And Not a Drop to Drink
I keep having this terroir where I wake up endoftheworld slaked. Buckets of water wouldn’t quench the mouth full of sand I got. I’d probably drown first. So I scramble out of bed and as soon as I open the door, instead of the stairs, it’s E. 59th St.—the late night gas station on the corner unafraid. I go there for liquid large as drums. I’m blue-tongue thirsty. Moving day in hell thirsty. I step into this place and out of the humming streetlights that want to show me cigarette stubs linting a blanket of concrete at the threshold. For a few opendoor seconds, necrotic fluorescents sing along, buzzing mosquito music. None of it does anything for my thirst. I walk in and a key lime sign comes for me. A hotdog perfectly murdered with mustard. There are no words for the optic tang. There’s also the plastic shimmer of the scratch ticket rotisseries by the counter. There are words for those. “Scam” is one. “Empty” is another, because they are. So is the counter. No one’s here. The security camera monitor is in the corner. Instead of showing me in grainy dot matrix walking by dusted motor oils and freshly squeezed bread, a cartoon plays. A cat goes for a bird but grabs hot sauce by accident, drinking it to burstingredfaced proportions. Whiskers runs to chug a bottle of Not-Water—given that skull on the label, Hans Holbein huge. But I don’t care. I’m only interested in the back corner. They keep liquids there: smoky cold behind glass—but not the new cases that open smoother than Enterprise bay doors and close slow on their own like hermit crabs. No, these have heavy louver doors. They won’t slide against the muck in the tracks, catch and bump, building up in the tracks since green bottle days of tin pulltabs and penny candy. Sliding one of these glass anvils over to get armfuls of liquid is going to be a bicep challenge. I think I may have to stretch out first. Maybe do some jogging in place before I rip these coolers open and get those drinks, cause I’m thirsty as hell. Why not do some light calisthenics? The attendant still isn’t there by the razed forest of lotto dispensaries stumping the counter. But then I notice the drinks through the battleship’s portal plexiglass of the cooler. Where I think I’ll see the usual waters, plus or minus sugar and bubble, there’s nothing but cheese-flavored beverages. A colonnade of them, shiny and absurd in their rows. There’s ’VARTI, the Martian martini, and bottles upon bottles of Garden of Edam. Pre-lactasean: their culture’s double cream, cheese curd, no mite, Dutch-type. Never ammoniated cow waters. Only cave aged, barrel block, blue vein. Lock tight. Nacho crock. There’s the inevitable Coco-Colby. More affinage than bloomy. And Chevre Chalk and RIND! ‘That Muenster Flavor Without the Monster Aftertaste.’ Gouda-ade! medieval flavored. Swiss—BLIND! And Big Barny. Grated microbial. Lipase. CHEDDA! Got curdling? Yeah, well these got it too. So do the pictures on their labels. It’s a cutesy caseophilia for the eyes. A real turophile freak show full of smiling wedges and orange winklings, extra sharp. One can of Dr. Jack has a whole story printed on it about Benjamin Franklin “distilling the fine ichor, the very essence of cheese.” On the front is a googly-eyed red pepper in a sombrero and bandoleers firing off cans of the stuff (the font for the BANG of the first gun is made up of little buttery wedges, flecked green and red). Garden of Edam: Large Curd shows Eve in a medieval triptych, learning from the snake how to milk, brick, and then remilk cheese—“so refreshing, it’s sinful.” But I don’t want to read anymore, or watch cartoons, or be dreaming anything so gross when all I want is something to drink. The dryness of my mouth is the hole in the ozone. It wants the stock market to crash. It hates freedom and all will be exposed in ‘Thirsty-Gate’ and the media attention will solve the world’s famine, I’m sure, but in the meantime, who is going to get me something to fucking drink? Then I notice a stray picture on a label of Briesca. A bunch of cans all in a row, a special shape, so special that upon seeing it I instantly know what I have to do. I begin robbing the cases of their worthless bottles and cans, their jugs and cartons. I open all the lids and pull off all the tabs and turn and twist all the caps. The vessels hiss at me, hiccupping and shushing, in proof of the classic tomes “that the possessed shall speak in languages unbeknownst.” Behold, the power of cheese (compels you). But I know that’s not it. That shit doesn’t exist except in commercials and church and I’m certain of it now more than ever. Before I light the fuses. The containers whistle more blasphemies up to the popcorn ceiling. I’m still thirsty, but at least the cheese is free.
< Originally published in The Los Angeles Review >