I first remember meeting her when I was three.
That night, she toyed with me, teased me until I reached out and grabbed her and took that first kiss while Pops was distracted. It made me choke and my eyes water. Pops laughed at me when he saw my reaction. He knew she was way too sophisticated and mature for me at the time, but I knew we’d be together again and again, until again became for the rest of my life.
Through the years, I would steal smooches with her here and there and just about everywhere, at neighborhood cookouts, camping trips, holiday parties and plain ol’ get-togethers. She always teased me with her promise of paradise and euphoria, her taste lingering on my lips and leaving me thirsty for our next encounter. Pops would always smile and wink sideways when we stole a few smooches behind his back. He knew she was a sweetheart and meant no harm.
I fell in love with her behind the clubhouse Pops built in the backyard when I was 12. I looked deep into her soul before that first, long, dizzying kiss as the sun sank in the west. She had been warmed by that same sun and that kiss sent an equally warm, purring vibration through my guts.
When I was fifteen, we went “all the way” and it was a night I’ll never forget. Lounging in the grass at the park after the last day of school in ninth grade. Pure bliss, plain and simple.
Things got serious after that. We’d see each other every weekend and sometimes during the week and her embrace was always warm and welcoming. Her kiss became sweeter each time we met.
Love was always in the air when we met, and would for many days to come as I got older.
And she never gets jealous. I’ve dated some real nutjobs through the years and nearly married one several years back, but she never left my side.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when we’ve had a tiff here and there. She slapped me silly one night in 11th grade to the point where I was unceremoniously poured through the front door at my mother’s feet by four high school chums. Although I had a half-dollar-size scab on my left temple and bruises all over the next morning, Mom didn’t insist I stop seeing her.
There was even a time when I thought I didn’t need her and I stopped seeing her for a while. When I was 21 and just out of the military, my best friend from childhood died. I decided she and I should cool it for a while because my head wasn’t in the right place after losing my pal.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
After a month or so of ignoring her calls and spending a lot of time in depressive solitude, some friends took me out for a night on the town at Mom’s behest.
She was there, waiting for me at the bar. Her kiss was more passionate than ever and I knew I could never leave her.
She was there when I went into the hospital for a week when I was 24. A friend had to sneak her in, because the nurses frowned upon her presence, but her kiss reminded me that she would be there when I got home.
And when I did get released from the hospital, her warm embrace told me home would be wherever she was.
By now, if you’re not hip to the juice, I’m sure you’re wondering what the name of this wonderful, faithful and beautiful companion is. Well, I’ll tell you straight, brother — she goes by a lot of different names and seems to change her appearance throughout the years.
When I was three, she was a cold shot of Canadian whiskey Pops had poured for himself after returning home from a business trip. The time behind the clubhouse, she was an awkward six-pack of Lowenbrau I split with a schoolmate. We had cadged it from a his father’s basement refrigerator but by the time we were able to surreptitiously imbibe, the beer was probably 90 degrees. By the time I was 15, she was a smooth, shapely, well-developed pint of Jim Beam bought by a friend’s brother. The first time we quarrelled, she was a pint of tequila and a pint of vodka consumed in one hour. I guess I was a little too passionate with her that night and she didn’t appreciate being treated so roughly and carelessly.
Like any sweetheart, she can be temperamental and moody. Some nights she’s whispered nasty, evil, prickly things in my ear. Sometimes she’s cheap and easy, like a liter of bottom-shelf vodka. Other times, she plays hard to get, and empties my wallet before she gives me her sweet, lingering embrace.
But she’s still kept me warm at night all these years, and been there to relax with whenever I get home.
While I’ve enjoyed the intermittent companionship of the fairer sex for better or for worse, booze has always been my faithful mistress. Always there to comfort me and elevate my spirit in times of darkness. Always around to share my celebrations and happiness and make them that much better. Always there to kiss me good night, hold me until the sunrise and smack me on the lips in the morning when I need it.
She’s still with me to this day, through thick and thin, sickness and health, good times and bad. We’re going to get old together.
There’s a mistress like her out there for you, too. All you have to do is go out and get her.