Distillation: The Life and Death of Holy Water


I used to think the holy water decoration was outdated. Its simple interior is filled with religious imagery: images of the crucifixion and tacky casts and eerie portraits of the undead. But the last time I came to Kirtland, Bernal’s main drag, right next to Boccana, was pre-pandemic. That’s how it was then. In today’s turbulent world, the decoration of holy water seemed a little odd at the time – especially the creepy undead figures.

“Is that a zombie?” my friend “Tasha” asked over and over, staring at a picture of a shriveled bartender on the wall behind me. The painting was so far away and the light was so dim that it was hard to tell. Maybe it’s some kind of weird racist cartoon? The more we drink, the more she has to know.

I was supposed to meet Tasha here alone to talk about helping her create a personal artistic experience, but when she walked into the bar, she hugged me and smiled embarrassedly. “I ran into two friends,” she said. “They said they were going to the Royal Cuckoo, and I had to tell them: No, you’re not. It’s closed tonight.” She knew this because originally we were going to meet there. “So, since they have nowhere to go, I tell them they can go with me. Hope it’s alright?”

“Of course,” I said. Sometimes you just roll with these things.

But when her friends “John” and “Todd” came over, I found out that I already knew both of them: I knew Todd before the pandemic and attended some of his house parties. I met John at another new friend’s dinner a few weeks ago. It’s a strange moment: everyone gathered at this table at random already knows everyone else, but none of us know that any of us know anyone else.

In fact, John had just told Todd about my book that night, not realizing that we were acquaintances, let alone that we were about to meet.

Tasha put her hand on mine. “We’ll probably be stripping away for a while to get one-on-one time,” she told them.

“Oh,” John said, “we might just come here for a drink.” Neither statement is true. The future, even in small doses, is difficult to predict.

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