Gretchen was used to it, even if she didn't realize it or admit it to others. There was something about Gretchen that would make guys fall in love with her. Baudelaire wrote about women like her. Nabokov did too, though he had to make her a 12-year old girl to find his drama. She wasn't necessarily the most beautiful woman in the room, but she had an energy and a sense of poise that was impossible for you to resist.
And we didn't even try.
There's no good place to start this story, since I met and fell for her my Freshman year, but didn't start to get to know her well until my Junior year. I spent that summer pining for her, and watching her start to date a married man, breaking up his marriage and quite possibly losing him his job (we're unsure about that last bit--she either lost touch with him or stopped telling me about his communications).
But the big drama all came the final semester of our college career. I had burnt out on school during Finals week of the semester before, but nevertheless had to take five classes to finish out my two Majors. And that's how it all fell together. Kevin, an acquaintance of mine, and I found we had a lot in common and could talk literally for hours about anything, and the two of us roped Gretchen into a weekly trip out to Sementos, a nearby roadhouse where the bartender was always the drunkest one there, though Kevin and I would always compete for second. Somewhere along the way, we picked up Adam who we all knew and liked from different sources (for me, he'd dated and had his heart broken by a Clementine-ala-Eternal-Sunshine friend of mine). Adam's younger brother Tom eventually started to join us, and once Gretchen was evicted by her roommates--who were less charmed by her than the rest of us--forcing her to rent the bottom floor of a house, well, we were off and rolling. In a fit of brilliance, Tom called us the "G-Spots," and that was our official name from then on out.
We kept our Wednesday nights Sementos runs, but gradually started infiltrating frat parties, theater parties, and random get-togethers. By the time March started, we were spending every night together, and spending $10-20 a night apiece to do so. This is in rural Indiana, where three dollars will buy you a pint and a half of beer at a bar, and $5 will buy you a six-pack of beer from the 7-11. At the end of March, half of my budget was earmarked for booze, and I would spend most of my time sleeping on Kevin's couch, Gretchen's floor, or in random corners at unmemorable places.
The photographic evidence of this time is rather shocking. In the space of five months I put on the "Freshman Fifteen," and then some. I was constantly on the cusp of being fired from my job as an RA in the dorms (this was a dry campus, mind you, and I was drinking probably as much as the rest of my residents combined). Out of the 19 papers I had due that semester, I handed in one on time. I wound up graduating three months late. In that time, I kissed Gretchen once (I'm told. She doesn't remember it and I don't remember it, but it was during a Superbowl party in which the two of us drank a bottle of champagne and a bottle of tequila on our own, and consequently remember nothing past the first quarter).
It was one of the greatest times of my life; I came out of a complete wreck, but it's hard to describe the amazing sense of being with the right people at the right time and, no matter what shit we all got into, have a feeling of cosmic correctness in it all. Over the next weeks and months, perhaps, I'll delve into it a bit if people seem interested, but for right now, I need to talk about the fundamental underpining of it all (aside from our odd and comradely adoration of Gretchen that should have degenerated into Shakespearean backstabbing but never did).
Most specifically for me, Wild Turkey 101. Wild Turkey, which I started drinking out of my love of Hunter S. Thompson. Wild Turkey, which I grew to love. Wild Turkey. I'm told to this day that the smell of Wild Turkey 101 acts like Proust's Madeleine on the memories of these friends. "Smells like Stu!" according to Gretchen.
Also, Wild Turkey 101, a drink so vile and strong that even Hunter S. Thompson eventually rejected it. In an interview in 1997, he said, "Aw, man. I drank this [Wild Turkey] like some sort of sacrament for--I mean, constantly--for I think fifteen years. No wonder people looked at me funny. No offense. This is what I drank, and I insisted on it and I drank it constantly and I liked it. Jesus. I laid off it for six months and went back to it--an accident one night, in a bar--and it almost knocked me off the stool. It's like drinking gasoline. I thought, what the fuck...?"
I've never met another person who actually enjoys the stuff, but I love it dearly, like an old friend whose edges you not only tolerate, but actually enjoy. I can't really in good conscience recommend this to anyone but the phony-tough and the crazy-brave, but I think it is great shit. A normal evening for me with the G-spots would start with me filling a jelly jar with ice, and topping it off with Wild Turkey. A really good evening would have me doing that a couple more times. I love this drink like I love those old friends.
Wild Turkey 101 in Brief
Quality: A (if you're me)/C (if you're not) Taste: Barrel-aged Gasoline Aftertaste: The acrid taste of what's left of your tastebuds Strength of Liquor: 101 proof - 50.5% alc. by volume Strength of Hangover: Weeeeeeeeee-doggie! The only time I had a hangover for this, I was literally unable to drive a car. I hope you have public transportation in your city if you indulge over-much. Final Recommendation: This is for graduate-level alcoholics only. Those who like it will probably drink nothing else. Those who don't like it can go back to choking down Zima.