Johnnie Walker Blue, Part 2
[Continued from last week…]
Bit by bit, we eroded the level of whiskey. We laid siege to the kitchen pantry — foregoing my future mother-in-law’s rice crackers in favor of Kitty’s doomsday supply of sugar cereal. Still left wanting, we nuked burritos.
By the time Kitty came home, we were both a little looped. “Hi guys,” she said, hovering by the door. “Having a good time?”
“This boy ‘d make a great first husband,” Doug declared, attempting to clap my shoulder but missing.
“And he’d make a great first father,” I replied, trying to rise out of my chair. When, at last, I reached her, her kiss held all the tenderness of a George Harrison ballad.
“I’m glad to see you’re getting along,” she said.
“He’s terrible,” called her father. “Just awful. I don’t know what you see in him beyond his boyish looks and ability to put sounds together.” At that moment, the grandfather clocks announced the hour, motivating Doug and I to cheer loudly.
Kitty drew me aside, “I have never seen my father this drunk.”
“We’re not drunk,” I said. “Are you drunk, Doug?”
“Fit as a fiddle,” he said, eying the moon as though ready to punch it.
“I hate to do this,” said Kitty, “but they need me back first thing in the morning.”
“Outrageous,” said her father. “To think we entrust the lives of our furry companions to such cruel, merciless hands…”
“Maybe we should all go to bed,” she said.
“But we’re having fun,” I said, reclaiming my seat. “We haven’t even got to Abbey Road yet.”
“Abbey Road!” cried Doug to the trees.
“Shhh,” Kitty said. “Neighbors.”
“Bah,” said her father. “Puritans and leeches.”
“Did he show you where my room is?” she asked. I said yes, and her father mumbled something about his little girl, gone forever. “Watch him,” she told me.
“Hey,” I called as she reached the door, then proceeded to serenade her with “Purple Rain” at top volume. Her father joined in, and it was only after six minutes’ cacophony that we realized she’d left. “I love your daughter,” I told him. “She is so out of my league.”
“I agree,” he said, sending us both into side-stitching laughter.
When a boy’s father fails him, he is forever seeking substitutes. Gleefully drunk as I was, catching signs of a shared humor, a shared heart, it took great effort not to ask him whether we might play catch in the yard.
“She mentioned your proposal,” he said, once we’d caught our breath.
“Which one?” I asked. “At this point, I propose every time I see her.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, where do you stand on children?”
“Typically, 2 or 3 feet taller.”
He smirked. “Bad jokes your way of winning me over?”
“Will it work?”
“For the hand of my only daughter? Not the worst idea.”
“No, but seriously,” I said, leaning forward, “jokes aside, I want you to know that —”
“Stop you right there,” he said. “No one’s told Kitty what to do since she was four years old. If you two are in love, consider this bottle my blessing.”
The night swelled and contracted around us.
“But I would like some grandchildren running around this place.” With a wave, he retracted his statement. “You’re young. Just don’t keep an old man waiting too long.”
I nursed my glass, sober and high, wondering if Kitty’s family could see shooting stars on a clear night.
“That was your cue,” Doug said, prodding me.
“No, right,” I replied. “You’re really not that old.”
“Play your guitar,” he laughed, before stretching to clink my glass. I located the riff for “Come Together,” he clapped my leg. “You’re a good boy.”
For a while, we let the music settle, thoughts and words swimming the air. “Well,” I said, at last, “I understand why my dad drinks now.”
Doug leaned forward to top us off, splashing some on the ground. I steadied his hand. He let me take the bottle, and, smiling, reclined back in his chair.
“You’d like him. He’s into every kind of music you can imagine. Rock, blues, jazz. International. Country. He turned me onto Willie Nelson when I was ten years old, and that was it for me.” I corked the bottle. “Not bad, for an on-again, off-again mechanic.” I drank from my glass, eying the budding grass below Doug’s slippers, trying to ask aloud the question that’d been nipping at me. Instead, I said, “I haven’t been back to visit in awhile.”
“Go,” he said, with kindness. “Fathers always want their children home.”
“He was more into being my friend than being my dad.”
As the wind picked up and the nightbird sang, Doug drifted off in front of me.
I continued to toy with a half song here, a half song there. I stumbled into the kitchen and drank several glasses of water in succession. Brought back a blanket from the couch and laid it over him. Kitty’s mother came home, took one look at us, and disappeared upstairs.
What do you do when your home doesn’t feel like home anymore?
In time, the clouds parted and the moon shone, calling all werewolves. I lasted long enough to see the darkness take its final bow, ushering in the light.
Despite my sopping hair and tangible cloud of desperation, Kitty and her father fail to notice me by the restaurant’s entrance. The hostess approaches from the kitchen, all smiles and nods. I drop my eyes and exit.
The rain’s found its temper now. My clothes turn a darker shade and press limp and cold against my skin. I shuffle back toward the avenue. I pass one subway entrance, then another, spilling into Times Square. In the glittering lights, people rush from one nothing to another, seeking substance, seeking home, seeking magic. Life moves with ruthless precision.