Sidewalk Still Life

liquor bottle

This is a fine empty cognac bottle. Sitting upright on the sidewalk next to a children’s theatre school, it looked like it had been placed there to be photogenic, to make having drunk an entire bottle of cognac appear to be almost genteel. I love the small rock positioned just so. To illustrate scale? To give it a proper urban, gritty feel?

The bottle’s not broken or trashed. It’s sitting as if someone might stop by with a shot glass and try to pour the last spare drops. A person could maybe unscrew the cap and get the last final whiffs or take a lick for the memory.

Is it crazy to say the bottle spoke to me when I saw it? I walked past it, my seven-year old granddaughter in tow, on our way to the next place, the next errand. I can’t remember which. A few steps past, I turned, grabbed my phone, dropped my purse, and went back to take a picture. I thought about explaining to her why I was taking a picture of an empty bottle on the sidewalk but left it to be one of dozens of mysteries she can figure out later on her own.

I’ve heard many people who drink too much talk about how beautiful alcohol can be. There is a blood orange liqueur in our cabinet that is so beautiful to look at that I want to pour it in a tumbler and drink it straight down. I don’t. I drink it in a tiny glass, a thimble on a stem. And then I leave the bottle out on the dining room table to look at; when the sun hits it in the late afternoon, the bottle glows the deepest red.

My sense is that the person who drained the bottle wasn’t pouring the cognac into a brandy snifter and appreciating its aroma and color. I think the cognac had a job to do and it did it pretty quick. No snifter or glass necessary. When a person swigs right from the bottle, he is in a different league, maybe a different world. It’s not so nice there. There’s no time to appreciate the finer things. My friend, the cognac drinker, might have sat in front of a fireplace swirling his cognac in a crystal snifter at some point in his life but now he was pulling his car over to put the empty on the sidewalk before it was discovered rolling around in the backseat of his car by a cop.

Or maybe he was walking home or walking somewhere and there was no point to carrying an empty cognac bottle so he just set it down. Gently, very gently.

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