…I’m in the kitchen, trying to find anything to drink besides expensive beer and cheap tequila when this guy comes up and offers to make me a mojito. At first I don’t know what he’s talking about.* Even if it just means he’s a bartender in real life, it’s a hell of an opening line. And he’s not exactly hard on the eyes. Dark hair, kinda long but not annoyingly so, green eyes, musician hands, cheekbones that could make you want to hurt yourself. So I tell him okay, I like surprises, and then I ask him what's in it.
Sugar, rum, lime juice and mint, he tells me, which sounds weird and aquatic, but I like the idea of rum and lime juice, it’s very tropical and I think maybe this guy’s a secret Hemingway fan, the strong silent type, Jake Barnes or the one in Cuba, the alcoholic with the beautiful filmstar ex-wife who goes to the Floridita on Christmas Day to hang out at the whores’ end of the bar and drink 28 double frozen daiquiris without sugar and when his beautiful filmstar ex-wife walks in out of the blue and asks if he’s tight, he answers maybe just a little. You don’t show it, she says. Only around the eyes.
So Mojito Guy finds a cup and starts shaking powdered sugar over a handful of mint leaves, someone in the house must have just come back from the Caribbean because the rum’s got a fancy black label that I don’t recognize and all the writing’s in Spanish. So he’s mashing the rum and the mint leaves around with the handle of a spoon until the sugar dissolves and then he’s slitting open a lime and squeezing it in, one half in each hand. Then he’s dropping in ice cubes from a gutted plastic bag, picking out the little round cubes from among the solid chunks melting into puddles all over the formica counter. Club soda on top and then he hands it to me, it’s pale green and leafy and smells like something you might boil shrimp in if you were living on a beach in Thailand. It tastes like that too, but it also tastes like something you would sip on a teakwood veranda while the monsoon blows all around you just before your old lover, long presumed dead in the First World War, materializes out of the rain and thunder to take a seat next to you, delicately picking up the palm frond fan you had dropped, offering it to you with that sly tilt of the head you remember so well…
Or maybe I just feel like drinking, and since I’m at a party I don’t have to worry about drinking alone. So he makes himself a mojito too, this time with more speed and less finesse, and we go outside to join Spence and Joe, who, it turns out, is mojito guy’s brother, meaning mojito guy is the one I’m supposed to be watching out for.
* Note: this was written back when only one bar in San Francisco had even heard of mojitos