Richard Yates: “What’s wrong with your drink? Want some fucking ice?” *

From Martin Naparsteck’s “Drinking with Richard Yates“:

Once, in his apartment above The Crossroads he filled a 10-ounce glass to the brim with Jim Beam and handed it to me. He filled another for himself. He finished his in about ten minutes, and I had taken only two sips from mine. He got up and filled his glass again, asked me if I wanted more, and when I said no, he sat down. By the time he was filling his glass the third time, he snapped at me. “What’s wrong with your drink? Want some fucking ice?” A half hour later he went into the bathroom, kept the door open, I heard his piss hit the bowl’s water, and I got up and walked to the kitchen sink, poured all but about an ounce of my whiskey into the sink, and sat down.

When he came out of the bathroom, zipping himself up as he did, I took a sip from my glass. The idea was to make it easy for him to think I had been drinking. Drunks feel insulted if you don’t drink with them, as if your abstinence is a slap in the face. He looked at me, squinted, said, “You need more,” walked to the kitchen counter, picked up the bottle of Jim Beam, walked over to me, poured whiskey into my glass, and when the bottle was drained empty before my glass was half full I felt relief, but he just walked back to the kitchen, reached above the sink, opened a cabinet, took out another bottle of Jim Beam, took off the cap, walked back to me, filled my glass, overfilled it so some spilled on my trousers, and he then walked to the table that held his two-thirds full glass, filled it to the top, over-filled it so some spilled on the table, put the cap on the bottle, walked to the kitchen, put the bottle on the counter. He picked up the empty bottle, stepped over to the trash can in front of the sink, put his foot out to step on the lever that would make the top pop up, missed, stabbed at it again with his toe, missed again, stabbed one more time, missed one more time, said, “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” and smacked the bottle hard enough down on the counter to leave me surprised that it didn’t break.

(Via the new issue of Boldtype, the “American Dream Issue,” which remembers Richard Yates’ 1961 Revolutionary Road.)

*This is more or less the way every conversation goes with certain people in my life.


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