Sunday, March 26, 2023

Boozing on a Budget

We’ve all been there. It's Friday night and you've paid all the bills to prevent becoming homeless, having your power disconnected, and averting a car repossession. But now there's only twenty bucks left and a drink is needed more than ever. Seasoned drinkers will take this budget as a challenge to be overcome, rather than suffering the indignity of a sober weekend. Like anything in life, there is an easy way and a hard way to drink on a budget. Not all spirits under twenty bucks for a fifth or forty for a handle are created equal. This review of bottom-shelf offers evaluate booze on the criteria of price, taste, and the hangover created. As the author of this article does not have enough experience with tequila, rum, or cheap wines, these categories will be omitted. The prices given are based on Michigan state-mandated minimum liquor prices. These prices may be lower in other areas.


Evan Williams Black Label

Classification: Bourbon

MSRP: $15.99 / 750 ml; $31.99 / 1.75 L

Evan Williams is objectively good. Even, arguably, superior to its more expensive competitors Jim Beam white label and Jack Daniels black label; not overly sweet like Jack, or excessively dry like Beam.

It's enjoyable neat, with club soda, or, if you must, with Coca-Cola. In my experience it produces relatively mild hangovers. Strongly recommended to any bourbon enthusiast, regardless of budget.

Famous Grouse Scotch Whiskey

Classification: Blended Scotch Whisky

MSRP: $35.00 / 1.75 L

Famous Grouse is very drinkable and tastes similar to Dewar’s white label. I recommend mixing with club soda as it will not hold up when sipped in a Glencairn glass. The price for a fifth is omitted because I have never seen it being sold in anything smaller than a handle. Relatively mild hangovers are expected. It's definitely a step up from Cutty Sark.

Gordon’s Gin

Classification: London Dry Gin

MSRP: $10.99 / 750 ml; $21.99 / 1.75 L

With over 200 years of history, Gordon’s was a favorite of old pros such as Kingsley Amis and Humphrey Bogart. And with good reason, it is a decent, old fashioned-style gin at a bargain basement price. My recommendation is to enjoy over ice with club soda or tonic and with a slice of lemon or lime. You won’t be getting the trendy, citrus-forward flavors of something like Hendrick’s or Aviation, but it is a matter of taste. If you are a fan of Tanqueray, Beef Eater, or Bombay White Label you will find little to complain about from Gordon’s. Gordon’s gin with club soda and a slice of citrus is summer in a glass. Hangovers are comparatively mild.

Benchmark 8 Bourbon

Classification: Bourbon

MSRP: $10.99/750 ml; $22.99/1.75 L

Benchmark 8 is Buffalo Trace’s economy line bourbon is a true hidden gem. It features a slightly sweet, peppery flavor and produces relatively mild hangovers. In my opinion, it's superior to both Jim and Jack, especially considering it is roughly half the price. Without a doubt, it's far better than Old Crow, Jim Beam’s economy line whiskey. I originally bought it to see how terrible an eleven dollar fifth of Bourbon would be and was very pleasantly surprised. Benchmark 8 is enjoyable neat, with club soda, or with Coca-Cola.

Christian Brother’s

Classification: Brandy

MSRP: $10.99 / 750 ml; $24.99 / 1.75 L

Christian Brother’s Bandy is sweet and fruity flavored and can be enjoyed neat or with club soda. Exceptional for warming up after spending an hour or so shoveling snow. It is also very nice with some decent wine and frozen fruit for Sangria that packs a wallop.

This does rank near the bottom of the true bargain’s list because it can produce brutal hangovers if more than a pint at a time is consumed in one session.

Hamm’s, Miller High Life, Milwaukee’s Best

Classification: Beer

MSRP: $1.50 to $2.00 / 15 oz "tall boy" can; $13.00 to $20.00 / 30 pack

These beers are not bad; they will make you drunk and they each boast a decent flavor without busting the budget. Hangovers are relatively mild unless more than 12 to 15 are consumed in a sitting.

Pro tip: Very nice during summer or when you want to relive your college days. Best enjoyed along with a whiskey of your choice.


Lauder’s Scotch

Classification: Blended Scotch Whisky

MSRP: $8.50 / 750 ml; $17.50/ 1.75 L

Lauder's is cheap and drinkable. Its creamy and smooth finish make it surprisingly easy to drink. Hints of toffee and cereals are the best part of this whisky and is why Lauder’s has slightly more flavor than the blended Canadian and American Whisky that will be discussed below. Expect relatively mild hangovers. It is best enjoyed with either water or club soda as it will not hold up when consumed neat. One unique feature is that it smells exactly like a pencil eraser that has been dipped in caramel and biscuits.

Sobieski Vodka

Classification: Polish Vodka

MSRP: $10.99 / 750 ml; $19.99 /1.75 L

Sobieski is enjoyable with club soda and citrus, or in a cheap fruit punch. Unlike Popov or cheaper vodka, it doesn’t have to be stored in the freezer to be drinkable. It produces relatively mild hangovers.

Unless you prefer vodka to gin, I would recommend Gordon’s instead.

Old Crow Bourbon

Classification: Bourbon

MSRP: $10.00 / 740 ml; $21.96 / 1.75 L

Old Crow is passable, but it’s pretty bland. Best consumed with club soda or with Coca-Cola.

Although Old Crow isn’t terrible, it’s only worth buying if the far superior Benchmark 8 is unavailable.

Mickey’s Ice, Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Natural Ice

Classification: Malt Liquor

MSRP: $1.50 to $2.00 / 16 oz "tall boy" can; $3.00 to $4.00 / 40 oz

Malt liquor tends to hit harder than its ABV would indicate. The flavor is often not bad, I enjoy Milwaukee’s Best Ice more than regular Milwaukee’s Best. These rank slightly lower than economy beer because of the often-brutal hangovers that are part and parcel of the experience if more than a few tall boys are consumed in one sitting.

McMaster’s, Black Velvet, and Kessler

Classification: Blended Whiskey

MSRP: $8.00 - $10.00 / 750 ml; $15.00 - $20.00 / 1.75 L

All of these are inoffensive and bland. They don’t leave behind severe hangovers unless more than a pint is consumed in one sitting. They will all do the trick when your goal is to get drunk without inflicting too much pain.

Best enjoyed with club soda or in a boilermaker.

Popov Vodka

Classification: Vodka

MSRP: $8.00 / 750 ml; $15.00 / 1.75 L

The flavor of Popov is tolerable when mixed with club soda and citrus of some sort and best enjoyed in a punch and stored in the freezer. It ranks higher than other economy vodkas because there is less of a methanol flavor and the hangovers are not as severe. Make no mistake though, if consumed in any significant quantity there will be a price to pay in the morning.


Steel Reserve

Classification: Malt Liquor

Price - $1.50 - $3.00 / 16 0z "tall boy" can; $3.00 - $4.50 / 40 oz

This very low-quality malt liquor is often tolerable but will leave the feeling of a mariachi band playing in your head the next morning. Yes, Steel Reserve produces BRUTAL hangovers and is best left to the homeless.

As my little brother once said, Steel Reserve is “the relationship ender beer.”

American Style Schnapps and Other Sugary Liqueurs

Classification(s): Liqueurs, Schnapps, Flavored Whiskey

MSRP: $8.00 -$15.00 / 750 ml; $15.00 - $30.00 / 1.75 L

I include, in this review, Dr. McGillicuddy’s, Dekuyper’s, Southern Comfort, Fireball, and Goldschlager.

While these drinks often pack a punch, they are best left to college students. The high sugar content of these liqueurs produces truly terrible hangovers, regardless of the age and experience of the drinker.

Crystal Palace, Kamchatka, Five O’clock, Aristocrat

Classification(s): Vodka and Gin

MSRP: $5.00 / 750 ml; $11.00 / 1.75 L

The worst of all worlds. These beverages are nothing more than flavored methanol.

Crystal Palace has a distinct flavor which can only be described as resembling what would happen if you sucked on a handful of gravel through an isopropyl-soaked gym sock.

Kamchatka, also known as "Shitty K," tastes exactly the way Clorox Disinfecting Wipes smell.

Are you a masochist? Do you love to punish yourself? Do you enjoy consuming tongue-gnashingly harsh and belly-churningly caustic chemicals? Then Five O'clock Vodka is for you!

Aristocrat has a melted plastic-like taste. Specifically, if you have ever attempted to make a grilled cheese sandwich (most likely after a night of heavy drinking) and forgot to remove the plastic wrapper from the Kraft American Cheese single slice, that's it!

All of these are generally only palatable when stored in the freezer and mixed in a punch. In my experience, these liquors have hallucinogenic qualities, and not in a good way. Drinking any significant amount of these types of liquor produces multi-day hangovers. They may well have been the inspiration for Kingsley Amis’s essay on the hangoveras he was not above using supermarket vodka in punches. Consuming well vodka is an excellent way for you and all your friends and acquaintances to discover the contents of your unconscious mind.

These are best left alone unless trying to avoid hypothermia on a cold winter’s night.

Pro Tip: Prepare a gallon of fruit flavored crystal light fruit punch or Kool-Aid to use as mixer.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day

Earl woke up from too much green beer the night before. His head hurt like a goddamn jackhammer was breaking bricks against his skull, but it was nothing compared to the pain in his groin. He tossed the covers aside and looked towards his pride and joy. He'd even named it. Willie.

"What the fuck?" He jumped up and went to the john, the pounding in his head momentarily forgotten. He pulled out his wife's mirror, rushed back to the bed, hoping she hadn't heard him, and examined the gruesome details.

"Holy Mother of Christ!" There, just above Willie, was a huge tattoo. Not just any tattoo, but one with all the colors of the rainbow. A "Lucky Charms" horror of marshmallow hearts, pots of gold, orange stars and emerald clovers danced like diamonds off a man-in-the-moon design. At the bottom of the hideous spectacle sat a pink poodle with a periwinkle butterfly sitting on its nose. To make matters worse, his private parts had been shaved.

He thought back to the night before. His wife Mary took her crockpot of corned beef and cabbage and went over to Agnes' house to play bunco. He headed to Kelly's Irish Pub for his yearly night of being Irish. The cheap beer had flown freely, while the girls led with their sisters, mashing his face between thick cushions of mammary goodness. At least that's how he thought about it, while subconsciously raising one hand to his cheek to soothe a phantom slap.

"You awake, Earl?"

He heard Mary scurry down the hall towards the bedroom, so he quickly covered himself. No sense adding to his problems until he could think of a good story.

He looked at her sheepishly, while she provided a glass of tomato juice. "Here. Drink this." She plumped his pillows while he drank his cure.

"What's that in your ear?" He didn't really care, but he thought if he acted interested, it might soften the blow once she saw that Willie was sharing space with "My Little Pony."

"Earbuds. It's the latest thing. I listen to music while I'm on the treadmill. You should try it sometime." She wiped her brow, apparently for emphasis because he didn't see any sweat or what Mary called glistening perspiration.

"I didn't even know you liked music."

"There's a lot you'll never understand about me. Today, for example, I'm listening to a "Heart" song. Dog and Butterfly." She turned and headed towards the door.

No. She wouldn't do that.

She stopped at the door and turned around, a smile on her face so bright, it could light the way out of a mining tunnel. "Don't worry, dear, it's a temporary tattoo."

"You did this? Why?" He scratched his head.

"Agnes got a call from her niece, Megan, while we were playing bunco. She's a new waitress at Kelly's. Apparently, you were behaving so poorly that the bartender slipped a mickey in your beer to calm the situation. I asked if someone could drive you home."

"That doesn't explain this." He threw the covers down and exposed the colorful display jiggling across his underbelly.

"You need to go on a diet, Earl, and a few push-ups wouldn't hurt, either. Don't think that just because I said so little all these years, it went unnoticed. You've really let yourself go, and the girls were furious with the way you treated them. Megan mentioned your breath reeked like a dragon."

He was still lost in hangover stupor and shocked to hear mousy Mary talk like this, but he did wonder how that young tart Megan knew how a dragon smelled.

"She's one of those new age types, so she sent you home with a package of fake tattoos and told me over the phone how to apply them. She said to make sure the area was nice and clean, so once the men got you settled in bed, I carefully scrubbed and waxed. Maybe I rubbed a wee bit too hard."

He pulled the covers up and winced in pain, wondering what he'd see underneath that infernal disaster once he peeled it off. He hoped the red tear drops dripping down the side of the Bird of Paradise was only part of the design and not raw skin. He wondered if he'd gone too far this time. His Mary seemed on the verge of--

"Oh, and Earl. You ever pull that shit again, instead of temporarily tattooing leprechauns and fairies across your crotch, I'll have a masterpiece of your willie permanently etched across your forehead."

As she left the room, he heard her murmur under her breath, "Dickhead."

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Friends, Lovers, and Wailing

Book publishers and the reading public have an insatiable appetite for celebrity memoirs, even more so if it's a story of addiction and recovery. (Addiction/recovery stories are so popular you don't even have to be a celebrity to have publishers falling all over you, see David Carr, Night of the Gun.) Get an irresistibly handsome actor, or a former actor who had the lead on a number 1 television series, or a former actor was the lead in a number one movie to tell his tale of woe and strife and you've got a book guaranteed to fly off the shelves. Get a former actor who is all three of the above and you've got Matthew Perry's book, dominating the bestseller lists for weeks on end now.

* * *

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is Matthew Perry's life story of acting, boozing, doping, and partying. By now, celebrity memoirs of addiction and recovery have almost become boilerplate, but Perry gives us a few unique previously unknown tidbits about his acting career (he made out in a closet on set with Gwyneth Paltrow and he has an inexplicable loathing for Keanu Reeves). In case you aren't able to guess, the "Big Terrible Thing" is alcohol. Perry emphatically states in the prologue "I didn't write all this so anyone will feel sorry for me," and that's not even the biggest line of bullshit in the book. It gets bigger, much bigger. Perhaps a bit of narcissism is helpful in being a performance artist—Perry's got it in spades.

Perry grew up in a well-to-do family in Ottawa, his mother was a press secretary for then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. (Perry claims to have beaten up future Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at school one day.) His parents split when he was young, and he was shuttled back and forth on airlines between his mother in Ottawa and his father in Los Angeles. And it was in Los Angeles where he says he learned how to drink—from his father who drank six vodka tonics each night after work. Perry explicitly states that he does not blame his father for making him an alcoholic, but he recalls with horror at how his father would say "This is the best thing that's happened to me all day," when he mixed his first drink, as if it were a childhood trauma because the words were uttered as they sat next to each other on a couch. He says it's no accident that his drink of choice became a double vodka tonic.

Although Perry has been to over 6000 AA meetings in his life, his first stint in rehab wasn't for booze. An addiction to 55 Vicodin caplets a day sent him to his first rehab at age 26. It became national news when he checked into Hazelden rehabilitation center in Minnesota and he complained "I was not granted the opportunity to work out my problems in privacy... I didn't even get the anonymity everyone else got." It's hard to believe he craved anonymity even then, his entire life has been devoted to getting attention, and in fact that's often one of the reasons people head off to rehab in the first place—to talk endlessly about themselves and their trauma. His plaint here is simply to evoke pity in the reader, to add misery to his sob story.

After leaving that first rehab, Perry, of course, continued using Vicodin and eventually developed a bowel perforation (or as he puts it for dramatic effect, "my colon exploded."). While hospitalized he was put on an ECMO (Extracoporeal Membrane Oxygenation) machine after he vomited into his ventilator tube. It was a last ditch effort by the doctors to save his life and Perry, in fact, claims that he is the only person to ever come back from a perforated bowel, aspiration pneumonia, and an ECMO machine. (There were no footnotes with any references to back up his claim, we'll just have to take his word for it.)

Early on, Perry tells us he could never get enough attention. As a child, he even lectured his own mother about not giving him enough attention. Later, of course, this became the driving force for his desire for fame, saying, "I figured being famous would fill the great hole that was endlessly growing inside of me. But being prefamous, it was a whole I filled with alcohol." Perry says he was afraid to be alone, but then contradicts himself by telling us how he drank alone in his home, watching his favorite movies on repeat, lighting candles after a breakup with a girlfriend. One might suspect that he is adding in these solo drinking episodes for heart-rending dramatic effect—attention seekers like Perry can not stand to be alone with themselves for any amount of time.

One of the reasons (and there are many) that AA is so ineffective is the foundation of dishonesty upon which it is built. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Perry came across this quote: "Drinkers think they are trying to escape, but really they are trying to overcome a mental disorder they didn't know they had." He called it a eureka moment, in actuality it's nothing but pseudo-profound malarkey. The real reason for this rehab/relapse merry-go-round is the need these people have for attention (not just Perry, but nearly all rehab addicts); their talk nearly becoming a competitive event as they attempt to best each other with tales over who has endured the most trauma. Trying to overcome a mental disorder is not why people drink, they drink because the enjoy the feeling of inebriation.

People of wealth and fame are just as deserving of sympathy and compassion as anyone else, but not if that rich and famous person is a self-entitled little brat. While Perry formed a few close relationships during all of his therapy, AA, rehabilitation, etc., he treated many of the doctors, nurses and staff with utter contempt. He referred to one nurse at a sober living home as NURSE FUCKFACE, demanded an ER doctor pump his stomach when in fact he had pancreatitis, demanded money back from a business partner when the business failed (yes, he started a sober living house called Perry House that had to close). He forced the staff at a hospital to restart the admittance process on him, a process that took hours, because he wanted to have a cigarette which was against hospital rules. So he checked out, had a smoke, then demanded to be checked back in. In a fit of pettiness he sent a copy of People magazine that featured him on the cover to a teacher who had once disciplined him as a child. He calls rehab facilities prisons, but continuously asks to be allowed in. Perry even had the audacity to consider suing rehabilitation facilities for treating him with drugs, but changed his mind because it would divert more attention to the situation and bring in even more addicts. Shooting had to be shut down for the movie Saving Sara and everyone laid off because he wanted to have another stay in a rehab center. (They sued his ass for that one and he had to pay $650K.) Perry went ape shit on the staff in a New York residential treatment center when they kicked him out—for smuggling drugs in. Even his dentist was a target of his wrath, telling him, "Fuck off, you piece of nothing fuck. Fuck asshole loser fucking fuck face."

Matthew Perry spent about $7 million dollars trying to get sober. It wasn't until he landed at a bucolic residential treatment center in Utah when a counselor finally gave him the cold, hard truth: "You like the drama and chaos of your addiction problem." That's in fact true for a lot of rehab addicts, maybe even most. How much better they and everyone else would be if they would just find a less childish way of indulging their need for drama and chaos.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Recalling Dad on his Birthday, a Son's Recollection

While approaching what would’ve been my father’s 99th birthday, something I heard today triggered this memory. I moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles over two decades ago, but a word from my past came up while on my way to work.

The word was “Bohacks.”

For those not of my ripening age or not from New York, Bohacks was a chain of grocery stores that dotted the city and stretched across the counties of Long Island. It represented the first serious challenge to the grocery supremacy of A&P and was the go-to market for my family from the time I was in fifth grade until I left to join the Navy when I was 18.

What is the connection between a now-defunct market and my now-deceased father? Funny you should ask.

Being on the then-cutting edge of food suppliers, Bohacks not only had its own brand of beer, which ran about a dime a can, but it also ventured into the low-calorie market in about 1967 when it featured a new line that promised to deliver full bodied taste with a lowered caloric content—for the health-conscious drinker I assume.

That beer was Gablingers Diet Beer, and it came packaged in a manure-tinted can displaying a black-and-white illustration of its “founder” although I cannot attest to that.

My dad, ever ready to cut down on calories as long as it meant he could down a brew or two, was one of the first customers for this groundbreaking refreshment. He made a special trip to Bohacks, returning with a six pack of this latest concoction. After the ritual of chilling a can down to optimal temperature, he settled into his favorite armchair, all set to become a light beer pioneer.

The adventure didn’t last long. After attempting to choke down half of the can, he finally admitted defeat and poured the rest down the drain, swearing it was the worst beverage he’d ever had and noting how the label claimed that it “doesn’t fill you up.”

“Damn right,” he spat. “You can’t finish the damned thing.”

He never tried that experiment again. But, for some reason, left the rest of that six-pack sitting in the hallway of our basement. The prodigal son returned to his preferred beer, Schaefer.

He never spoke of the incident again.

Some thirty years later, my parents retired, sold our house, and relocated to Virginia.

Still, every now and then (this day for instance) I picture the new owners, having taken possession of my childhood home, cleaning things up and redecorating to their particular tastes.

I imagine that at some point they were puzzled after coming across a set of oxidized cans—probably barely readable due to the crusty patina of rust covering them—still sitting somewhere near the short set of steps leading out of the cellar and into the backyard.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

New Bartender

those skimpy clothes do nothing for you

your out-of-shape mid section oozes over the top of your pants

you crave the attention of men

but you creep me out

were you a hot little number at some point?

it’s hard to imagine

with your nightmarishly ratty, badly dyed hair

and your methadone dentil work

and your stupid butterfly tattoo over your left tit

and your insistence on calling me “hun”

fill my glass and leave me the fuck alone

or let me smoke inside the bar

or let me start a fire on the pool table

or let me throw a full bottle of cutty sark against the mirror behind the bar

or let me shit in the microwave

these are your choices

Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Fearing the dregs,

The bottom of

The bottle

I head out to

The nearest store

With the biggest

Selection of


Even the cheap

Stuff is better

Than the clank

Of an empty.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Fairy, Part VII

The key is to not give up on life, only on your attempts to control it.

This is one thing I have learned to be true.

There’s a certain wisdom acquired when one learns to surrender. The acceptance of the hand fate’s dealt breeds humility.

Control is a raging, frothing animal with serrated jaws and a very short tail to hold it by. It is always hungry and frequently needs to be fed. So one can never truly have control; you’re just holding it for the moment, until its stomach growls and it feels the need for satiation.

Standing on that busy street, under smog choked stars and amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, I knew there were still people who felt compelled to grab that tiger by the tail and hold on, despite the most certain death that awaited them when that beast became determined to swallow them whole.

My wife, for example, took it especially hard when the doctor mouthed the words “prostate” and “inoperable.” Earlier that year, I was given a certain amount of time left and she didn’t handle it well. Life doesn’t work like in the movies. Strong people can quickly become weak, and those who once promised you forever can be traumatized into reconsideration.

My cancer chased my wife into hiding and the week before my Happy Hour was the last time I saw her. She would eventually move out, promising to still be there for me if I needed.

I miss my wife, but that was the moment she had given up and died. Ironically, it was at that moment that I made the decision to not.

There were things I still had to do, places I still wanted to go, people I had still wanted to meet, in bars and restaurants, drinking high-priced liquor discussing topics long-thought important, only to find that they’re actually as superficial, flat and vapid as anyone else.  That night, all at once, I felt disgusting, and treacherous, and victorious and free; free of inhibitions, reluctance and regret.  I was free of death, free of fear, free from the fear of fear — free from the perpetual drag of a biting and clawing control.

I imagine Samirah made it home safely. I never found out, but I hope that night brought her to similar conclusions. I like to imagine she went home and took control back from whoever gave her those bruises. I imagine she never again permed her hair.

None of the guys from that night spoke to me again. I don’t think it had anything to do with me skipping out on the bill, I honestly think they all just forgot I was ever there.

And that’s okay.

Truth be told, I had long tired of fighting that beast. So fuck him. Let him run his way, I’ll go mine. There’s plenty of room in this damned world for the both of us. And if we should ever again cross paths and I get him in my clutches, I’ll be much more respectful.

Until then and for the time being, I’ll be happy to simply buzz about, unrestrained and unyoked, traveling through the crowded night air among the hapless nymphs and wood sprites, wherever the passing winds take us for as long as this life allows.



< part VI

< part V

< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part VI

The best time to find out how a woman truly feels about you is after sex.

It’s in their eyes.

When she’s realized she’s made a mistake, her entire demeanor will change. The mission switches immediately to one of salvage; search and rescue. It’s almost comical. One minute they’re clawing at your back desperately, dripping down your inner thigh. The next, they’re looking around behind the toilet bowl for their missing underwear, all the while pretending they don’t notice you staring at their naked body.

She didn’t look at me, not once.

Instead, she gathered her clothing and put each article on in slow motion, or at least it seemed. I guess the vindication she had been seeking was less than satisfactory. With the adrenaline and lust wearing off, I noticed that her brown skin was leopard-spotted with several faded bruises, along her back and thighs. They were mostly old, but a few looked new.

For my part I pulled up my pants and got myself together, never taking my eyes off her. When she was done, she stepped close to me. And with her eyes low, she whispered, “Tell me I look beautiful to you.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“And my hair? Is it…I mean…”

“You’re hair’s fine…you’re fine.” Her shoulders slumped with relief.

“I don’t know what you’ve been told, or who convinced you, about…you. But you are beautiful. From the moment I saw you, I. … I thought you were like this cool electric. … Y’know? All fire and ice.”

She laughed, dropping her head to hide tears, “Y’know, you are a lot smarter when you’re not talking?”

She placed her hand over my mouth and kissed it, “I hope you find what you’re looking for, bay’.” And with that, she gently moved me aside, unlocked and walked out the bathroom door. That was the last time I would see her.

Outside there was a sizeable line of agitated and drunk women, waiting to use the restroom. They didn’t seem too happy to see me.

“You fixin’ the toilet? Don’t tell me it’s broken?” One of them yelled as loud as she could while drunkenly clutching the front of her skirt and doing the potty dance.  I shimmied past her, mumbling apologies to the crowd while elbowing my way to the front. I was hoping to get to the front in time to catch Samirah.

But, by the time I did, she was long gone; evaporated into the night like a will-o’-the-wisp. I stepped outside into the noise, movement, and smells of fried food. Behind me, the band was winding down. They weren’t rocking anymore. Instead, they’d slowed to a soulful, rhythm and blues resignation. It was as if they could see the night’s end coming, and decided not to fight it, but rather slowly wave it in.


part VII >


< part V

< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part V

I don’t know why I decided to go into the bathroom with her.

Surely I knew what she wanted. Still I followed her toward the back of the club and its indigo hallway.

We stumbled our way to the men’s room, but it was locked. So we went for the woman’s. Samirah reached for it just as it flung open. A dark stumpy woman, adjusting her skirt looked at us with sleepy eyes and frazzled hair.

“S’cuse me,” she mumbled, side stepping the both of us. We watched her hobble by, melting into the ocean of people packed into the cramped arrangements of the club.

Samirah took the lead. She poked her head in, making certain it was empty and then pulled me inside. She locked the door behind us and shoved me against it.

The bathroom was fitted with one toilet and one sink, which was situated underneath a dirty mirror. A fluorescent light droned unsteadily overhead, dimly bathing everything in a flickering sea of opal green. Also, it buzzed loudly, no small feat as the sounds of funk spilled through every crevice in the walls, ceilings and floorboards. Orpheus began playing “Try Me” and everything slowed to a hip-hugging crawl.

We stood nose to nose, against the locked door, staring into each other. It felt like forever before I gathered the nerve, leaned forward in a rush and kissed her. Her mouth tasted sweet and felt cool. She grabbed the back of my head and pulled me closer and warmth flowed from her open mouth.

We moved frantically now, grabbing at one another, pulling at buttons and zippers. I swung her around, forcing her back to the door and lifting her up into my arms. She wrapped her legs around me.

My shirt flew open and she began kissing my neck, almost biting. I felt the sharpness of her teeth married by her tongue’s wetness. My fingers slipped under her dress and began tracing the waistband of her stockings.

“Do it,” she whispered harshly in my ear as music wailed through the walls. I dipped a finger under the nylon and felt the warm give of skin. She lowered one leg, “take them off.” I pulled off the stockings, followed by her underwear.

I traced the moist outlines between her legs. She threw her head back each time, mouth open and gasping. Our breathing was heavy, rhythmic and synchronized. She fumbled with my belt until she finally dropped my pants to the floor. I lifted her again and lowered her onto me.

There was an explosion in the back of my head that sent tremors racing down my spine. My eyes clenched tight and air rushed into my lungs, before vacating in a loud, unexpected yell. I felt her eyes on me – she was enjoying the control.

She pulled close, clenched tighter with her legs and whispered, “…it feels good, right? Tell me I feel good.”

I gave in to her rolling body and answered dumbly in single words. But still she asked, despite her shivers following each undulation. “You don’t want me to stop, do you? You want me to keep going, right? Just tell me I feel good…”

I felt her digging into my brain. It did feel good. Wrapped up in her thighs, with the walls vibrating long dead soul and swimming in an ocean current of electric green, I had taken a chance and let go, relinquished and released.


part VI >


< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part IV

The bouncer who was checking I.D.s, without a word, waived us in.

I guess we looked old. I followed Samirah into the club – a small row-house sized bar on the fringes of the strip. It was packed tight with a mostly older crowd and there was no entry fee. The live band was playing 70’s soul and the air pulsated with a bottom-driven heartbeat.

We were relieved to find at least one spot on U Street that still catered to the soulful generations that helped create it.

The band’s bass player was entirely in control. He was an eccentric looking fellow in a cowboy hat. His leather jeans looked to sap all air from his body, his Fender Jazz Bass was his life support.

He was connected to the groove, as if by umbilical. The others were tethered to him, unable to move or escape. There was something both sexy and predatory about it. Whether they wanted to or not, they had all agreed in some unspoken way that they would go to the bottom with him. And he reveled in this power.

“We got that funk for y’all tonight! Y’all ready for that funk?!” The band leader screamed into a microphone that was unnecessary given the cramped conditions. Inside the club was simple. The front of the club doubled as the stage, the players faced the audience, while their backs were to the front of the building and the windows behind them, which were at least two feet above, allowed people on the street to look down and see them work.

Beyond that, tables were set up along one side of the thin room. The bar was on the other, leaving about three feet of space between for people to stand or wait for a drink: this area was shoulder-to-shoulder packed.

In the back of the club was a dark corridor that led to the restrooms. Drunken patrons stumbled back and forth, mostly one at a time, with their flies undone and skirts tucked into their stockings.

Yes, this was a slice of the muddy decadence. Here, the funk lived, tenuously kept alive by the electronic pulse of an automated external defibrillator, hanging by a strap, over the shoulder of a feral bass player.

The band launched into a rendition of James Brown’s, “I Got That Feeling,” which gyrated into an Earth Wind and Fire set.

I maneuvered myself to the bar and ordered two drinks. Samirah asked for a Melon Ball, and for whatever reason I asked for absinthe. The woman behind the bar looked at me like I had just been caught drowning kittens. She took a bottle of something labeled absinthe that looked colored and flavored and poured me a shot, then went on making her regular two-ingredient cocktails.

I paid and Samirah and I pushed our way into the back of the club, away from the rhythm and ruckus into the shadowy hall.

“What’s the deal with your wife?” She asked as if the topic was an elephant, she had grown sick of feeding. “You seem like a nice guy, despite what I may have said earlier.” She sipped her drink, avoiding my eye directly.

“Like I said,” I sipped. “There’s been a sickness in our family. Someone close to her, to the both of us, is sick. I’ve been down lately, so I decided to take a break from worrying. My wife’s a homebody and I’m not, so...”

“No, you said that already. I’m sure you’re lying, but whatever.” She leaned in close, so as not to compete with the music, “Let me rephrase, why are you here…with me?”

The question shocked me. Not because she asked, I’m sure most women would. It shocked me because all night I’d been consumed with the mystery of why she was with me. I had never thought to ask myself why I was apparently perfectly fine to ruin every relationship in my life, whether personal or business, for the company of a strange, possibly insane, woman.

I didn’t have an answer, “I thought you just wanted to get away and forget about what’s-his-face. Why do you care all of a sudden?”

Her face was silhouetted by dancing shadows, but I could see her frown, “I do want to forget about Lawrence, but I also want to know what I’m getting into…and why? I just don’t buy these excuses you’re giving. There’s something more.

“So, what is it? Let me guess. She doesn’t respect you as a man. Or maybe she emasculated you in public once? Hmmmmm…That’s it, isn’t it? … She hurt your little male ego somehow. Didn’t she? What is this, ‘get back’?”

“Do I look like the type of guy that cares about a ‘power position’?”

“All men want power. It’s why your boys back at the restaurant wake up every morning. It’s why they liquor themselves up and slave through mindless, corporate busy work every day. And it’s why you played tag along for their night out tonight; even though you didn’t fit in. You’re just like every other man.

“You want to take over the world. You want power. Admit it.”

We were nose to nose. I could smell the fruit scented alcohol on her lips.

“You,” I began, breathing deep as I spoke. “You are a very bitter woman.”

“I’m not bitter,” she quietly reassured. “I just want to know why a guy, a married guy, would choose to risk so much over someone so unimportant”

“You know what I want? I don’t want to die who I am now. I hate who I am now.”

I said it loudly and with a frustrated, almost angry conviction that surprised us both.

“I hate who I’ve allowed myself to be. … I’m despicable. I’ve allowed life to creep up on me, run me over and then pass me. I didn’t even look up when it happened; I didn’t even notice. I was too busy with my head in the damn ground, trying to drag myself along with everyone else that I didn’t realize everyone else is going straight to shit. Everything is going straight to shit. I was just following along because I thought that’s what I should want out of life and…I hate that now, because for a while…it was what I wanted.

“Do you know I fucking begged those fuckers to invite me out tonight? I begged them. Every day for a week, I begged them until they caved. I was so sure that they were who I was supposed to be, I didn’t even take the time to notice who they actually were. Chris beats his wife…regularly. Everyone knows. And then there’s Silas…he does coke. Like a lot of coke. He’s ruined every relationship he’s ever been in but he’s successful and fuck me, I wanted to be just like him. I don’t even know their fucking last names.”

The club was loud. No one heard us, and things were still rowdy enough that I questioned whether Samirah had heard anything I’d said. Her reactions said she got the point. She walked up to me and placed her forehead to my chest. I took a deep breath and enjoyed the feeling of her weight against me.

We leaned against a wall, letting the human traffic move back and forth to the bathroom. We began the evening standing about an arm’s length away from each other. Throughout the night, we had moved closer until she was now at a distance where her breath still felt warm even after traveling across space, from her lips to mine. I nestled my face into the small of her neck where I could smell her.



Fairy, Part III

“Can you spare some change?”

The homeless man shifted his weight from one leg to the other. I didn’t have any. But Samirah, after thinking about it, went rummaging through her purse.

“I only have a dollar,” she said.

He nodded in acceptance, holding out his hand to catch the change. She held her fist over his hand and paused. She looked at him crookedly through suspicious eyes.

“Do you really need this money,” she asked.

“Yeah,” he stuttered, “I really do need it. I-I haven’t eaten in days, maybe a week…”

“This is a lot of power you’re giving me here. You know that right?” Her fist still hung over his. He could’ve just walked away. I would’ve. But instead he nodded sadly. And when she saw he was broken, she dropped the coins into his hand.

He quickly wandered down the street, stopping in front of another couple. He mouthed some words, did his leg-to-leg dance, got a few more coins of change and moved on. He didn’t look back at us.

U Street was once ripe with the homeless. This was when the blocks were still burnt black from the 1968 riots. Then gentrification took hold like an ivy vine, its tentacles stretching throughout the community sucking out the old and injecting the new. Goodbye ghetto, hello hipsters. Now, white women walked their dogs at night around the corridor and the homeless are few and far between.

“What the fuck was that about?” I asked.

“It’s about control, Jason. It’s always about control.”

“No,” I corrected, “that’s called being a sociopath.”

“No…that’s the American economic-social path. It’s what we do…as a country. Are you saying you have a problem with this?  Because I’m sure your friends back at the restaurant would be cheering me on; and asking for a cut if I’d milked the guy.”

She folded her arms, then looked me up and down regretfully, “But, let’s not talk about that, right? We can’t talk about race… and we can’t talk about your wife.  So why don’t we talk about my ass, since you haven’t stopped looking at it since I walked into the restaurant this evening?”

“Although we could talk about your ass, and believe me there’s little I’d enjoy more, let’s talk about you…what about you?”

“Nope…nope, you first.  We started in the restaurant and you never finished…who am I talking to?”

“I grew up in Bladensburg.”

“Pretty rough there, right?”

“Kinda…well…not really. It’s full of kids scared the world’ll find out they’re not as bad as they think they are. It’s like everyone puts on an act, trying to maintain a lie of some kind; they’re scared of the truth.”

“And what’s that?”

“You know, like…90 percent of the people round my way don’t own anything. Like, they lease their cars, their homes; shit, they borrow money from the bank to pay for groceries…probably. Everyone’s got credit cards up the asshole. It’s this cluster fuck of borrowing and loaning and owing, running and dodging, and using credit to pay off more credit. I think everyone’s scared that one day, all those people who lent shit’ll realize just how powerful they are and ask for their shit back. After that…there won’t be enough ‘thuggin’ in the world to scare off all those mothafuckas.”

“That’s a lot of money and a lot of power,” she began. “But, hey…we can’t talk about that, right?”

I wanted to change the subject, wrestle control of this conversation, “Why do you care…about me? Why do you want to know how dangerous I can be? You scared I’ll do something to you? Cause I won’t. And if I do, I promise I’ll be gentle.”

She laughed loudly. She leaned her face close to mine and right before contact, snatched her lips away laughing. “You know you want me boy. I don’t know why you keep playin’.”

“Alright, I said where I was from. I talked about me, now you. Where you grow up? What was it like?”

She thought for a moment, “Fine, if that’s how you want to play. Michigan, I grew up in Michigan. Single mother, no father, community college, transferred to Maryland, became an average student…better in bed, graduated….barely, hired by marketing firm, got bored…met you. Happy?”

“And actual boyfriends?  How do they fit into all of that?”

“They don’t,” she sighed, “not anymore, at least. It took me far too long to figure that out. You know, you sure do ask a lot of questions.”

“Well,” I said, turning up U Street, “I’ve been told I’m a lot smarter when I don’t talk.”

She inhaled deeply, “I am so…so sorry about that. I flipped out, I’m sorry. It was the guys in the restaurant and these fuckin’ hipsters…”

“Don’t worry about it.”


part IV >


< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part II

“So, what d’you wanna do?”

Cars churned slowly in a chorus of loud Paleolithic screeching; steel beasts – prehistoric oil machines – moved in packs, bumper to bumper. Young people jumped between them like blue-eyed sprites, whooping and screaming to the heavens with no sense of consequence or ethereal reprisal. I felt Samirah tense beside me.

“I don’t know,” she responded curtly. “What’s there to do around this city that doesn’t involve some form of lying?”

“I don’t think there’s much.” I sighed.

U Street had become a carnival masked caricature of its former self. It’s all frantic, yuppie exuberance now; a fallow replacement for the deep, wood-grain mahogany of jazzy years passed.

Oblivious, shiny-haired white children blindly walked and skipped and ran across the streets, in and out of the slow-moving traffic. And it was slow-moving traffic.

On weekend nights, traffic was molasses, creaking along a foot at a time while pedestrians crossed wherever they wanted, safe in the knowledge that they could walk faster than any car could drive.

They were children, reveling in the false freedom of fleeting youth. To me they were the unmarred versions of the people we had just escaped; not yet yoked by the weighted responsibilities of success and “making it,” but just as arrogant, just as unburdened, and just as oblivious to the tightly-coiled resentment, honking around them.

Those goddamn guys. In a more sober mind, I may have thought twice about leaving with a woman I barely knew.

Sobriety was beginning to creep into my conscience, telling me to go back.  After all, I still had to work on Monday.

Responsibility, however, was the farthest thing from Samirah’s mind. She exhaled at the Bosch’s Hell scene before her. Her face turned solemn, “Jesus…it’s like a goddamn infestation.”

We’d stopped walking at the corner, looking south down 14th Street toward the only part of D.C. most of these kids knew. South were the monuments, the landmarks and buildings only recently made important to people like myself and Samirah.

“Who?” I looked around, “These kids?” She didn’t answer. Instead, she stepped further away from the curb to let by a group of children, who incidentally looked very comfortable walking late-night along D.C.’s once heroin-dusted streets. They were probably more comfortable here than anywhere else in the world.

“I guess you haven’t heard,” I began, sliding next to her as we both rested on the wall of an adjacent building. “D.C. is theirs now. While no one was looking, Chocolate City went and got its fuckin’ hair permed. I blame the Mayor – shiny-headed fuck. But it’s just as well, fuck D.C. They can have it. Why should it matter anyway?”

“What do you mean, why?”

“Whattaya mean ‘what do you mean, why?’ For one, it’s 2008. Honestly, we should be able to live with the fact that white people exist now. I think we can all share the same air without spontaneously erupting into Freedom Marches.

“Shit. What can any of these folk do to us now?” I asked. “Back in the day, you couldn’t look at a white girl without catching some type of heat. Nowadays I wish a white man would try to bark at me for some stupid shit like that. I’d smack the holy hellfire out a mothafucka. C’mon now. You worrying about them and I guarantee they ain’t thinkin’ bout you. Hell, they’re too worried about Mexicans and gays.”

She looked at me, shaking her head, “I knew it…you’re totally different when you’re not around them.”

“Hey, Dubois wasn’t lying I guess.” I shrugged, “Double consciousness and all.”

She sucked her cheek into a smirk, pushed off of the wall to pass me. “Well, that’s the problem with being a brilliant intellectual living in the late 1800s. There’s no one around confident enough to call you on your bullshit.”

I followed her as she began dodging the human traffic, crossing U Street.

“Okay, and what do you mean by that?” I found myself yelling over the traffic. We’d officially become a part of the current.

“You’re trying to rationalize disingenuousness. To me, fake is fake. But your problems aside, this isn’t my point.”

We had crossed the street, still looking south down 14th, where neither type of traffic – automobile or human – was that bad. “I guess…maybe I’m jealous,” she continued. “I look at them and know I’ll never feel the type of freedom and faith in this world they feel. They’re born with some idea, or at least some understanding of what their purposes on this planet are.

“They own their happiness. It’s not doled out like an allowance. It’s not rationed. I guess I envy that.”

I felt I knew where this was coming from. “You know those guys at dinner were just dickheads, right?”

“They acted like I wasn’t even there.”

We paused for a moment and she stared blankly down the empty section of road. “They’re power hungry self-loathers,” I explained. “They hate themselves and their lives and the only thing keeping them going is the ability to lord their few accomplishments over someone that they see as ‘beneath them.’ Makes them feel like they’ve made it, y’know?”

“Is that how you feel?”

“No, I’m not like them.”

“Then why are you defending them? No, better yet, why were you with them at all?”

I was feeling slightly uncomfortable. “I don’t know,” I began. “Maybe a part of me wants to know what it’s like to be on their side of the line. Maybe a part of me’s tired of not going anywhere or being anything. Time to evolve, right? It’s now or never.”

Samirah smiled, “Trust me, I know ‘those people’ a lot better than you do, okay? I know their type. I grew up with them. I worked with them. On every social level, I’ve been immersed in their world ever since I was old enough to understand what ‘good’ hair means.”

In front of us, a jeep full of teens, probably college aged, crawled by at 5 miles per hour. Their windows were down and Kanye West’s “Power” vibrated from the speakers. Two girls were in the back, one olive-toned and Mediterranean and the other freckled and red hair. The driver was a shaggy blonde and his passenger, a dark mocha, leaned on his shoulder with her hand in his lap.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I said quietly, “that’s…uh, unfortunate.”

“Hmmmmmm…” she pondered a response. “You know, you sound a lot smarter when you’re not talking.” She was disappointed.

After a tense silence, I offered, “I guess this is ‘goodbye’ then.” She didn’t respond, but continued to look down 14th as the rest of the world buzzed absentmindedly around her.

“Alright then,” I said.  Shit, I didn’t need this. I turned around and left, heading back to the restaurant. Maybe I could still catch The Guys and mend things. Besides, I had a wife at home who I’m sure would’ve been heartbroken to know I was out ruining some other woman’s night.

I didn’t want to look back. I knew that if I did and saw Samirah, and if she were still standing on that corner with her electric hair and full-lipped smile that I would most likely turn around. So I kept my pace, looking ahead, dipping and dodging through the crowd. It wasn’t long before I heard a familiar sharp clicking of heels behind me, trying to catch up.


part III >


< part I

Fairy, Part I

She walked into the restaurant and changed everything.

A small, single-strapped dark green dress hung tight from her hips. She had electric hair and a full-lipped smile.  She captured and controlled every eye.

She resembled my wife. Their complexions were similar, both smooth and sandalwood. Their mouths were the same, both expressive and inviting. With their hips, thighs, shoulders and breasts, this woman and my wife were near identical.

It was their eyes that couldn’t be reconciled.

This woman’s eyes spoke of a hunger for life, death was far from her mind.

I sipped from the glass of absinthe I’d been certain would make me look cool, like some sort of avant-guard writer; an expatriate living in France maybe? Instead, I grimaced like a Saturday morning cartoon character, and probably looked just as silly, the only black guy in a room full of increasingly drooping blue eyes.

Someone slapped me hard on the back. “You don’t drink much do you Jay Jay?” The bellowing voice laughed.

The large drunk man then stood to perform his best Jimmy “J.J.” Walker impression, “Dy-No-Light Weight!” The laughter that followed was only limply enthusiastic, a far cry from the loud and asphyxiating braying that had come at the top of Happy Hour.

At this point, we’d been going strong for two hours. We were some of the last, and loudest patrons, still carousing on the floor of the soon to be closing Eatonville. A southern styled restaurant and bar on 14th street, Northwest Washington, D.C. It had offered discounted prices to all employees of the offices in the building above the establishment. My cohorts had decided to take management of the upscale bar an eatery up on that foolhardy offer and now things were finally winding down.

“Get it? Jay? I’m talking about J.J. What’d he say, “Dy-no-mite?!” Right?”

He laughed and I nodded, feigning amusement at the 40-year-old joke.

The woman in the green-dress was arm-in-arm with some squat, unattractive mole of a man. After the obligatory pleasantries – and several astonished glares his way – he, chest out and preening, introduced her hilariously as “my date” to our table of former frat boys and dumb jocks who couldn’t have cared less if she had a name or not.

“My name’s Jason,” I extended my hand and paused, my last name of sheepishly hung up in the 1970’s sitcom chow line growing in my mouth.

She smiled. For whatever reason, I felt accomplished that I had somehow amused her. “Come on Mr. Dynamite,” she said, biting her bottom lip. “Don’t be scared about what your parents did now.”

“Johnson,” I relented. “Yeah, yeah I know. J.J. and Good Times. I’ve heard it all since I was a kid.”

“Samirah Taylor,” she offered. “And don’t worry, I’ll just assume it means you’re the hardest working man in this show business.”

Suddenly, Mr. Squat jumped back in, “Oh yeah, my fault, my fault: Samirah? This is The Guys. Guys? Samirah.”

The Guys were the editorial staff of my employer, Clark Law LLC, a Washington, D.C., publishing company that produced online HR-centric print newsletters. Every third Friday, they’d gather at a bar and construct some fantastic bill as a monument to their own egos, all on the company dime.

They were all legends in the office, both for their frequent forays into debauchery, as well as for their hard-nosed approach to ‘getting the job done’. This is what kept the top brass looking the other way when the editorial department’s monthly Happy Hour tab steamrolled through accounting.

They were drunkards, but they were good at their jobs.

This was D.C., after all; this was 2008. The economic world had collapsed into pieces of dried out kindling and tender, providing fuel for the fire that was surely set to rage through what was once great about this country.

In The Guys’ eyes, now they were needed more than ever, and the brass agreed.  So if you wanted to be anyone special in the company, you had to make it through one of their whiskey-fueled Friday nights.

Silas, a square-jawed managing editor with glassy eyes and orange skin, nodded his acknowledgement of Samirah.  He just as quickly returned to his conversation about the asses of this year’s current crop of interns, “It was like two apples in her back pocket, I swear, dude. Dude. I swear. Two apples, man. I swear.”

Then there was Chris the production manager who needed glasses but refused to wear them because they made him look like his grandfather, a man none of us had ever met. Next was Brad, a sales rep who was had been up for manager so long that he had taken on the responsibilities without the accompanying pay. His defining feature, to me, was the way it seemed sadness creased lines in his face when he smiled.

Lastly, there was Mr. Squat, Lawrence, a low-level sales guy who looked as wide as he was tall. He was fidgety and anxious like a small dog and reacted to every slight and perceived insult as a Chihuahua would to loud noises.

And thus Samirah was immediately dismissed.

She was only arm candy after all. These were The Guys. It wasn’t odd for beautiful women to be in their company.

“Obama, man…he’s got to be the most weak-willed beneficiary of Affirmative Action…” “So the doctor said he’s going to have to lose the toe…” “Minor procedure my ass, they’re my balls…” “Shut the fuck up Silas, her ass ain’t that impressive…”

I found myself staring at her and wondering quietly, “why are you here?” Like, really? Why would you do this? She really didn’t have to. Simply by looking at her, anyone could tell she was above these types of shallow interactions.

It was her shoes. They were flats. It was evident that appearances only went so far with her, before they began to bristle on the borders of good common goddamn sense. She was going into the city; yes, she would look nice, but she would also be comfortable, especially if she had to leave in a hurry.

Poor Mr. Squat. He didn’t seem like the type to understand that all women have exit strategies.

“You like absinthe?” She asked, pointing to my glass I’d been nursing for the past hour and a half.

“Uh? Oh, oh yeah!” I responded, sucking air deep into my chest and tightening my gut, “It’s….uh…interesting. Yeah, oh yeah…I’ve been drinking it for years. Good stuff,” I took another sip and tried to hide my anal clench. “It’s …flowery…”

She threw her hands over her mouth, “oh my god, you look like you’re about to hurl. Should I step back?”

“To be honest, it tastes horrible. Maybe, I just don’t get it.” I leaned closer, “I only ordered it to impress the Tiger Blood Brigade here.”

I motioned to my coworkers who were in the process of giving each other a 4-man, simultaneous high five.

“Well, how about this,” she offered. “Let’s say I order one? Then we can suffer together.”

Get a hold of yourself, Jason, I thought to myself, feeling the stabbing giddiness a man only feels when he realizes that a beautiful woman ‘likes him’ likes him. She’s most likely just passing time. It makes sense. No one was paying attention to her, not even Mr. Squat. There was a lot of money at this table and a lot of important people, and I was definitely not one of them.

“So what’s your story?” She leaned back in her chair, “Who am I talking to?”

“Nah, I’m just your everyday pencil pusher…a warrior for the cubicle nation,” I said proudly, waiting for a laugh that wouldn’t come. “I’ve been with the company for five years…but I’m, you know…moving up the corporate ladder. Carpe Dentum…Seize the Teeth; onward and upward.”

This was a lie. I’d been working with the company for close to six years and had shown little of what could be called ambition. This night would be my first attempt at schmoozing my way to the top.

And why not? This was the age of Obama. How could I continue to be meaningless in an era that meant so much? There was a black man in the White House. Anything was possible now. The doors were open and their world was now ours. If I had to endure a night of inane, drunken circle-jerking, so be it. I raised my glass to The Guys, “here’s to us corporate drones. Fuck the meek, may we inherit the earth, for as long as we all shall live.”

One tree trunk-chested James Something-or-another from Oklahoma, slapped a meaty hand on my shoulder, “That’s right! That’s why you’re my boy, right? We’re gonna take over the world, grab it by its balls, right? Hang on and never let go!”

This was all very amusing to Samirah, who tried her best to hide her glee.

The waitress brought her drink and Mr. Squat immediately turned, “Oh, my fault, my fault. I’m sorry, I shoulda asked if you wanted a drink. Do you want a drink?”

Samirah stared at him blankly, "No. That’s fine. Thank you, Lawrence.” He nodded like a seal and turned away.

She shot me a glance over her glass rim, her shoulders shaking with laughter.

I immediately wanted to do something wild, like take her and run. I wanted to escape through the crowded streets where we could discuss things other than portfolios, trust funds and pension plans. The pull to do so was strong. My hands began to itch.

She alone was making the night enjoyable, if only because her inevitable exasperated explosion was sure to be just as epic as it would be orgasmic. She was going to curse someone out and damned if I wasn’t going to see it.

I twisted my wedding ring – a nervous habit. She said flatly, with resigned acceptance. “Ah, so you’re married? “Nice, where’s your wife? She should’ve come.

“My wife isn’t the social type, at least not usually. She’s more of a homebody. Besides, we’ve been experiencing some family tragedies and she, uh, wanted to kind of sit this one out.” I don’t know if she believed me. There’s no reason she should have.

Still, her face fell and she showed the courteous concern one reserves for the misfortunes of strangers. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that…was it someone close?”

I told her, “kinda.”

“Was it someone you loved?”

I told her that I had loved her dearly.

“Well, this person – this person that you lost – I’m sure they knew you loved them.”

“Yeah,” I took a deep breath and held it in like hope, then exhaled. “I hope so.”

“So,” I began, changing the subject, “you look like the type to chase danger by grabbing its tail and following it so close that it can’t bite you without turning on itself.”

“Really?” She said, smiling and leaning closer.

“Yeah, you like you grew up with scraped knees and ruddy knuckles, like you made friends with people you’d get into fistfights with; you look like you’d take your clothes off in public, simply because it was too hot to keep them on.”

She looked to the sky in contemplation, biting her lower lip.

“You look like,” I continued, “…like you’ve never apologized for anything in your life.”

“And how do you know so much about me, Mr. Dynamite?”

“Simple,” I responded. “It’s in the eyes.”

“Let’s leave,” she proposed.

Things had grown stale with our group, and I was beginning to develop this itching feeling that we were all in the middle of a western version of a Japanese Noh play.

Were these all masks; perverted and distorted versions of our inner selves, worn only to hide secretive truths? Were these guys real? Was I pretending – was this really me?

It was getting late for our little crew. Happy Hour had ended, and the party had quieted to a gurgling incoherence. Mr. Squat was staring out the window, eyes low, nodding in and out. He hadn’t spoken to Samirah once.

And so we were leaving together, the two of us. Sure, Mr. Squat and The Guys were morons, but they were successful morons – they were Washingtonians: corporate, political, and in control.

To them, I was the idiot.

I was the one that stopped at a bachelor’s degree and couldn’t get a promotion even if I had blown everyone in the front office. I was the one that married young, during my prime upwardly mobile years… I was the one who had to ask to be included in their Friday outing.

So while Mr. Squat nodded in and out of consciousness and everyone was going for their wallets, Samirah slipped off to the bathroom.

“Jason, where’d what’s her name go?” Silas asked.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, slowly sliding my empty glasses to her side. “But honey sure can drink, can’t she?”

Silas nodded thoughtfully, as most drunks do before saying something stupid. “Yeah, black girls are like that. I dated one once, she could drink like a fish, dude. No, dude, seriously. Like a fish.”

I didn’t wait for him to get started. Fishing and asses, Silas could go on for hours about either subject. I waited till he and the others were drunkenly lost in their pockets, before I stood up and slowly walked toward the bathrooms. I then doubled back around the dining area and headed toward the front door, out into the warm spring air where Samirah, and whatever, was waiting.