The sixth anniversary of my wife's death is coming up soon, so in honor and remembrance, I would like to share with you a chapter from my memoir, TALES OF INSOMNIA DESPAIR & THE PERFECT COCKTAIL, as well as the cocktail that came from those words...
There is a pain that endures like memory. It is born from something that has no past, and it forever colors the lives of those lucky (or unlucky) enough to survive. An accident. Cancer. Death. These things come out of nowhere, lurking in the shadows, in the dark corners waiting to pounce and devour. Some of us ignore it completely and we bend our heads perpetually towards the light, while others, the unfortunate ones who’ve stumbled into this black place, feel the touch of it, its grip. Like in The Matrix, when Neo touches the mirror and instantly his skin becomes something else before his eyes, a kind of malevolent metal virus that will destroy him if he doesn’t wrest himself free. And this is what we try to do with pain. Reject it, deny it, get in the car and step on the gas, full speed in the opposite direction! (But every time we look in the rearview, it’s still there.) So what happens if we don’t flee from it, if we stay put and let it come? It becomes us. Imagine winning the lottery. From that moment on, that ticket represents everything good the future suddenly holds. With death, however, the moment holds a future that’s antipodal, on the other side of the earth furthest from the sun. The pain becomes us. We breathe it. We see it everywhere. And when we look in the mirror, like Neo we see that we’ve been transformed. I see Michelle now across infinite space, yet her eyes look out from the past. The night she died, I didn’t sleep at all, and I spoke to her in my mind, I talked to her, beseeched her, begged her for an answer as to why. Why? But all I was left with was myself, and the pain that had become everything. And perhaps that’s where the answer lies.
Not a month after Michelle died, someone, a casual acquaintance, asked me if I were over it yet, and then she told me that I have to be strong, that Michelle would want that. Too sad to punch her in the face, I let out a few deep breaths and retreated into the pain, like this humming vortex that enveloped me. And perhaps her reaction wasn’t as awful as it seems, as it said more about her and others in general, about how pain on the personal level is terrifying, and in many people’s minds, contagious. “You have to be strong now because I don’t want to be infected by you.” So it becomes the loneliest thing in the world, this absurd, macabre replacement for what you’ve lost. A month before, my life was just fine, but now Michelle had become this black swirling cloud, this void of mortality we’ve dreaded since childhood when we first realized we aren’t forever. And like I said in the opening chapter, to repudiate denial is to embrace the sadness, but to do this is to let go into pain, and this is uncharted territory, the terra incognita. All my life, no matter how bad things got, even the death of my parents, I believed that someday things would get better. Until that day I waited for 45 minutes as the EMTs worked on Michelle, trying to save her. Sometimes there is nothing but bad and it keeps going. Good doesn’t appear and make it better. And what then? How to go on and rejoin the living? One of the brutal ironies for the one left behind is that the rest of the world seems to go on as usual. We are the ones who see it differently, who no longer fit in, who are cast into this bleak, lonely shadowland. What I found was to be distracted—for a day, an hour, a moment—is to be out of the pain. The cocktails of course, but also to be around other people; the gym, strangers at the coffee shop, friends, anything to get me out of myself. And of course that sometimes wonderful, sometimes abysmal human occupation called dating.
WHEN EYES MEET ACROSS
1 part Absolut Pears Vodka
1 part Absolut Hibiskus Vodka
½ part St. Germain
½ part Malibu Caribbean Rum with Mango Liqueur
splash of Cointreau
2 parts Pineapple juice (Dole brand)
½ part fresh-squeezed Lime juice
dash of Hella Bitters Orange bitters
Shake everything over ice then strain into a chilled
cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.