November 30, 2021

New Year’s Morning in Mystic, Connecticut

I wake up lipstick-smeared in someone’s bed.
Black coffee bites my tongue, still stung with wine,
flows down the broken throttle of my throat;
its acid slithers through my small intestine.
I crouch in the kaleidoscopic dawn
an animal, afraid to move, still drunk.
I look around at what must be the room
of a kid brother ‒ but whose house is this?
Which kingdom have I woken up in? Snow
twinkles on the windowsill, while outside
cars sit parked like patient lemon drops
sprinkled with powdered sugar. Lollipops
are STOP and YIELD and CHILDREN AT PLAY signs
along the street. This must be Candyland.
 
I line my lozenges up one by one
and shake the aspirin tablets from their jar
and burn the Alka-Seltzer in its glass
until the vomit gurgles in my mouth.
I tap it with a Marlboro. A voice
says eat, but I’m already busy with
my second Bloody Mary. The elixir
soothes the parched walls of my esophagus.
 
I fork a lump or two of scrambled egg
into my mouth, and chew reluctantly
but get them down. Now, where are we again?
Connecticut ‒ a township called Mystic.
You must be kidding me. So Candyland
wasn’t too far off the map, after all.
 
We smoke and watch the snow accumulate
followed by more coffee, eggs and toast. I’m told
how last night, after everyone had gone,
I’d stayed up in the rec room all alone
drinking whatever anyone had left:
Roederer, Mondavi, Ballantine.
I’d left the albums splayed across the floor
as I had played them: Forever Changes,
White Light/White Heat, Harvest, Parallel Lines.

 

The road to her folks’ house runs through the woods.
We drive the Chevrolet that got us here
from New York yesterday ‒ a friend’s clunker ‒
over the Mystic River Bascule Bridge
beneath the late-morning January sky.
By noon we’re in the nearby town of Westport.
Her parents are expecting us for lunch.
And drinks. The door swings open. Football, beer,
cheers of Hurrah! A Yale family,
or rather sons of one who went to Yale
a half-century ago. We drink and drink.
By lunch we’re topsy-turvy. Still, we drink.
The fridge is stocked, the liquor cabinet
unlocked. Her parents nurse gin martinis
rhapsodizing over Anna Karenina
at Lincoln Center in studied accents
lifted from Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant.
Tom Lehrer croons “The Wiener Schnitzel Waltz.”
 
Lunchtime: a slice of roast beef, boiled parsnips,
choice few delicate green beans on our plates,
a dollop of creamy white mashed potatoes.
The whole affair is over in five minutes.
Back to the football game for all of us,
back to our bottlenecks and bourbon, back
to the long hangover with no end in sight.
 
That evening we hightail it to the city
a six-pack of Beck’s stashed beneath the seat
and we don’t bother making resolutions.

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