Maker's Mark and Cigarettes

We were sitting on the veranda outside of the bar, a platter of fried shrimp and steamed crab legs between us, mostly reduced to shells. I was into melted butter. She was into cocktail sauce. So we didn’t get in each other’s way.

She lit a second square to go with her refill. The joint served drinks in jars, which made me feel country. She felt right at home. We were both drinking Maker’s with ice. I always liked the red seal on the bottle. There was something sexy about it to me. I never smoked tobacco but I like the way she held her Camels, always in the same hand as her glass, the lit edge resting far beyond the rim and liquor, her legs always is some form of casual cross.

Her calves gleamed in a way that said she shaved them daily. But this wasn’t the case. She did, however, break down the hour-long process it took for her to get them like that and how particular she was about shoes. If they didn’t help show off the shave in warm seasons they didn’t get bought.

We were both young then, before the kids, before the cake, two strangers a quarter mile from the beach on Tybee Island. All I knew was that she was from Kentucky and her accent proved it.

It would’ve been a cliche’ to talk about the ocean, or the humidity. So instead we talked about TV shows, debating the merits of the Huxtables versus the Evans. She went to a prestigious private high school, but (kind of) skipped college. Bought some houses with an inheritance and spent her time reading books and comparing beaches across the world. I was on the first vacation I’d taken in ten years.

She said she didn’t like the way the shrimp was seasoned. But the drink on her tongue improved the taste. I was longing for just two steamed Maryland Crabs covered in Old Bay to round out the plate. But I was a long way from home [and getting away had been the point].

Something deep within, something past my fears and general inclination to be cautious on the far side of 30, said that when I went back she was going back with me. So I sipped slow and hung onto every word she used to seduce me without meaning to. She had a thin name plate around her neck, letters in cursive that spelled “Erica”. But she told me to call her “Coco”. I never called her Erica after that.