I. New Amsterdam
Tom liked to drink bottles of cheap vodka. His lips paralleled the liquid: bitter. Defying the odds, he was interested in, of all the people in that frigid city, me. Being newly eighteen and fresh out of a long term relationship, I relished our cheap vodka encounters, the kind that were lovely and exciting in the moment but left you with a reeling hangover the morning after. In truth, my nights with Tom were often filled with affection that only extended as far as our intoxication–a concept that I was perfectly fine with. We were in a weekend cycle; I would make it to his apartment (he always left the door unlocked), stay the night, and leave before breakfast. So when I went to kiss him one night, to taste the oh so familiar vodka on his lips, and found the flavor of a fine Italian wine instead, I panicked. I leaned in to kiss him again, to see if maybe my tongue had tricked me, but he pulled his head away. “No,” he said, kissing my forehead. “Just lay here with me, it’s been a long day.” I nodded. When Tom fell asleep that night, I pried off his arm from around my waist and left. The door locked behind me.
II. Stella Artois
When I met Sam, I knew instantly that he didn’t drink cheap vodka. No, he always smelled of cigarette smoke and mediocre beer. A beer before class, three beers before dinner, and the whole damn case before a party. Sam was bubbly, the perfect extroverted personality that captured the entire room’s attention. He didn’t give a shit about anything and exuded with confidence over everything whether it was kissing me in public, pulling me onto his lap at parties, going on small daytime coffeehouse dates ripe with small talk of his prep school days. But the more of Sam I ingested, the dryer, more unsatisfying he became. We were the same in that way–always convinced that just one more sip would make us feel something. And although he was the epitome of fun, our time of stumbling home at four in the morning together, hands everywhere, with a t-shirt tossed over the sole lamp turned sour; it made me sick to my stomach. Because looking into his perpetually glazed eyes, I quickly realized that I never did like the taste of beer to begin with.
Daniel however preferred shots of the strongest tequila. He had hands that burned to the touch, but it was enthralling. His hands would scorch my waist, my neck, my cheeks–hotter than any day at the beach that we attended. Even on the coldest summer nights, his body would radiate heat like a lakeside bonfire. But Daniel’s temper was more fiery than his skin. After one shot, he spoke of false promises and high expectations that made me want to fall in love with him. With the third shot, he spoke of future days that were all-consuming. After the fifth shot he spoke quickly, vehemently, every word sharp and each syllable laced with spite. Eyes watering, I would retreat under the covers and wait for the morning sun to bring his apologies. Eventually the “I’m sorry”’s stopped coming. When he reached out to stroke my hair from my face on a humid August day, his hand felt frozen.
IV. Knob Creek
But Neil likes to watch me drink a glass of my favorite bourbon. He has a voice that is rich like mahogany and turns the wheel of his pickup with the some of the smoothest motions I’ve ever seen. Warm and inviting, his honey colored eyes will beckon me to sit beside him next to the fireplace where I laugh at scrapbooks of his youth. It is atop the hayloft in his red oak barn where he asks me to play songs from my phone and then brandishes his chestnut-washed acoustic guitar, scarred from years of performing. Whereas I listen to the crooning of obscure songwriters, Neil enjoys classic rock, an old soul at heart. I watch him envision sheet music in his head from my overstuffed armchair, occasionally taking a small sip from my glass. As his fingers pluck chords effortlessly, the corners of his mouth turn up ever so slightly when he catches me singing along. Though the hours pass blissfully with music and conversation, the glass resting on the floor beside him perpetually remains full.
About the Author: Riley Simmons is currently an undergraduate student at Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. She is studying writing, editing, and publishing with hopes of making a name for herself in that field. When she's not writing or reading, you can find her drinking coffee and avoiding her responsibilities.