[This story is an experience in my life, written in the third person.]
As she walked through the doorway in her sequined black evening dress, she felt a pinch on her behind and saw a smile on the face of the man who would later be identified as Joan’s father, a physician. Among the numerous people in the livingroom, who were considerably older than she, she could see the lady with the ruffle around her neck, who would later be identified as Joan’s mother. She sat their primly and sipped her white wine. Joan, a brilliant and diverse person, was the mixture of these two persons. Joan, who like the others at her New Year’s party, was substantially older than she. She was just 19, just married to her husband working on his Ph. D. in City Planning. She hadn’t even drinken more than an occasional white wine at parties. Of the party, she was no doubt the youngest and the only underage drinker of the lot.
Joan came and saw that she and her husband were seated on one sofa. The party continued to swell around them. She could hear Joan’s mother and a few others talking of their birding during the spring and how they planned an early start that coming spring. Then someone, whom she thought was Joan’s fiance, came to her and asked, “What would you like to drink?
“What would you suggest?”
“Why not try a Manhattan?”
He was back in a few minutes with the drink for her. She sipped it and it kind of burned her tongue but it tasted good and she drank some more. She sat in her sleeveless knit black dress with the sequined roses on the bodice, feeling terribly proud of herself—proud to be considered an adult among these fine University people and proud to be the new wife of the remarkable Ph. D. Candidate who was her husband. She took another sip of the drink Her husband was busy talking with someone sitting beside him. Somebody had turned some jazz on. She leaned back and talked to someone on the other side. She talked about working with Joan in the Library, about all the books she was reading on her own, since she was not formally admitted as a student in the University.
Then someone came by and asked her what she was drinking. She told him. There in a few minutes was another one of them, and she had only finished ¾ of the first one. The music played on. She continued chattering about the books she had been reading—English literature, French literature, Russian literature, Classic studies. . . Joan came by occasionally to ask how things were going and asked what she was drinking. She told her. Soon afterward, there was another Manhattan awaiting her.
The music continued. The chatter continued. Joan’s Dad was laughing in a corner with a beautiful woman. Joan’s Mother was sitting amid her ruffle looking like a perfect Elizabethan. She watched her husband, reaching to talk in his white turtleneck and lean trousers to another person. Then someone came to her and asked again what she was drinking. Again she told him and there was another one sitting by the half emptied one.
This went on all evening. As she drank each Manhattan, they tasted even better. The world seemed to buzz and dance and the music floated throughout the apartment. Again and again she was asked what she was drinking and again and again there appeared another one. She had a Serbian cast-iron stomach, she told herself. She could drink anyone under the table. Of that she was certain. She could drink another and another Manhattan without a problem. No one stopped her. Her husband was too busy talking to even observe how many she had been putting away. She drank the one in her hand and then the next one that appeared behind it. The music wavered. The people buzzed on.
Somehow it was time to leave. Joan’s Father offered to drive the couple, who did not have a car, home in his new Cadillac. As she got up and came near him at the door, he smiled at her and she smiled back. Her husband took her hand, but it was not necessary. She walked gracefully down the stairs, out into the snow, towards the Cadillac, without even slipping on the ice. Joan’s Father drove them to the other end of the City, about four blocks from the edge of the University, to their apartment.
They thanked him for the drive and she climbed the steps, opened the door, and went straight to the refrigerator where she took the gallon of cold water out and drank at least half of it. Then she undressed and they went to bed without a problem, without a hangover, and she woke up to a wonderful New Year.
By Karan Henley Haugh, Ph. D.
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