Then, the last thing I do—despite knowing it may cause us to be late—is something I have not done in a long while, but I tell myself that at this point, she may need it. I sure do.
So I mix a drink for both of us, and not just any old drink: it is the one Natasha loves, the one that used to remind her to loosen up around me and be ready for some excitement. And it is the one that makes me feel naughty. Even after all these years of knowing her I still feel as if I were just about to corrupt the innocent.
There is a slight tremor in my hands, which I must overcome, for her sake and mine. Oh, let me live in the moment! Let everything else fade away. Let all my worries disappear—until later, until I can no longer avoid surrendering to them. This, right here, is our old ritual, and it has never failed us before. This instant is for us.
From the kitchen cupboard I take out a small saucer, which I fill with coarse salt, and two highball glasses. I slice a wedge of lime and place it into her fingers, expecting her to do her part, which is to moisten the rim. But when Natasha glances at me, a bit startled, I cup her fingers in mine and somehow, we do it together.
Then I dab the moist rim into the salt while carefully turning the glass, so that only the outer edge of it is covered with little crystals. She chuckles as I shake off the excess ones.
“What’s so funny?” I ask, as I squeeze fresh grapefruit juice and pour it into the two salt-rimmed glasses.
She shrugs, which I take to mean, oh, I don’t know. Nothing.
I finish off the cocktail with just a little splash of gin. Even a hint of it would make her tipsy.
“Ready?” I ask her.
From her seat she looks up at me, as if to ask, what do you mean, ready? For what?
“For your Salty Dog, what else,” I say, almost expecting her to recall the name of this concoction, almost surprised that she doesn’t. Once again my hand trembles. I do my best to control it, while setting the filled glass on the table before her.
“Salty Dog?” She echoes, licking the rim of her glass, rotating it so as to sip all the way around it, aiming to get all the grains of crunchy, crushed salt, flavored by the citrusy liquid.
I lean over, craving to be hugged—but she does not respond, and the only thing that wraps around me is loneliness.
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"The writing of this intense story of love and heartbreak is what makes it a classic. You'll go through the wringer with this one, but you'll never forget it."
~J.A. Schneider, author