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September 26, 2020

Searching for Anton Chigurh

Bryan Harvey

The menu described the cocktail as the desert strained through a human head—or maybe the waiter described it that way. Then again, maybe I said that after taking my first sip. The details of the night are somewhat jostled in my memory because I ordered at least three Anton Chigurhs and drank them all way too fast. But I didn’t know that until I walked to the bathroom—unsteady as I rose from a low-lounging couch cushion more fit for a basement than a bar. I don’t think I washed my hands before making my return, and maybe I ordered a fourth maniacal cocktail out of some deeply buried avoidance now being excavated. Who really knows? The cocktail’s mix of mezcal and tequila hid its agave roots: a jungle cat carved from smoke—it clawed its way across my tongue as I swayed in and out of casual conversation— like a radio sifting and sidewinding down backroads and mountain passes. The place was called Plonk and is somewhere in Missoula still. I know that’s a long way from Texas—even farther from Mexico—, and I have not been back. I have not seen the friends who were with me that night. My wife and I are on the rocks, too—like two sides of the same coin, we seem dead set on not seeing eye to eye anymore. I mean that in a literal sense—I have not seen her physically for quite some time. But I remember her the way a person might take hold of a river. I float into hardware stores and motel parking lots, but she’s not there. I have been to her mother’s place, but the home has new owners. I ask the local kids out playing in the street, but they act like they can’t see me. I stroll into bars. I order the Anton Chigurh, and the bartenders stare at me like I have a hole blown through my fucking skull. What’s in it? they eventually ask, but they can barely make eye contact. I tell them, Tequila and mezcal and who knows what else. They wipe a shot glass clean, staring through its bottom as if it were a monocle or a rifle’s scope. They place the clean glass on the bar. They fill it to the brim as they struggle for a steady pour. I throw the shot back. I throw a few back. I am always parched, and when I leave this place, I leave a puddle on the floor where I was supposedly standing. Someone else will have to clean that up—I can barely feel the sinkhole that is my brain. I am still looking for my keys.