Recovering alcoholic's resolve at Onza Bar


Amazonia Bar looks like the place to grab a drink as you decide where else to move to. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

He’s an old acquaintance, someone I used to know when I was a young magazine writer and he was a man about town. I admired how he navigated through life as if dancing on a rope.

He’s now a recovering alcoholic, a father, and a husband to a long-suffering wife. He’s also worn out, like an old steam engine. He suggested we meet at Onza, which I had seen before at Westgate’s Pop-up market. It seemed chic and effusive with lighting that seemed to remain on your shirt.

He’d come back from rehab in Turkey late last year where he had been for three months. His wife was shopping in a different part of the mall.

“I have an hour,” he said apologetically as we settled at the bar area, near the entrance. He looked a pale shadow of his former self. I hadn’t seen him in two years. Whereas he was fit and lean, now he looked soft and fluffy, like a doll nobody wanted.

“You should have seen me before rehab,” he assured me when he noticed how shocked I was at his transformation, “I was 20 kgs heavier, I breathed heavily and everything I touched smelled of whisky. I was dying.”

I felt sorry for him. I asked why he chose a bar to meet at, we could have met at the cafe outside. “An army of demons working 18-hour shifts would not succeed in making me touch alcohol again,” he said.

He was still quick-witted with a brand of sardonic sarcasm. He told me things about his drinking days that made me laugh so hard. Diners made their way to the restaurant inside Onza’s sanctum that fizzled with life and activity.

When his wife called, I asked him to smell my whisky and tell me the memory that comes with the smell. He brought it to his nose and paused, staring intently at a spot on the counter.

“You know,” he finally said, “have you ever smelled an old shirt you wore on a particularly hot sweaty day? That’s what whisky smells like to me.”

We hugged and I wished him all the best in his sobriety.

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