The Scotch is gone

The Scotch is gone.

This is not a sur­prise. The ulti­mate deple­tion of the finite amount of this spir­it in my pos­ses­sion was an even­tu­al­i­ty that I could not help but see com­ing. Sim­ple physics, or maybe just com­mon sense. The mere fact that it last­ed as long as it did is a source of con­tin­ued increduli­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly to the bestow­er of that long-enjoyed fifth of Glen­livet. When I received that most-wel­come gift almost exact­ly one year ago, I myself lit­tle thought that the final sips would be so far off, or that they would find me in such changed cir­cum­stances. In a way the con­tents of that green bot­tle have been my com­pan­ion through­out this tumul­tuous past year, and it is as though a depend­able friend has left my life, missed and remem­bered fond­ly.

Even after the exten­sive edu­ca­tion in the world of spir­its that formed a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of my col­lege sem­i­nary expe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the last half of my career there, Scotch remained an unknown to me. I did have one mem­o­rably bad night in my last semes­ter which fea­tured sev­er­al tall glass­es of John­ny Walk­er Black Label mixed with Sprite, which I found delec­table at the time, but now seems juve­nile at best, at worst just plain wrong. It was my one and only encounter with Scotch dur­ing col­lege, and — quite pos­si­bly due to the undig­ni­fied and embar­rass­ing end to that par­tic­u­lar evening — remained so for years after. (It did, how­ev­er, trans­late into one of my favorite post-col­lege unwind­ing drinks: Mak­ers Mark and Sprite, on the rocks in a tall glass.)

In fact, my next encounter with Scotch did not come until just over a year ago now, in the fall of 2004. Fol­low­ing a play with friends in Mil­wau­kee, I was feel­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly urbane, and when we stepped up to the dim­ly lit bar at the the­atre, I smooth­ly ordered what I felt would match my mood; “a dou­ble of John­ny Walk­er Black, neat.” At the first sip it was clear that I had stepped out of my league, but I sol­diered on, sip after care­ful sip, and felt like I had real­ly achieved some­thing by the time my glass was emp­ty.

Of course, even­tu­al­ly my exper­tise as a drinker of Scotch and my unas­sail­able prowess as a faux pas artist were bound to coin­cide. In dis­cussing a colleague’s taste in bev­er­ages with one of my cowork­ers at the book­store, I opined that he didn’t go in for “man­ly drinks.” My interlocutor’s eye­brows ascend­ed, and with a tone that was the vocal equiv­a­lent of a “Thin Ice” plac­ard she asked me what I con­sid­ered a “man­ly drink.” Flus­tered, I grasped at what I thought was a safe answer: “You know, like Scotch,” I replied as glibly as I could.

The eye­brows came back down. “I drink Scotch,” she informed me. “What are you say­ing?” After mak­ing me dance a bit longer to prove what a fool I was (and am), she took pity on me, and gave me some point­ers and opin­ions on the bev­er­age she enjoyed so much.

So I was not all that sur­prised, but very touched, when, on my first day back to work fol­low­ing the birth of my son, she gift­ed me with a beau­ti­ful bot­tle of Glen­livet. Lit­tle did either of us guess how long that gift would last.

This past year was a bleak one for me and my wife; finan­cial secu­ri­ty was a dis­tant dream in our more opti­mistic moments, and gro­cery mon­ey was hard to squeeze from my inad­e­quate salary. Ameni­ties like spir­its were beyond out of the ques­tion. So the Glen­livet became a spe­cial treat, a lit­tle snort in the evening after a rough day at the book­store. Then, grow­ing com­fort­able with the stuff, I began to fill my flask with Scotch, and found that two or three small pulls on the hour-long walk home from work served as a won­der­ful appetite sup­pres­sant, as well as buoy­ing up my flag­ging spir­it. The burn­ing fin­gers reach­ing down my chest helped me for­get the tiny lunch — or per­haps no lunch at all — that had tried to sus­tain me through my work day. It was nev­er immod­er­ate, but it was always just what I need­ed to keep putting one foot in front of the oth­er.

Of course, things even­tu­al­ly got bet­ter: I got a new job, and our lit­tle fam­i­ly is now mak­ing strides to clam­ber up out of the pit dug by my fis­cal irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty. The evening sip from the flask has grown rare indeed, no longer a prop to the des­per­ate but a true lux­u­ry as it was intend­ed.

It would be hyper­bole (which I abhor) to sug­gest that I could not have made it through this past year had it not been for that unlooked-for bot­tle of Glen­livet. I dare­say God played no small part in uphold­ing me as well. But I will always be grate­ful for the full flask on my long weary walks, the fire in my bel­ly that helped me for­get the gnaw­ing there. To my friend, bene­fac­tor, and now fel­low Scotch lover, know this: with that final burn­ing sip, I drank to you.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: