On the counter was ceremoniously thumped the open green bottle. A light fog drifted from the neck. We took it in fashion, throwing our heads back in a flourishing indulgence of the familiar elixir as if it contained the essence of youth. The opaque brown syrup affirmed all we believed about our place in the universe. Our self-contained eternity, our right to consume and become everything we dreamed. And to take it with us thoughtlessly into the future.
George tossed the bottle cap into the trash behind the counter. I fished in my pocket for a dime. “Don’t worry, you’re covered. Your dad’s a long time customer.” I was the only one sitting at the line of red and chrome stools, the factory lunch crowd now long gone, back at work. I took another drink, the released effervescence startling, reassuring, penetrating into my sinuses.
A year later with her husband ill and dying, his wife saw me from the curb. Leaning at the open passenger window she asked if I would go in and visit. “George would enjoy seeing you,” she said. Sitting in the car, the engine running, idling, restrained only by the closed throttle plates, I hesitated. “No ….I can’t…..right now….” I answered moving the shifter from neutral to first anxious to be away from death and obligation.