Death by Gin, with Guitar

Julia Klatt Singer


She knew eventually it was bound to happen.  She would get to the end of words.  Have used each one up, so that only the crumbs of an x and a w, only a stray comma, was left.  One half of a parentheses.  Oh, and she had a wherefore and a smug, she had no intention of ever using.

In the quiet wordlessness, she felt a strange clarity.  As if she was a glass of gin—transparent, singular, potent.  Felt too, a bit foolish—she must have realized at some point that she’d run out, she knew that only numbers are infinite, and at the rate she was using words, they wouldn’t last forever.  But she hadn’t expect it to happen so quietly, without any warning, grand emotion, or fanfare.  A struggle would have been nice.  A climatic fight, dishes broken, words exchanged until her voice hurt, but no, it was just like running out of milk or bread. 

         Looking around, she pictured her room a dot to dot.  Numbered each stop; bed, 1, window, 2, chair, 3, slippers, 4, nightgown, 5, rug, 6, door, 7, nightstand, 8, empty glass, 9, guitar, 10.

The guitar had stood in the corner for almost a year now, since William had left.  When he moved in, he had brought only it and a suitcase full of books.  He had put the guitar on the bed, told her, he was sorry, but he found the shape of his guitar to be the most erotic and beautiful thing—no offense, but the curve of her hip, the length of her neck, the sheen of her body was living and pliable, things of the flesh and they never stay the same.  Do not fret, he told her, with you there are no strings attached.

When he made love to her, she stretched her neck out, pretended her body was hollow.  She made sure he’d never forget the curve of her hips, and she let his fingers strum her, until she sang.

In the kitchen, she found a bottle of gin and poured herself a juice glass full.  She was out of tonic and didn’t really feel like a mixed drink anyway.  Without words, everything had a purity to it. 

She took the glass to the front porch, sat and watched as night draped itself around the trees and rooftops.  Felt a sense of freedom she hadn’t felt in a long long time.  Her hands didn’t itch.  She felt no compulsion to write it down, to save it, to get it right, to watch the sky shift from a bruised violet to navy.  No, tonight she was not interested in the words the world made for her.

She went back into the kitchen and grabbed the bottle.  Loved the sound of the gin as she poured it in the glass.  Trees moaned softly.  The telephone wire twanged as the crow, loitering there, took flight.  The road hummed as a guy on a bike coasted past.


She thought about stars and the sounds they made.  Wondered if they burned like her. slow and simmering.  Wondered too if you could hear their heart beating and what key they beat in. The moon, she decided, was a bit like hiding in a closet, surrounded by darkness and just the sound of her own breath to keep her company.  The air on the moon was stale, most likely smelled like shoes and dust.

She missed the crickets, but liked the idea of looking forward to the first night when they sang for her.  She felt like a thief, stealing the night this way, sound by sound, with no intention of doing anything with them.

She let night fall, and finished her gin.  Let the screen door slam behind her, let the sound of it die.  Climbed the seventeen steps to her bedroom and undressed, letting her clothes fall to the floor.  She walked to the corner of the room, and took the guitar case to her bed.  Unsnapped the latches and lifted the instrument out of the case.  It smelled like William, clean and polished.  She laid the guitar on the bed and put the case back in the corner.  The moon shone through her window and she smiled, realizing her skin and the moon’s were the same color.  She climbed onto the bed, laid down next to the guitar.  She turned onto her side, and with her left hand, took the guitar by the neck, nudged her thigh against its body and with her right hand, she plucked each string slowly, let the vibrations ripple off into the darkness.  And she knew, as long as she could count the moments of silence between strings, as long as she had an open window, the body of the moon, a glass of gin, and William’s guitar case, empty in the corner, she would never need words again.