My Life On Rye: Tres Mujeres

Written by
Nathaniel Kressen

Tres Mujeres Extra Añejo Tequila, Part 2

[Continued from last week]



The hostess returns with a tray of glasses and presents Conor with the bottle. His accent wins big smiles — as do his watch, his suit, and the dozen or so other details that promise a big tip. I focus on the bottle rather than their banter. It’s short, wide, a sensual shade of red. I ask how many years qualifies a tequila as Extra Añejo but our hostess is busy showing off her tongue ring.

She joins us in a first round before resuming her post. The tequila’s smooth enough, but carries flavor notes of anise that overwhelm damned near everything else, I’m left wondering if I haven’t just tasted a spirit from an altogether different family.

Conor reads my face. “Out with it like,” he says, “before I force yeh to play poker for big money.”

“It’s alright,” I say. “It’s good.”

“Not what yer mug’s saying.”

“Doesn’t this taste like absinthe, to you, more than tequila?”

“Lodge a complaint with the hostess?”

I pivot and pivot and pivot my glass. “I guess I’m tired of drinking liquor that’s supposed to taste one way and turns out to be something completely different.”

“Beauty of you,” he says. “Scoop in your hand, work done for the day, and yer still not satisfied.” His expression hovers between amusement and something else. “Winchester get you sorted?”

“I have time before I have to respond.”

“That a no, then?”

I hold a sip behind my teeth before swallowing. “He wants me to go after everything. Her business. The apartment. Our savings.”

“And what do you want?”

“I’m angry,” I say. “Maybe not that angry.”

He gazes for a considerable time at the hostess. “Massive ride,” he says. “How far d’yeh think her ink goes?”

“Is your wife not expecting you home?” I ask, before I can stop myself.

His eyes pan back. “Won’t fault me a bit of fun.”

“Sounds like an understanding woman.”

“Make a difference, Yer Honor, if I told yeh she hasn’t touched me better part of a year?”

“Jesus,” I say. “I’m sorry I said that.”

“No matter.” He downs half his glass. “Get along fine. Love our son. Nevermind the height of Catholic hypocrisy, ask me. Meet someone who’s hitched, marry ‘em yerself, then play pious when they stay the same person.”

A pair of men stride past us.

“She’s free to see anyone she likes, understand, but she won’t.” Conor sniffs the mouth of his glass. “Goddamn absinthe, yer right. Nose of a bloodhound, you.” He downs the half remaining, looks off. “Case could be made, suppose, that I’m sound in lovin’ but arseways in love.”

“We don’t have to talk about it,” I say, “if you don’t want.”

“Yer me shiny new toy!” he cries, lighting up. “Morris 2.0! Long as yeh don’t fuck up, I’ll tell yeh anything yer heart desires.” He leans in. “What I’m looking for, understand, is you to open up. Got legions but yeh don’t share. Before long, be swallowed.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” I say, knot in my throat.

“Trust, Champion. Nothing yer feelin’ I haven’t felt. Quite literally, paying for yer time.”

I shift an unused fork on the table. “I guess I’m still mixed up about how it all ended.”

“Unmix yerself. No going back.”

“I know that, just…” Take a breath. Let it out long and slow. “She was the one.”

“What’s dead is dead and yer marriage is a feckin’ charnel house,” says Conor. “One’s out there, not in yer past. Youth and health on yer side. Mind and yer goddamn looks. If I swung that way, understand?”

I break into a laugh. “Thanks, I guess.”

“Serious. Don’t lie unless I be getting something out of it.” He sits back, studies me. “Cop on. Must have prospects, do.”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, aye! Trust!”

Here goes nothing. “This might sound weird,” I say, “but for the past couple weeks, I find myself getting drawn into eye contact with these women…”


I nod, then shrug. “I catch them staring at me. On the subway, or passing on the sidewalk. We fall into this unspoken tug of war for whatever time we have together. Something in between ‘You’re hot’ and ‘I don’t need you.’”

“Then, what?”

“Then, nothing. We go our separate ways.”

“Aye,” he says. “Know the situation.”

“You do?”

“Means yer part of the problem. Registered member of the goddamn patriarchy. Let the poor ladies alone, would yeh?” He glances again toward the hostess. “Can’t be the case, yeh’ve got nothing but train folk.”

“There is somebody,” I say. “She actually bartends a block away.”

“What are yeh doing here like?! Go fetch her. Bottle needs drinking.”

“We went out. I told her I wasn’t ready.”

“Unmix yerself, Champion.” He uncorks the bottle and tops off my glass. “Unmix yerself.”

He fills his own glass to the brim. We knock the tabletop and swallow it down — shooting now, not savoring.

“Mmm,” he says, donning the furrowed brow I’ve only seen in meetings, “about yer workload…”

I hold my breath, wondering if he’s about to pitch in.

“There’s a young feller, yer old team. With the ‘do.” He mimes a coif inches above his head, sending my stomach into a full-on clench. “Whaddaya call that kind?”

“You’re not talking about the kid with the pompadour?” I ask, struggling to find my voice.

“Aye! Class. Pompadour.” He shakes his head, all smiles. “Last century’s leavings, am I right?”

“What about him?”

“Could make a grand deputy’s deputy.” He refills our glasses, I stare through the spirit spilling over. “Schedule a chat like. See if he’s all his da says.”



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. As one-half of the wife-and-husband creative team Grackle + Pigeon, he’s publishing the gift book Blanket Fort: Growing Up Is Optional (William Morrow) this fall — the definitive how-to guide for anyone looking to build a little magic into their realism.