In Jean-Paul Sartre’s epistolary novel Nausea—
[Bill: Um, John? This is not an auspicious way to start a review…]
—Bill! I know what I’m doing! Ahem, as I was saying, in Sartre’s Nausea, protagonist Antoine Roquentin writes in his diary about his lover, Anny, and how she sought to create “perfect moments” out of their brief assignations. These would start with what she called “privileged situations” which, once detected, she would begin to manipulate in order to bring off the desired effect. These manipulations made Antoine miserable. Nothing he said or did was right, and her dissatisfaction and resentment was palpable. But in time and as their separation was imminent, the wreckage of their interactions would occasionally produce a perfect moment. It was as if Anny were introducing sand into a clammy interior of their relationship in order to extract a pearl. And once extracted, it would be held in her memory, durable, inviolable forever, in every way a perfect moment.
The good people at Laphroaig’s secret laboratory (built below their capacious peat bogs, or so we like to believe) have found a way to distill, age, and bottle a serum with exactly the properties that Anny sought so desperately to create out of her social interactions, but with none of the depressing, “existential” side effects. They call it the Laphroaig 18. Those of us in the know understand that the 18 is no ordinary age statement. It’s the name for the unique project of bottling perfect moments, this being the 18th and final attempt. (I will add we do not speak of the abject failures of project 4, God rest their souls; the peat brick cairn offers silent witness to their sacrifice not unlike the 107 stars cut into Vermont marble in a lobby in Langley, Virginia.) The color is straw spun into gold with the aid of an imp, or perhaps it is closer to white corn after a few moments on the grill when the husks begin to sweat. Charcoal on the nose? You better believe it. But it is the kind used to create breathtaking cave paintings that seal in themselves the imaginary of our distant past, retaining forever the earliest expression of the joys and wonder of humanity. The nose has the vitality of the bulls and antelopes come to life in the firelight. The mouth is nothing less than a mother’s kiss upon a newborn’s forehead, expressing a love both infinitely gentle and eternally unwavering. The finish rolls on like a left-handed check swing ground ball down the third base line that rolls and rolls and the shifted third baseman dashes over from the shortstop position and the catcher with arthritic knees waddles and throws his mask and still the ball rolls and rolls and the runner kicks up cupfulls of basepath dirt with each stride and the ball rolls and the catcher and third baseman now over the ball will it roll foul no time to make the play is it foul or fair and it rolls it is on the chalk do they touch it slowing now it sits on the chalk it is fair hurray fair I said fair ball.
The Laphroaig 18 is sharing a flask of Laphroaig 18 in a parking lot before entering a minor league baseball game on a beautiful summer night–Unlike Anny and Antoine, I needed no irritants to bring this perfect moment about. It was there in the dram and in the resplendent green grass and the chalked-off diamond and in the greatness that is baseball.