Circumfluent time: Sampling mescal in Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano
Lift up your eyes unto the hills, I seem to hear a voice saying. Sometimes, when I see the little red mail plane fly in from Acapulco at seven in the morning over the strange hills, or more probably hear, lying trembling, shaking, and dying in bed (when I am in bed at that time)—just a tiny roar and gone—as I reach out babbling for the glass of mescal, the drink that I can never believe even in raising to my lips is real, that I have had the marvellous foresight to put within easy reach the night before, I think that you will be on it, on that plane every morning as it goes by, and will have come to save me. Then the morning goes by and you have not come. But oh, I pray for this now, that you will come. On second thoughts I do not see why from Acapulco. But for God's sake, Yvonne, hear me, my defences are down, at the moment they are down—and there goes the plane, I heard it in the distance then, just for an instant, beyond Tomalín—come back, come back. I will stop drinking, anything. I am dying without you. For Christ Jesus sake Yvonne come back to me, hear me, it is a cry, come back to me, Yvonne, if only for a day.
"It's mescal with me... Tequila, no, that is healthful... and delightful. Just like beer. Good for you. But if I ever start to drink mescal again, I'm afraid, yes, that would be the end," the Consul said dreamily.
"Mescal," the Consul said, almost absent-mindedly. What had he said? Never mind. Nothing less than mescal would do. But it mustn't be a serious mescal, he persuaded himself. "No, Señor Cervantes," he whispered, "mescal, poquito."
"The Cave of the Winds. The Cascada Sagrada." There were, in fact, rainbows. Though without them the mescal (which Yvonne couldn't of course have noticed) would have already invested the place with a magic. The magic was of Niagara Falls itself, not its elemental majesty, the honeymoon town; in a sweet, tawdry, even hoydenish sense of love that haunted this nostalgic spray-blown spot. But now the mescal struck a discord, then a succession of plaintive discords to which the drifting mists all seemed to be dancing, through the elusive subtleties of ribboned light, among the detached shreds of rainbows floating. It was a phantom dance of souls, baffled by these deceptive blends, yet still seeking permanence in the midst of what was only perpetually evanescent, or eternally lost. Or it was a dance of the seeker and his goal, here pursuing still the gay colours he did not know he had assumed, there striving to identify the finer scene of which he might never realize he was already a part.
—But without mescal, he imagined, he had forgotten eternity, forgotten their world's voyage, that the earth was a ship, lashed by the Horn's tail, doomed never to make her Valparaiso. Or that it was like a golf ball, launched at Hercules's Butterfly, wildly hooked by a giant out of an asylum window in hell. Or that it was a bus, making its erratic journey to Tomalín and nothing. Or that it was like—whatever it would be shortly, after the next mescal.
His second mescal had become serious.
Mescal tears came to the Consul's eyes .
The Consul dropped his eyes at last. How many bottles since then? In how many glasses, how many bottles had he hidden himself, since then alone? Suddenly he saw them, the bottles of aguardiente, of anís, of jerez, of Highland Queen, the glasses, a babel of glasses—towering, like the smoke from the train that day—built to the sky, then falling, the glasses toppling and crashing, falling downhill from the Generalife Gardens, the bottles breaking, bottles of Oporto, tinto, bianco, bottles of Pernod, Oxygénée, absinthe, bottles smashing, bottles cast aside, falling with a thud on the ground in parks, under benches, beds, cinema seats, hidden in drawers at Consulates, bottles of Calvados dropped and broken, or bursting into smithereens, tossed into garbage heaps, flung into the sea, the Mediterranean, the Caspian, the Caribbean, bottles floating in the ocean, dead Scotchmen on the Atlantic highlands—and now he saw them, smelt them, all, from the very beginning-bottles, bottles, bottles, and glasses, glasses, glasses, of bitter, of Dubonnet, of Falstaff, Rye, Johnny Walker, Vieux Whisky, blanc Canadien, the aperitifs, the digestifs, the demis, the dobles, the noch ein Herr Obers, the et glas Araks, the tusen taks, the bottles, the bottles, the beautiful bottles of tequila, and the gourds, gourds, gourds, the millions of gourds of beautiful mescal.
But the mescal, the Consul realized, had succeeded in a manner somewhat outside his calculations. The strange truth was, he had another hangover. There was something in fact almost beautiful about the frightful extremity of that condition the Consul now found himself in. It was a hangover like a great dark ocean swell finally rolled up against a foundering steamer, by countless gales to windward that have long since blown themselves out. And from all this it was not so much necessary to sober up again, as once more to wake, yes, as to wake, so much as to—
The mescal, while it assuaged, slowed his mind; each object demanded some moments to impinge upon him.
Time was circumfluent again too, mescal-drugged.