All The Single Ladies (Continued)
By six or seven in the evening, across the city in all the slick new restaurants with dozens of craft beers and encyclopedic wine lists, corks were being pulled. Freezing-cold vodka and gin were slapping against designer ice cubes in shiny clacking shakers, with concoctions designed by a mixologist whose star was ascending on a trajectory matched with his ambition. Hip young patrons in fedoras and tight pants or impossibly high heels and short skirts picked at small plates of house-cured salumi and caponata. At less glamorous watering holes, crab dip was sitting on an undistinguished cracker, boiled peanuts dripping with saline goodness were being cracked open, and pop tops were popping.
An afternoon cocktail was a sacred tradition in the Holy City and had been as far back as the War. Charlestonians (natives and the imported) did not fool around with traditions, no, ma'am, even if your interpretation of tradition meant you'd prefer iced tea to bourbon. When the proper time arrived, the genteel privileged, the hipsters, and the regular folks paused for refreshment. If you were from elsewhere, you observed. We were so much more than a sea-drinking city.
But I was hours away from any kind of indulgence and it was doubtful I'd run into someone with whom I could share a cool one in the first place. To be honest, I was a juicer and got my thrills from liquefied carrots and spinach, stocking up when they were on special at the Bi-Lo. And I was the classic case of "table for one, please." Such is the plight of the middle-aged divorcée. I had surrendered my social life ages ago. On the brighter side, I enjoyed a lot of freedom. There was just me and Pickle, my adorable Westie. We would probably stroll the neighborhood later, as we usually did in the cool of early evening.
This morning, I finally got in my car and braved the evil heat baked into my steering wheel. I turned on the motor and held my breath in spurts until the air-conditioning began blowing cool air. My Toyota was an old dame with eighty-five thousand miles on her. I prayed for her good health every night. As I turned all the vents toward me I thought, Good grief, it's only June. It's only seven thirty in the morning. By August we could all be dead. Probably not. It's been like this every sweltering summer for the entire fifty-two years of my life. Never mind the monstrous hurricanes in our neck of the woods. I've seen some whoppers.
As I backed out of my driveway an old southernism ran across my mind. Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies glow. Either I was a horse or I was aglow on behalf of twenty women. I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm complaining, which I might be to some degree, but during summer my skin always tastes like salt. Not that I went around licking myself like a cat. Even our most sophisticated visitors would agree that while Charleston could be as sultry and sexy a place as there is on this earth, our summers are something formidable, to be endured with forethought and respect. Hydrate. Sunscreen. Cover your hair so it doesn't oxidize. Orange hair is unbecoming to a rosy complexion.