Stories

What You Need to Know About Your Cocktails – Henry Palm III

There’s a small amount of mixing to make a perfect mint julep. Efficacy is mostly bourbon. I got lucky with Julia in July because I made her one, is what I think.

Togna picks her up and they stop by around noon. Julia doesn’t say a word. I dig her bikini.
The grill is charring. Julia sunbathes on a floater, rippling the water with her nail tips. I used to distrust the calloused apathy with which some women affect their surroundings. Life’s choices dilute when you open yourself up to the world and let it affect you and you realize it’s less about effect than it is about being unaffected by things. You have no control over what happens, just how you feel about it. I currently share my house with whoever wants to stop by. It has no furniture. I inherited it from my parents. They moved onto a mansion on Riviera Drive. My house sits on Grove Street. It has some signs of life. Burned compact discs with innocuous titles like “Ultimite thanksgiving MIXX” lay scattered around a boombox scratching against the wood-panel floor. Togna and Julia dip into my water and food and I dip into their company.
I’ve learned a lot from Togna and he’s been just as naive as me. The first night we met he snatched a full bottle of beer from my hand and smashed it against a wall. I pushed him down to the ground, then apologized and talked with him all night over cans of sparks. I didn’t see him again until a year later, when we ran into each other on a yacht and drank for hours on the way to the Bahamas. We’re members of an exclusive club of knows-something-you-don’t. At times he’ll say something and it won’t click in my head until a few weeks later. We’ve spent the summer coming up with crazy ideas for what to do with ourselves after college. He doesn’t even ring me before coming over anymore, just parks his car on the front lawn then brushes past overgrown palm trees to my backyard. He stands on the cracked tiles and takes off his clothes, jumps into the blue and slithers out like a red sausage.

Today I’ve cooked some Cuban fritas. I hand one to Togna and another to Julia and grab one for myself. We sit on the pool ledge, Togna to the west of Julia, and I to the east. With shins submerged in bug littered water, chorizo oil splatters on breast goosebumps, a wedge pressed tightly between two buns. Julia is neither rising nor setting. A community of communities of cells pouring sweat into another mid-year.

th3

I once spent my whole summer break switching between playing impromptu soccer games, known in Brazil as peladas (which is also the word for naked women), and mastering the art of button pressing on soccer emulators. A friend of mine and I once snucked cans of Bud from the garage fridge at my parents’ home, rode our bikes to the nearest construction site and forced vomit-gush down our throats until we were properly faded. There’s also the summer I spent spectral hours at the beach making love (sex) to the splash (1) of waves, the sun glazing caramelizing her hair. There was no point in living any of those summers, but they did slow down my impending adult life. Now I’m near undergrad graduation and I could care less what happens next year, so when Togna and Julia come over to my abandoned punk house it feels like the last thing we’ll ever do in our lives. I know; Dawn awakes anew with certainty. I wake up every morning to the noise of surrounding beer bottles clashing against the wood. I fall asleep to white noise. What do I care?
I ran into Togna randomly right before the beginning of summer and he told me there was this girl I absolutely had to meet. It had been a while since I’d seen him. We talked about girls and pool parties until four a.m. Then he tells me that I need to meet her, because she’s “really cool, down to earth, dawg, I remember she was always really chill about things, and it’s true! She was at bar the night the Ebunz played…” Wait, I was there that night, but I le-“Nah, I didn’t see you there! You must have left before this happened. She got there wasted though, I mean, completely plastered, a-and I was pretty gone too! Yeah, when I saw her, when I saw her, I asked her if she smoked weed and she pulled out a joint and smoked me out! She had one ready to go, it was already rolled up. How kewl is that?” Very, I mean-“Yeah it’s like she’s someone to consider, amirite?” At least consider, yeah, haha. “And then–then we got thrown out after she spills a bunch of people’s drinks. At the bar! Like, shots and drinks and shit that the bartender had just served! Yeah, it was fucking crazy! The bartender straight up told us to leave and then a bouncer pulled her off, and she was yelling at him the whole time, and I was trying to push him off of her, so then–then, we go outside and she asks me if I wanna go to some party, and she took me to some weirdo’s house—I’m talking real weird, young and really old people mixed. Like, really weird. Out on Biscayne. There was one guy there who looked like he was in his fifties, and another who looked Injun.” What the fuck. “Yeah, dude, she lives right down the street. I’m gonna invite her over in the morning. I’ll text her right now.” Sounds like a plan.
She’s tall, thin, looks like a slinky in a bikini. She’s got fair skin that cooks well. Her hair reaches down to her neck. My hair reaches my eyes. Togna shaves his blonde head. Julia’s like an Amazonian. She was looking a little green this morning. Now that the sun is over our heads she’s looking squishy.

My house is shared between every member and limb of this community. It stands on wood and brick, white drywall (cardboard) dividers. The penrose tiling of the front door steps is abstracted by the charm of the metal door. Our house is Coconut Grove small. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, garage, dining room, living room, kitch. Emptiness is underscored by a spider web in that corner, or a crummy piece of paper over there. We pass out on wine stained sheets. Now I’m gonna get a little romantic, and I apologize in advance but in the bedroom:

Three luminaires hang in-line on the wall above the mattresses. The middle-bulb burned out, the sideline bulbs do their best to illuminate the center of their luminescent heart. Two french doors open to a backyard garden and a drained, decrepit hot tub.

There’s a Technics turntable and a Technics turntable in mint condition. Don’t ask me where I (we) got these. So far we’ve been really into east coast American music from the sixties, midwest American music from the seventies, Polynesian music from the eighties and nineties. We’re vibing each other. Here I’d like to say something about Julia’s muff of rhythm, a symptom of her long American legs, and Togna’s animated cavort, and my own undulating agitation for anything beat-like, but I find that gross so I’ll just type: Repetition. Reverberation. Frequency. Peak. Trough. Swing. Oscillating earth’s vibrations.

Togna’s brought some hash. The hash blankets our eyes and we tighten our smiles close as the sun starts to set. The hash combines with a mint julep and humidity. We consider a hot shower. Julia and Togna are all for it, but I decide to jump in the pool after I spin The Psychedelic Sounds Of. My head is underwater and I hear a splash, then a second splash. I float on my back. Julia asks me if she can spend the night. Eye to eye, eye to eye, eye to eye. Who can drink the most in this triangle? I wake up next to both of them, and it’s like that for the rest of the summer.

Vibrations change color and temperature over time, overlapping wavelengths that defy direct signification and become more like puzzles. At some point in the summer Togna will hug me hard, in camaraderie, and he will squeeze me tight, and our vibrations will blossom from the same blooming origin. It’s the same vibration springing from Julia when I’ll be your mirror comes on as I reach the birch cutting board with mint, sugar and bourbon at hand. She says “I don’t like water in mine,” to which I respond “I’m glad to hear you don’t go traditional.” I squish mortar and pestle, “You can always squeeze for me like that” and rows of white teeth.
There are times when our third eye meldts to the house. Informed parties, satyrs and angels squeak out through a time vortex, accompanied by compatriots with red cup juice aluminum barrels, crystal bottles of south-of-the-border-sexy-maker, social lubricants of all kinds. Unsuspecting, in the bathroom nose-stuffers stream live conversation transmitted through one ear and out the other, mouths producing more content than can be experienced. Through the toilet pierce the eyes and ears of Togna, collecting snow and information to be later related to Julia, who’s in the refrigerator intensely enjoying the french-biting session between two olive-skinned kids in black leather jackets. These scenes will merge with mine, peering from a roof’s single shingle at private parts in the pool. Greet and meat, ingest and dissolve, but only in passing, for shit-eating conversation between yours trulys.

Lurid currents course off as the carousal empties out dry. Heads perch parched on a smoky goodnight, in those twilight moments, bodies like cadavers skulking crevices for comfort, my kingdom for a soft bed and a warm pair of legs. An impartial community places no reservations on couches or mattresses, kitchen floors or lawn chairs. The eyes in the walls shut. I bask in Julia’s benevolence and soak off my alcohol congestion.
One of those liquor baked mornings had me crawling out from black soot oxygen depletion on cracking floorboards, to the rock soft ground of the house’s side passage, feeling balmy under cosmic rays. AC sixty-five˚ shivers me awake. Dade county is hot all year ’round so I roll out. I goggle the passing clouds, waiting for plenary paralysis to ooze away. A comber ripples in my ears, part of the voices in my hangover head. I imagine the sun undulating through everything. I see it shine the royal palms transparent. Focus shifts to grain details in the gravel, which I examine with my myopic microscope. Skin is pulsating with migraine. Clarity veils me when I’m most cracked-out. My brain is tingling like the effervescence of an alka-seltzer. I see a jellyfish inside a light blue sphere, floating in a rectangular black space, and then it smudges into a mustard impression of fisted fingers squeezing blood through the slips. The ants in the ground are throbbingly familiar to me. Communities of cells, within a community of moving parts, within a community of living functions, within an even larger community of breathing fauna and flora, within a community of gravity, within a community of planets, within a community of stars, within a community of galaxies, communities of the universe, and then I think about what the universe is, what I assume it is or don’t understand, and then I think of the communities within the communities of cells, and try to find some relation to days I’ve lived, when the clouds turn brightness into chilly blue hue, and then I think of my mother. I start to sweat in the pits of the arms and legs. I remember how cozy it is in bed mid Julia’s womb, balancing out the conditioned breezes. I feel the slightest whisk from her arm hairs as she constricts my torso. I see the moon rise over and over again. Julia’s wrap shoots me off into space as the moon centrifuges around the earth. I look down. Sweeping quakes tear down what was once surface as ocean currents overflow the landmass. Old Pangea is reduced to an archipelago of five small isles. On the first, from east to west, lies a dilapidated structure, what looks to be the White House, with a large sign across it reading Public Library S.S. It looks comically antediluvian, more of an off-White House.
The top of the second island, or, the ground of the island, seems to be covered in diamond tread plates. A rainforest jungle protrudes directly from tubes encased in the plating. My focus changes to the deep middle. I hear the call of birds, rustling in the trees from the wind, but I don’t see a single organ or movement. In fact, the noise coming from the jungle becomes overbearing under the hollow loneliness. Upon further inspection, the trees aren’t made of trees at all. They’re morphing. The apical dominance is sludging, going from organic wood flesh to dark green and brown bottles. The bottles are empty, the labels peeled off. They faintly trace beer and spirits. Before I can grasp what I’m mind-eyeing the island-mind collapses as the diamond tread plates turn into empty bottles, revealing empty space underneath, falling down into endless nothing. I’m finding it hard to focus my sight on anything but the gravel and the ants.
A waterfall is cascading in my head, except it feels like a hammerfall. My mind lands on the third island. It’s a map of the world, with the black lined borders omitted. No more coloring in nations, the world is now a rainbow on the land. The ‘threat of nukes is gone,’ reads a pamphlet scrapped on the floor. Global Interdependency has arrived, a state in which no country finds hostility towards another beneficial, but rather damaging in the long run, an artificial global state. Things progress quickly, the running out of oil anticipated by the drop in prices of renewable green energy, the source of which the pamphlet fails to mention. In fact, much of the pamphlet isn’t about nations at all, but about social culture in this new, unified future. Androgyny is vibrant, things have no context. Nationalism has been overcome by humanism, so claims the pamphlet I’m making up in my head. Seems like clocks have been smashed for good, and people now run on “your” time, which is everyone’s time. It turns out the internet is not a bridge of communication between different ideas and cultures, but rather a melting pot conglomeration of a hivemind continuously fusing and generalizing sentiments, until one artificial being comes to be, the “you” which time now refers to. Identity is something granted in a metaphysical consciousness, no longer a burden to humans. I see birds collecting trash, and some of the birds clamp pennies in their beaks. I see no one else around. I fall out of the island and into a memory of a dream I once had where a bipedal, quick-talking, sunglasses wearing and blue feathered toucan is standing next to a trash can, making impressions and pulling fast ones on the people passing by, collecting a few bucks out of every smile and chuckle. I see him do a Martin Sheen impression to a tall and wide-bodied figure, and as he switches to a Horror Rocky Pictu…Rocky Horror Picturnuh Show, impression, is what he’s done…The tall, wide-bodied figure strangles the toucan to death.
I hear Sweet Sister Ray VU bootleg come on, outside of my mind. The flock has awoken. I think of the inside of the bedroom, past the outer-shell into the bed and that mystery of early mornings when you wake up feeling good. Feeling like yourself. Togna obviously chose this record, he never makes a bad selection. He’s told me that he knows about varying degrees of specifications in taste, appropriateness and what not, about how some people vibe one way and sometimes not the other, and that’s OK too, but he’s a timing man. He doesn’t miss a beat. How did he know, out of all possibilities, all those records you tell someone about that they never listen to, the ones you listen to repeatedly until the grooves wear out, the ones you keep in case you meet someone again, records that leave a scary archive that glimpses your life in tastes, that this record is the best choice? Togna tells me that the illusion of choice is outside of the cave in your mind, and that once you step out and live in the actual world, you see that everything happens to you, without any choice on your part.
Back to the third island, looking west, I see something terrifying. The fourth island is blocked from view by the mirage from the heated soil, underneath the sun on the equator. But the shocking, chilling thing is what’s behind the obstructed view of the island, the unobstructed giant behind the ant hill, an enormous pyramid. I’ve never seen a pyramid, except when I was young, and only the Mexican kind. There’s a llama-I bit into the coca leaf from a sack in a jungle’s rural loss. I have the pictures to prove me. The pyramid has a floating tip, and in between is an…Eye? No, it’s a–well what is that exactly? A pyramid of love. That’s a heart in the middle, in between the floating tip and the base, in between a time and space tunnel, a gravity escapist. Wherein lies the heart…But why can’t I see the island? And Julia, she’s not helping me, she’s glossing away at the back of my head. What is it?
Julia’s tongue flicking is distracting my mind. The island looks very short. A heavy nimbus pours and strikes above it. That’s why I can’t see it. Togna is on the island. I hear the french door creak open, and the first four islands are engulfed by a tsunami wave. The face of Julia stands directly above mine, in the line of the sun, and the first thing I see is a dark drink in her hand. “Are you ready for another one?”

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At a South Beach club on Collins ave. Togna decides to buy a round of sixteen dollar gin martinis. Says he’s celebrating the end of his run in “this city. I’m excited for a change of pace though.” Julia’s out in downtown parading a friend who came to visit. “I think I had some great times this summer.” Yeah, I really did too. “I feel like I had important things happen, you know? Like I changed a little as a person.” Well, in what way? “I feel kinda different, different than I felt during school. It’s more like I’m not worried about my options anymore, like my decisions are easy to make now. I feel like I know the things I want.” Yeah, I feel you on that. “It’s almost like I have the things I want already.”
Exit and stroll over to a spot past the awful Espanola Way, crossing Washington ave and into the tolerable Espanola Way. Packed bars are like quicksand, so you better prepare to chill for a while. Togna and I are beer and shot specials. Leaning against the wall or sitting at a booth, with the jukebox on and with a crowded group or at the pool table, in the bathroom and even in the parking lot and in the car driving home, we are a beer and shot special duo, endlessly cheersing good fortunes, beautiful women, self-referential cock-pulling, a depravity right before you pound, the miniscule glasses clanging as someone says something relevant or satisfying, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Para arriba, has your cup hit all the others at least once? Para abajo, have there been enough clanks? Al centro, you take a deep breath and tilt repugnance down the hatchet, immediate bitterness after the slam of the glass onto the tabletop, and you wait ’til the next one. Para dentro.
Summer’s end magnifies in the near future. Nervous reminders pop up subconsciously in moments. One looks down at her toes in sunny shadows under a hoary banyan when a thought of deadlines and routine shrieks in. Sobering on the couch, another rubs green crust from his eyelids, coughs and swallows a little mucus and knows that a behavioral shift is impending. Togna’s leaving to a graduate university. Julia’s destiny is out west. Mine is motionless and floating. We start going out more often to shake off the anxiety. I spin the Rising Storm’s Calm Before consistently. Lucid dreaming starts peaking.
Celebrations push towards the ship-off date. Togna leaves early in the morning, and Julia manages to notify a storm of smelly rats, slimy bugs and succulent pigs to come have one last fix before the break ends. It’s a rare night for Miami, a cold front bringing about one of only five annual jacket-appropriate-weather days. Dreamy vibrations glide down in the form of invisible pellets, product of a stardusty moon. The pellets are lethal, coarse as they slice through your throat muscles, where the coke drips, aching you for smooches. A rosy, vibrating sensation in your inner thighs as the breeze chills your orange cheeks, looking at lips purpled black, box wine style, trembling, no, dance-shaking to a repetitive beat. Beat stems from adrenaline. Molly came to town. Cigarettes smoke on jaundice-yellow stained fingers, a shot train in the kitchen premises a new love. I go to cutting board and knife. Want something traditional? “Give me some mint and sugar baby.” Smooch Julia, then pick the mint. “I’m gonna miss my summer boys.” Smooches. “You always make ’em good. I don’t care what you do, as long as I get a squeeze later.” Rainbow colored wavelengths trail behind her as she exits.
Togna’s lit around a holy circle in the family room. New guests are witnessing a spectacle he’s performed all summer long. With sleight of tongue, he pops open a beer bottle on a table corner, flips it in the air, puts out a cigarette on his tongue, catches and chugs the beer in mere seconds, then sticks out his tongue to reveal the undisturbed cigarette butt. A king amongst trash, Togna never fails to win over a crowd, and swallows the cigarette butt.
I walk down the steps of the back patio to the grass, pick a spot and break the seal. Someone’s watching me. The breeze feels great on the tip of my penis. I forget to shake and let golden drops drip down my leg hairs.
Julia finishes her remark about me. Her friend lounges on a pillow. I can’t remember the name of the guy who just walked up to them. He brought some records, wants to play them. Julia is open minded, but tonight she wants a particular vibe, and diffuses the intrusion by infiltrating his pants and offering to make him a cocktail.
Togna has unleashed a circle of death. He never remembers the rules, and makes them up as he goes. Ace is for “everyone has to drink, two is for you, three is for me, four is for whores, that’s just the ladies, unfortunately for us fellas, there is no stud card. Five is for rhymes, where one person says a word and then the next has to rhyme it, and so forth, until you fuck up and drink, and six is for dicks, which I guess is the stud card, LOL @ me. Now seven, s-e-e-e-v-e-e-n is my favorite card, and it’s waterfalls. Waterfalls, and we’ll explain again once somebody draws it, is the kewlest part of the game. So, the person who draws the card starts a link of beer chugging. So, as soon as they start chugging, the next person does, and then the next, until everyone starts drinking, and you can’t stop until the person next to you stops. But, wait, a-and you also can’t just stop, unless the first person has stopped, it like has to go in order. You know? Don’t worry, when we get to it, we’re all gonna drink. Oh, and if the person next to you finishes theirs, then so do you. Doesn’t matter how little that person has left in their bottle. I’m sorry, but those are the rules. I don’t make them up. Eight is for mates. That’s when you gotta kiss someone. Actually, you have to have a drink if you’ve hooked up with the person who drew the card, and out of courtesy the cardholder can drink too, unless it didn’t go too well, of course. Then, I guess, the hookupee can drink twice. Double down, amirite? Man, I think I’m gonna be a boring card draw in this circ-wait, I just realized this is just another six card if you catch my drift HAHA. Kissing is encouraged. So, eight is for mates, nine is for…Rhymes. Oh, shit, weeell, then I guess it’s for…Sentences? That’s when a person says a word, and then the next person continues the sentence. That one always confuses people, because you have to say all the words that have been said so far, whatever, anyways, ten is for…Actually I think seven is for heaven and foor is for flour, but fuck it, ten you have to point up at the sky and the last person drinks. Yeah, pretty much everyone just drinks, it’s a great game. I think it’s the only card game where cheating is encouraged. Except for poker and blackjack. And asshole and camps. Go Fish. Solitaire. Jack is for thumbmaster and I’ll just explain that when we get to it but you just get to put your thumb on the table and then everyone has to do it and the last person chugs. Queen is question master, if the person holding the queen asks you a question and you answer it, you have to drink. No, seriously, that’s part of the game. And it goes to the next person who draws a queen, until the next person does it again. King is great, because you can make your own rule. You can do anything, like no cursing, speak only in Spanish, or like don’t point. That’s always good, because people point mad in games like this. No, no,Gaby, we’re trying to get you drunk. What did you think this game was about? It’s about increasing your chances.”
I finish jacking off the pump and walk back towards the house. I sit down on the patio on a modern rusty cushion bench. I call out to Julia’s friend, who comes out to smoke a cigarette. She asks me about music.
Julia and I find Togna in the kitchen, and the party follows us into the tiny room. There’s a lot of groping in such a tight space, and the three of us instigate a number seven card of chugging from three different distillations of liquor flowing from five different bottles, around the room. Smooches the crowd.
Blurry rose swirls into violet, from a tenderness of skin and electricity. Vapor warmth emanates from my ears. Tightening of the nerves and stretching of muscles. Feet step on each other, legs clang and dangle against other legs, hands hold tight fingers and fat handles.
The middle Luminaire comes back to life, to reflect off the french doors and flood the bedroom with warmth. Perspiration.
Julia skinny dips into the pool. Togna kills a tequila bottle with a girl in her car’s passenger seat right before she drives out. I knock over some bottles from the roundtable and there’s bottle smashing in the house. Julia calms down the boyfriend of a girl who gets cut by a shard and hurries them to leave. Togna pulls out a mixtape I’ve seen him working on. I suspect there are three copies of this tape. I’m checking the fridge for remaining alcohol and am pleasantly surprised.
The place is mostly emptied out, besides the bodies sprawled on the floors. Light blue brightness is creeping in through the cracks between windows and curtains. I hear the clicking sounds of a cassette deck, as it shuts the lid, clips spool and rolls tape.
Six shuffled steps dancing towards the bedroom, fumbling into bed laughing, vibrating in the same wavelength, canceling each other out, blacking out and in, rubbing and tumbling, like a blind person getting to know someone. The three luminaires turn off, and the venetian blinds shield the moon, leaving three vessels buckling each other at random pleasure. The tape loops twice as engorged tissue deflates in a slow pulse.

Red lasers blast overwhelming brightness through the windows. The sun’s glory becomes inescapable. All secrets revealed, everything eventually turns black and dies. Eyes squint to peek through the slit. I walk into the living room, half asleep and body aching, and I see her in her own lonesome, Julia’s friend who spent the night on the couch. I think of Togna’s shut eyelids, shivering. I start to shiver. Relentless shivering, a wavelength swinging sporadically in sharp directions, and I fall down to my knees. I’m suffocating. It’s an earthquake within my body. I’m freezing. I wrap myself in a blanket on the couch, and as Julia’s friend clasps me like a leather lace, I realize there is no way to heat up. The cold is coming from within.

th17

I think back to that cracked out morning when I laid on the dirt at the side of the house and Julia brought me a mint julep, at eleven forty-five or so. I rest my head on her lap as she sits against the yellow-green mold of the exterior wall, rubs her fingers through my hair and her nails on my scalp, and plays Paul Simon’s have a good time on her phone.
The fifth island turned out to be a pile of trash. It’s a mountain dump of irrecyclable human product. Where the pyramid once stood lay only a scattering of emptied cardboard boxes labeled with a red “FRAGILE.” I land in an empty-but-the-bottom-filled-with-tepid-water garbage can. I flip backwards and land on my back. I look out against the sun and see them. Figures silhouetting in a circle by a roundtable. Togna stands discreetly to one side.
I approach on the right with the sun beating at my left. He does not greet. A man in a button down shirt and skinny jeans and brown leather wingtip shoes brings out a cake and places it in the middle of the countertop. He pulls out a brown handle knife and hands it to Togna. Togna, staring intently at the cake, slices three cuts. He grossly misjudges his aim, and I instinctively snatch his knife and trim off an extra amount of the largest portion to make it the same size as the next piece. We put aside the trimmings. Togna nods in agreement. The man in the cyan striped theory shirt takes a slice, and before I can grab one, Togna grabs his own slice. I take the last slice. Togna then cuts the trimmings into three pieces. The man takes his. I make it a point to take mine before Togna. It still feels like an uneven distribution, but there’s no resisting. It’s what I want.