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What Whisky Will Not Cure
by Sal Difalco



Spiro came over to my place around seven that evening wearing billowy high-waisted pants and a pink silk shirt unbuttoned to the navel and stood in the kitchen with me with his hands on his hips and his chin raised. I wasted no time opening a bottle of Chivas Regal and filling two tumblers to the brim. Bottom’s up, I said, raising my glass for a toast. You have to drink it in one go, I added, tipping my glass to my mouth. Spiro followed suit, but after drinking only a third of the whisky, he paused, lowered the glass, and held his free hand to his mouth to avert retching. Indeed his chest heaved several times, but he managed to keep down the whisky, and I grant him full marks for that as on other occasions his efforts disappointed me and left me feeling friendless and alone in the world.

Pinching my nostrils, I drank my whisky down in one large draught and then a smaller one, steeling myself for the after burn. Tears sprang from my eyes and I failed to witness Spiro finish his whisky and for a moment considered the possibility that during these moments of perceptual difficulty, he had furtively drained the remaining contents of his glass in the nearby sink, a sin under any circumstances but an egregious one given my plans for the evening. I told him we still had whisky left in the bottle. He said he couldn’t and wouldn’t drink another drop but changed his tune when I made a criticism about his shirt. It’s not pink, he said, it’s salmon and any one with a life would know the difference. You’re too sportivo, my friend, I told him, too susceptible to superficial trends.

I recalled how for a time he carried around a man-purse for which he was mercilessly belittled, although in retrospect, a man-purse to carry around a cellphone and Kleenex and maybe even a little face moisturizer or lip balm isn’t the most vulgar idea. I emptied the remaining Chivas Regal into our glasses and we toasted again, our glasses Dangerously clinking. Spiro’s face already looked a little melted and I didn’t know if it was his slackening face or my eyes creating this effect. I finished the rest of my whisky, checked my watch, and grabbed my car keys from a bowl on the kitchen counter. I figured we had about fifteen minutes to get to the club before I started losing muscle control.

We need to go right now, I said. We have little time to waste. Spiro asked if I was sure I was able to drive and I told him not to be a wuss, that I drove better when I had been drinking and that I had never been a car wreck despite driving intoxicated evidenced the truth of my assertion. I’ll be good for about fourteen more minutes so get the lead out. Alright already, Spiro said. Guy can’t even let his buzz catch up to his brain. I observed Spiro was salivating profusely and told him not to puke in the car as we hurried out of my apartment with him on my heels.

We took the stairs to the underground parking lot and jumped in my Jeep. It wouldn’t start at first and I began to panic because I could feel my limbs loosening up and my mouth edging to the right of my face like that of a stroke victim. Possibly concerned I was having a stroke, Spiro told me to relax, he had this. I’m good with these things, he said and proceeded to pound the dash with veritable violence. Hey, I said, easy on the friggin dash. You’re going to bust it all up. He told me to try the ignition again. You’e kidding, I said. Try it again, he said. I did and to my surprise, the engine started. I had no idea how his punching the dash had corrected the problem and I wasn’t going to ask, I had no time for chitchat.


We drove downtown to Still Life, a trendy dance club we used to frequent when we were several years younger, several pounds lighter, and boasting full heads of hair and a sharper fashion sense. Just as I pulled into the club’s parking lot I started seeing double but didn’t panic. Spiro’s head lolled and drool dribbled from his mouth so I knew to keep an eye on him though I saw two of him.

At first the black-turtlenecked behemoths at the doors stood firm and would not let us enter even when offered generous bribes. They said we were not fit for the club and cited a list of reasons that I had difficulty countering. Look at your friend, the larger of the two doormen said. He’s tanked. He’s sloppy. And he’s wearing a pink shirt. It’s salmon, I said. The smaller - albeit still enormous - doorman stepped forward. You’re being smart, he said. No, I said, I argued with my friend earlier about the shade of his shirt and he insisted it was salmon and not pink although I fail even now to discern the difference. You talk pretty good, the smaller doorman said. His thick neck and beady eyes brought to mind a Tasmanian devil. Hey, Bobby, he said. Let these two guys in, they’re cool. The larger doorman, whose nose occupied the spot normally reserved for the left cheekbone, deferred to his mate with a snort, glaring at me dismissively as though he knew who I was and thought he had narrowed down my peccadilloes and understood my nature more than I understood it myself. In another life I would have chopped him in the Adam’s apple and kicked him in the nuts and then stomped his head to a pulp.

I zigzagged into the flickering, booming club. Spiro held onto my sleeve, his eyes lidded, lips wet, tongue jabbing in and out of his mouth like a salamander. The swirling lights and techno beat quickly made me so vertiginous I had to lean against a wall. Statuesque women stood around the dance floor or languidly danced in pairs and trios, not quite knowing what to do with their unnaturally long and willowy arms. Young men with glistening coifs and sparse facial hair also stood around, many amassing near pillars and walls, eyes glazed, mouths half open.


Spiro abruptly tore away from me and headed for the washrooms clutching his stomach and groaning like a wounded beast or a perforated bagpipe bellows. A waitress in red plaid with enormous bosoms and wide-gapped eyes approached me and asked what I wanted to drink and that she couldn’t bring me just water because management frowned on it so I’d have to order at least one drink. At the second mention of the word drink the entire club began to spin and the waitress whirled before me like a voluptuous fish-eyed dervish. I excused myself and dashed off to the washroom, knocking into other patrons and pillars, drooling, my stomach convulsing, a cold sweat bursting on my forehead. Spiro occupied a stall, as I discerned from the soles of his shoes - visible under the stall door, one of the heels boasting blackened chewing gum - and the distinctive timbre of his retching. Spiro, I said, Spiro. Are you okay? Tell me you’re okay, man, tell me. I heard him gurgling and puling and my mouth began to water and my diaphragm spasmed.

The idea of vomiting in a public washroom disagreed with me, emotionally and psychologically, the ramifications too shattering to dwell upon or enunciate, but then again I had lost the freedom of choice at that moment and unconsciously sought out an empty stall and a cool and comforting toilet bowl, only to find one plugged up by wads of toilet paper, urine, and feces. Without bending down, I retched and retched and retched until I had exorcised myself of the Scottish demon.

People who drink Scotch pretend to be refined, particularly those veiny-nosed stuffed shirts who fancy peaty single malts and while away the afternoons in velvet-and-brass men’s clubs talking about the stock market and their mistresses. I have never pretended to be refined, primarily because I intuited that in time I would be unmasked as a fraud and humiliated by someone who resembled Philip Seymour Hoffman, rest his soul. And my judgment of Scotch drinkers is based solely on cursory observation and the full force of my imagination, for which I cannot be faulted as the possession of an imagination is what defines us as human. Show me a gorilla who can imagine himself on the moon or tell a story about his childhood and I will slow clap and celebrate the wonderful mysteries of nature, the kinship we share with the great apes, and the ephemeral quality of life in general, but that is another story.

For this one I’ve stuck to the facts and have enumerated them as accurately and truthfully as I am able, notwithstanding natural and for the most part unconscious biases which I can’t suppress or control. I quickly moved to the taps and washed my face with cold water and tried my best to wipe the vomit off my trousers with paper towels which only made more of a disgusting mess of them. Spiro continued his violent expurgations and for a brief moment I felt enormous sympathy for him and for myself and for the entire world and all the people in it, all the pathetic, vice-filled, and stupid people. To think we were hurtling through the Milky Way at enormous speeds and carrying on with this silliness without feeling fear and without giving any of this enormity and complexity a second thought. That said, we are not brave, we are not heroes. In the car, when a lugubrious and hair-plastered Spiro leaned very close to me wheezing his whisky-and-vomit breath and asked me if I was fit to drive, I burst out laughing. I laughed and laughed until my abdominal muscles ached and my jaw muscles cramped. An interminable moment of silence passed. I could hear Spiro breathing from his mouth. I turned to him. He stared out the windshield with his mouth open and his eyes closed. Remember that time we polished off that bottle of Chivas Regal, I said, and drove down to Still Life and puked our guts out in the washroom? Do you remember that, Spiro? Do you? Good times, eh? Good fucking times.




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