Peach Schnapps, Part 1
It was freshman year. I harbored plans of becoming a vet. And my assignment one Wednesday was drawing blood from a white Himalayan.
I was confident with the first stick of the needle, professor and TA at my side, but the cat did not offer its vein. Nor did it the second time, or the third. The owner’s plastered smile turned to honest anxiety as I stabbed her pet over and over. Red dots marred the poor thing’s fur. The exam room started spinning and I awoke at the restroom mirror. My eyes were useless and weeping. To this day, I can summon the emptiness, the claustrophobia. I had hurt an innocent thing.
The TA with the river green eyes was waiting for me in the hall. “It was just as bad as you thought,” she said, handing me a grape soda from the vending machine. “Did you vomit?”
I shook my head.
“It’s okay if you did.” She lifted a foot to scratch her opposite ankle. “You can drink that. I got it for you.”
“You don’t like it?”
“It’s not that. I’ve just never seen anybody buy this flavor.”
“I know. Doesn’t it make you feel sorry? All the other flavors get chosen and restocked. Meanwhile the same grape soda cans just sit there day after day, month after month.”
I popped the top open and sipped.
“I tend to endow objects with an inner emotional life,” she said.
“Like, a lot.”
“So, when I finish this, should we say a few words?”
A couple passed us arguing and disappeared around the corner.
“I need some fresh air,” I said.
“Do you want me to walk with you?”
“You can be honest if you’d rather be alone,” she said. “Or if I freak you out.”
“You don’t freak me out.”
“I don’t cook bunnies or stalk boys. But I also don’t bullshit and that throws some people off.”
“I don’t, either. Or, I try not to.”
“I know. You didn’t try to hide it when you started crying in there.”
“I was crying?”
We shuffled toward the exit, passing a bulletin board covered in flyers. For the hundredth time I reminded myself to promote the next time I played the coffee shop.
“I’m not sure I remember your name,” I said.
“You have to be joking.”
“Short for Catherine,” she said. “But no one calls me that besides my mother.”
She suggested a drink, forgetting I was a freshman. Since the bars in our college town were strict with ID’s, we headed for the liquor store instead.
“What do you drink?” she asked.
“I’ve only really had what my father drinks.”
“Should we get that?”
“We can get something else.”
We scoured the shelves like children might, marveling at the different labels. Finally we made a collegiate decision and selected a bottle of Peach Schnapps. I waited outside while she paid.
Everything in town was walking distance and within minutes we reached her off-campus apartment — a large room above someone’s garage. She had decorated every inch of the place with tapestries and lamps and strange thrift store furniture. It was like stepping into a Moroccan blanket fort.
She closed the door behind me. “If I’m going to live in a place, I want to live there,” she said. “I can’t stand an empty house.”
[To be continued]
This piece appears as part of a serialized fiction experiment by Nathaniel Kressen for At Large magazine. New installments are published weekly, each based around a different liquor.
Nathaniel Kressen is the author of two novels — Dahlia Cassandra (named Best of 2016 Fiction by Entropy & Luna Luna Magazine) and Concrete Fever (Bestseller, Strand Book Store) — as well as the co-founder of Second Skin Books and the leader of the Greenpoint Writers Group.