A Love Letter to WhiskeyBy: Kandi Steiner
IT’S CRAZY HOW FAST the buzz comes back after you’ve been sober for so long.
I opened my door and felt tipsy just at the sight of him, eyes blurring and legs shaking. It used to take me at least a shot to get to this point, but my tolerance level had been weakened by distance and time, and just seeing him warmed my blood. I gripped the knob tighter, as if that’d help, but it was like trying to chug water after passing the point of no return.
Whiskey stood there, on my doorstep, just like he had one year before. Except this time, there was no rain, no anger, no wedding invitation — it was just us.
It was just him — the old friend, the easy smile, the twisted solace wrapped in a glittering bottle.
It was just me — the alcoholic, pretending like I didn’t want to taste him, realizing too quickly that months of being clean didn’t make me crave him any less.
But we can’t start here.
No, to tell this story right, we need to go back.
Back to the beginning.
Back to the very first drop.
THE FIRST TIME I TASTED Whiskey, I fell flat on my face.
I was drunk from the very first sip, and I guess that should have been my sign to stay away.
Jenna and I were running the trail around the lake near her house, sweat dripping into our eyes from the intense South Florida heat. It was early September, but in South Florida, it might as well have been July. There was no “boots and scarves” season, unless you counted the approximately six weeks in January and February where the temperature dropped below eighty degrees.
As it was, we were battling ninety-plus degrees, me trying to be a show off and prove I could keep up with Jenna’s cheerleading training program. She had finally made the varsity squad, and with that privilege came ridiculous standards she had to uphold. I hated running — absolutely loathed it. I would much rather have been on my surfboard that day. But fortunately for Jenna, she had a competitive best friend who never turned down a challenge. So when she asked me to train with her, I’d agreed eagerly, even knowing I’d have screaming ribs and calves by the end of the day.
I saw him first.
I was just a few steps ahead of Jenna, and I’d been staring down at my hot pink sneakers as they hit the concrete. When I looked up, he was about fifty feet away, and even from that distance I could tell I was in trouble. He seemed sort of average at first — brown hair, lean build, soaked white running shirt — but the closer he got, the more I realized just how edible he was. I noticed the shift in the muscles of his legs as he ran, the way his hair bounced slightly, how he pressed his lips together in concentration as he neared us.
I looked over my shoulder, attempting to waggle my eyebrows at Jenna and give her the secret best friend code for “hot guy up ahead,” but she had stopped to tie her shoes. And when I turned back around, it was too late.
I smacked into him — hard — and fell to the pavement, rolling a bit to soften the fall. He cursed and I groaned, more from embarrassment than pain. I wish I could say I gracefully picked myself up, smiled radiantly, and asked him for his number, but the truth is I lost the ability to do anything the minute I looked up at him.
It was an unfamiliar, warm ache that spread through my chest as I used my hand to shield the sun streaming in behind his silhouette, just how you’d expect the first sip of whiskey to feel. He was bent over, hand outstretched, saying something that wasn’t registering because I had somehow managed to slip my hand into his and just that one touch had set my skin on fire.
Handsome wasn’t the right word to describe him, but it was all I kept thinking as I traced his features. His hair was a sort of mocha color, damp at the roots, falling onto his forehead just slightly. His eyes were wide — almost too round — and a mixture of gold, green, and the deepest brown. I didn’t coin the nickname Whiskey until much later, but it was that moment that I saw it for the first time — those were whiskey eyes. The kind of eyes you get lost in. The kind that drink you in. He had the longest lashes and a firm, square jaw. It was so hard, the edges so clean that I would have sworn he was angry with me if it weren’t for the smile on his face. He was still talking as my eyes fell over his broad chest before snapping back up to his sideways grin.