©Laurie Avocado, 2010

I rarely buy a pack of cigarettes, but I’m two drinks in to the evening.  I should say cocktails.  The new restaurant on the street calls them that.  It’s a Cocktail Bar.  It serves food too but I’m never flush enough with cash to order anything.  So I stick to the drinks. Which I have to say are damn good.  Enough to make me want to smoke. I take the napkin from under my drink and place it over the glass.  The bartender is quick; he moves deftly to place another one under the drink and wipes the bar off.  This is service.

I step outside and walk two storefronts down to the Liquorstore to buy some smokes.  I say whatsup to the men on the corner and saunter straight through their looseknit circle.  I remember when the restaurant was a car garage.  I’ve lived here for a minute that’s the truth.  Long enough to remember being the only nonblack person on the block most of the time.  The only other person lived in my building, a single Asian woman, fortyish, angular like a bird but comfortable in herself.  She’d smoke in her doorframe in the hallway of our apartment complex.  She’d stand there and read, ashing in an empty bottle of twobuckchuck at her feet.  She was always reading some novel.  And she’d always make some comment when I’d “coincidentally” open my door as she stood there smoking.  Once she said something about how it’s funny the only whitepeople in the building happened to live on the same floor.  Inhale.  Smile.

I’d correct her. I’m not white, I’d say, I’m Mexican; she’d exhale and decree, if you ain’t black, you white.  It’s that simple.

It made sense most of the time.  But times changed and the few punkhouses peopled with arrogant kids gave way to new homeowners with strollers and Obama stickers.

I walk back into the restaurant, slide into my chair, when someone taps my shoulder.

I shit you not.  Taptaptap.  It’s one of two young whitegirls trying to squeeze up to the bar.  They bustle in next to me and place phones on the counter and hang their purses on the hooks below it.  This Cocktail Bar has it all.  I don’t know why, maybe reflex, but I smile, and tip my drink at them.  The napkin sticks for a second to the glass, then falls.

What on earth are you drinking, sir?

Now the tap was one thing, but calling me ‘sir,’ that just plain hurts.

A gin drink, I state trying to regain my composure.

Which is it, she preens at the cocktail menu in her hand.

I keep looking right at her. I say, I actually don’t know. I asked the bartender for a happy drink.

I’m hoping to intimidate or at least make her smile, but I’m one upped by Bionic Bartender.

It’s a gin fizz, he says.  We both turn to him.  He’s at least ten feet away.  I wonder how he heard us.  He flashes a smile.

I recommend it, he coos, babychicken like and, I shit you not, winks and continues to shake a drink.

Is it happy, she asks me.

It ain’t sad, that’s for sure.  And I sip.  I think of offering her a sip like it’s a can of PBR.  But instead I spill the drink.  I blame all the damn fucking napkins I have seemed to acquire.  I placed the drink down and thought of dabbing my mustache and beard which at this time of year, winter, is grown out and hoboish.  So I tried to slip the one napkin out from under my drink.  It sent Happy Gin Fizz all over the counter and all over the two young white girls’ phones.

Fuck, she yells and, in her haste to rescue her phone, actually hurls the Cocktail Menu, which sails over the counter and into the pyramid of glasses across from us.

There is something spectacular about fifty or so wine glasses crashing down.

That’s it buddy.  I’ve dealt with you for too long. Get out of here.

I stand up. I can’t help it but I laugh.   More out of nervousness than antagonism, but I instinctively start to gather my shit.  Fifty wine glasses gotta be expensive.

Then there are hands on my shoulder and belt.  I am actually being thrown out.  Literally.  I can’t believe it.  I can’t say anything.  All I can do is keep laughing.  A dumb chuckle. Haha. Haha. Haha.  Staccato like.

Once outside, the men on the corner look over.

The out-of-nowhere Bouncer gives me the point and shoot.  Don’t bother coming back.

Fuck you, I finally bark.

I turn and start walking back past the liquor store to my apartment.

The men on the corner eye me.  You alright, homie, one asks.  They all step out to allow me in.  I pull out a cigarette.  Offer them.  Two take one, the other shakes his head no.

He says, I don’t fuck with that shit.

I nod, light and inhale.

Ever since Oscar Grant, they got security working there.

Since the riots, I state stamping my feet a bit to keep warm, really? What they worried about?

All those windows getting smashed again.

Yeah, that was a fucking crazy night, the youngest-looking says.  He’s cold.  I see his breath, his chapped lips.

Why they fuck with you, he asks.

They don’t like spilled drinks.

We talk for a minute more and I leave.  I bound up the stairs and see Asian-woman standing there.

I stop and she looks at me.

I take out the pack and take another cigarette and then say, want the rest?  I’m trying to quit.

So you just don’t smoke in your place.  Gotta love arbitrary rules.  Me too.  I only smoke here.  Never in my apartment.

She takes a smoke but leaves me with the pack.  We light up.

What you reading? I nod to the book tucked up under her arm.

Sula.

Never heard of it.

You should.  It’s perfect.

Read me something.

I’ll tell you my favorite part.  There’s this part where Sula’s being chased by these four whiteboys. And instead of running, she stops and takes out a knife.

I inhale.  And she does too.  I eye her.  She smiles.  Like she knows something I don’t.

And?

She cuts the tip off her finger and says right to the boys, if I can do this to myself, what do you think I could do to you.

She drops her halfsmoked cigarette in the wine bottle at the foot of her door.

Well, what happens?

Read it yourself.  Thanks for the smoke. And she slinks into her place.

I walk to my door, open the window and look out into the north Oakland night, listen to the hum of a BART train.

I light one smoke after another, taking one drag and flicking each out the window.  I wonder what I believe in enough to cut off the tip of my finger.

I take the cherry of my last cigarette and push it in the middle of my palm and count wondering if I can make it to ten.

©Tomas Moniz, 2010

Tomas Moniz attended BAWP summer institute 09,  teaches at Berkeley City College, writes for and edits the zine rad dad (a zine on radical parenting which is always looking for submissions), and wonders why all his favorite words are dirty.

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2 Responses to “Happy Gin Fizz by Tomas Moniz”

  1. Adela Says:

    Nice. I’m wanting to know what happens next.

  2. A Says:

    That ending is painfully sexy…

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