Response Crafting

Islay Scotch: two whiskies, one scene

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A weathered teak patio, graying and rough underhand.

The salt is blowing in off the sea, and the tall grasses are rippling between you at the railing and the water. It’s overcast but it’s a “bright,” almost white, gray. And the whole thing is a temperature that is scarcely a temperature – these are forgiving, surreal surroundings.

And you’re walking out on to this patio, into a white sunset time of day, and there’s a woman seated at the railing.

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Lagavulin 12

She’s already facing you.

From the moment you walk out there, stepping into the sun setting and, a few steps later, finding your hands pressed against the weathered teak, the wood still warm but cool-colored and rough to the touch, she’s watching you, this warm half-smile already playing on her lips. And in her expression is this almost-sweetness. “Sweet” not as in sugar, with all of its vulgarity, but as in the subtly of cream. An almost-sweetness that does not readily acquiesce and yet, in some far-off future timeframe, still might be harnessed.

She’s looking at you and now you’re looking at her and you notice that she’s got the half-light of the sunset and a fire playing off one side of her features, carving each one as more dramatic than it really is and creating a composition as beautiful as you may ever see it. For that moment it’s just her face, her features, a game of highlights (the sun) and captivated consumption (you.) She’s giving you this look and you think that you know – want to believe that you know – what it means. But you’re also aware that you have no idea what it means and, to yourself at least, you’re willing to be honest about the difference. And you want so desperately for one of you to say something – specifically, for her to say something – and you stand there at the railing, in agony, waiting for her to say something she hasn’t.

And you’re staring at each other for what seems like an eternity, this confusing warmth between you, when at the tail end of the silence of her stare, she finally says something, cunning and bright. It’s a cream and distant fire, this witty, almost hurtful statement. It scarcely matters what it is precisely that she said; for a moment you’re caught, unsure if it was brilliant or pithy. And it hangs there and you’re looking at her as she looks at you, both of you in aroused but agonized silence. And you’re unsure what to do and beginning to pain, still undecided… and then the moment’s gone.

And then you realize you’re snagged, that you may even be falling for her. And so you want to believe it was more brilliant than pithy.

Caol Ila 12

She’s facing the water.

She’s sitting at the same teak railing, braced against it and between you and the sea, but she does nothing to acknowledge your arrival.

You think you know this moment – this scene of teak and salt and sky – and you are expecting for her to look at you and say something. But she says nothing, not even looking at you with that warm Lagavulin expression, all but ignoring you entirely, only staring off against the water.

And so the moment hangs in the air between you, threatening to drift away in the forgiving breeze, and you don’t say anything but you’re still staring, regarding this person and then regarding this sea, staring where she’s staring and wondering what she is thinking.

She’s silent and looking off, un-acknowledging, tangled in her own thoughts. You realize, watching her, that she is more beautiful than she probably realizes. She’s looking off at the sea, a pensive stare that is only still… and not empty. And there’s this brief moment where a more simple man may have already written her off. But, pausing a moment more, you realize that there may be something there.

And then, after what seems like an eternity, as the final moment has all but slipped away in a stretch of stillness, she finally turns her head and glances back at you, her eyes still cast dark but directly, starkly at you, back and over her shoulder. And, seeing you, she gives you this sad but solemn look. This look of knowing; of pure artistry; a modern “Virginia Woolf” expression if there ever was one.

And in that moment there’s a captivation, a sad complexity to it. And yet, despite its surface sadness, in the mere seconds in which you are tethered there, she also seems okay. It’s a spritely pick-up – a delayed acknowledgement but with a ripple, as though to smile: “yeah…. I know. But it’s okay.”

And you believe her.

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