“Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live,” said the great philosopher/king Marcus Aurelius. The Eastern mystics might call that same thought “living in the moment” and while I am certainly no king and only the most rudimentary of philosophers, the bartender that I am had only two options; rue my current circumstances or make the best of them.
With that thought I stepped up to the only couple left in the sleepy late night mid week bar. There was a familiarity between the two, and oddly, an uncomfortableness that reeked of first dateness as well.
“I’ll have a Paloma,” said the man.
“Still drinking those,” said his companion.
“Somethings never change,” he said with smirk.
I was standing directly in front of them, but it was as if I wasn’t there. An all too common occurrence in the service industry. It is amazing what kinds of interactions happen during a simple order. I have seen wives accuse their husbands of infidelity in the course of an appetizer order. I have also witnessed bosses bring up a subordinates pilfering in between their instructions for a simple cocktail. The Latin proverb “In Vino Veritas” means “in wine there is truth” but often it is not the kind of truth that anyone wants to hear, much less the kind that can be verified. And truth is so often relative to what someone wants to believe.
“They remind me ofMexico,” he said with more wistfulness than fondness.
I suspected thatMexicowas something that they both had in common.
The Paloma itself is probably the most Mexican of all tequila cocktails. The margarita, while easily the most popular tequila cocktail in theUnited Statesis often poorly made and usually only accessible in tourist areas inMexico(at least in my experience). Even the many origin stories of the margarita bounce back and forth just over the Mexico/United States border.
“I don’t have any grapefruit soda,” I said, noting that neither Squirt nor Jarritos Toronja are readily available in mostU.S.bars.
“I didn’t think so,” he said. “Just use grapefruit juice and soda then.”
The Paloma was invented in the town ofTequilain JaliscoMexico, the very eponymous center of the production of tequila. The story goes that the owner of La Capilla, the oldest bar in the very old town, invented the drink. Although one has to question whether or not mixing two abundant local ingredients constitutes inventing anything. What seems more likely is that Don Javier Degado Corona-that very owner- merely named the drink. La Capilla means “the chapel” in Spanish so it only seems natural that the house cocktail made there came to be called “the dove” or “la paloma” in Spanish, as the dove has symbolized the essence of god for millennia.
“You always were particular,” she said to him without even a hint of judgment.
“Maybe that’s what had attracted you,” he said, clearly in the past tense.
“Maybe,” she said turning to me. “I’ll have one too.”
“You never wanted a Paloma before,” he said.
“I’m trying new things,” she said.
They both sat in silence as I made their drinks, beginning by salting the rims.
They resumed their dance.
“I haven’t been here in a while,” he said.
“Me neither,” said she.
Clearly they had both been in, just apparently with other people.
“Do you remember what happened after the last time we were here,” he said.
She turned bright red.
Apparently she did.
The conversation continued for some time. Sometimes it is difficult to learn new steps to a familiar dance.
“This time things have to be different,” she said looking him deep in the eyes.
“I know,” he said.
Eventually the two held hands and after that, just a little more. When they finally left they did so just a little closer together than when they had arrived.
As I cleaned up the remnants of an evening ended, the thought of rekindled love reminded me of several things.
-Sometimes a different path leads to the same old destination.
-What happens inMexicodoesn’t necessarily stay inMexico.
-Marcus Aurelius’ words apply equally to both love and work.
-Tamarind soda or blood orange juice both make delicious versions of the Paloma.
-While we might never be able to go back, we can always go forward.
This story originally appeared in the Marin Independent Journal and online at the San Jose Mercury News