors and into our room, where she put me to bed with a gentle kiss.

First published: August 1999