I put the cask on the counter and the clerk says nothing. I’m making punch, my anxiety says, sangria. The clerk doesn’t care, simply pronounces the price while I collate the cost. I offer thanks and get paid with a nod that haunts me out the door, down the street, and into my first glass. I can hear the ice cracking against the suburban stillness. My thirst never makes a sound. By my last I’m no longer dry and ready to drown. I nod at the walls. It’s a punch, I tell them, but you can’t see the bruise.
Even with my back turned I can feel her burn into the room. ‘What are you doing?’ she asks, a newspaper roll over a dog’s nose. I keep stirring the pot. Making Bolognese, I say. Now at my elbow, she takes the bottle from the counter and sniffs roughly at its hole. ‘No,’ brandishes it against my periphery, ‘what are you doing with this?’ Good for the body, I tell her, builds character. ‘My “94 Grange is giving this shit character?’ I lift a spoonful of the thickening red into her eye line. I don’t even think it’s trying.
The three of them draped around my lounge in various states of disrepair, two bottles of wine and three hourglass figures. I’m trying to teach them how to smoke, how to get high really, all of them failing with saccharine adolescent resilience. Sarah pulls out the Velvet Underground and holds it up like a boxing ring round girl. Maybe when you’re older, I tell her, and she pouts, puts the record back and continues not to care. The other two tangle on the couch, blowing full-stop smoke rings at each other, laughing the way rain feels in summer.