Home > Fiction > The Fourteen Stages of Tequila
Published: Thu Jul 1 2004
Eva LundsagerUnder Constant Still (detail), 2017–2021, oil on canvas
The Fourteen Stages of Tequila

Stage 1—Smart. In this first stage, the tequila drinker comes to believe himself an expert in many subjects, and wishes to convey his newly-realized knowledge to anyone and everyone present. The drinker believes he is inarguably correct in all of his suppositions and assertions.

Stage 2—Good Looking. During the second stage, the drinker of tequila fancies himself the best-looking individual present. He is likely to approach strangers who do not know him, but whom he believes will nonetheless desire him. This is because his confidence in his physical appearance causes him to feel as though he is sexually attractive to others.

Stage 3—Good Smelling. At this point, the drinker comes to feel that his person has begun to emanate mild and pleasing odors, as of lavender or musk. The subtle scents, rising up from his torso and limbs, enshroud his head and senses in an intoxicating fog of delicate colognes.

Stage 4—Willowy. Gradually, the tequila drinker becomes lithe yet unstable, airy without center or core, buffeted this way and that by the minutest winds, winds no one else could detect, even the gentlest syllables of those speaking to him may seem to blow him over, lift him up and, finding no resistance at all, set him down again.

Stage 5—Darkly Cunning. In this stage the tequila drinker will tend to occupy a corner or nook from which he can peer out at his fellows with suspicion and a hint of malice. He will calculate the objects of secret motives, weigh the significance of hidden gestures, and speak—if he speaks at all—in elliptical phrases and knowing references.

Stage 6—Sweet-Toothed. This stage finds the drinker urgently craving all manner of custards, parfaits and profiteroles. He will scamper from table to table, plucking up each goodie and sucking his fingertips to get the last bit of cream. The tequila drinker’s eye may appear almost nacreous or glazed, from the lust of wanting and having the sweets.

Stage 7—Able to Hear Angel Noises. Here the face of the tequila drinker will appear furrowed or slightly contorted, as if he were straining to hear a very, very distant music. In fact, he is receiving through the fragile membranes and bones of the inner-ear (the round and oval windows, the anvil and stirrup) what seems to be a genuine angelic murmur, or ‘spirit hoot’: a low, monotonous vibration whose gradual increase in frequency signifies the partial communication of a quasi-deific meaning. During the drinker’s reception of this song, his face and head may appear softly blurred to the observer—this is simply because the angel noise has permeated the sinus cavities and is causing the head to vibrate at a frequency concordant with the transmitted ‘meaning.’

Stage 8—Discolored About the Mouth. In this stage, the drinker’s mouth—including lips, teeth, tongue, and chin—tends to acquire a livid sheen. From a distance, the face with the discolored mouth area may appear as a muzzle or maw, after the manner of certain cats or bears in whom such patterning is common. For some drinkers the mouth will seem adumbrated, as though (in contrast with the rest of the face and head) it had been vaguely or dreamily sketched in with a piece of soft pencil.

Stage 9—Poised in the Eye of the Storm. Suddenly, in the ninth stage, the drinker of tequila will remain utterly still with all of his senses alerted and uncannily whetted. His posture will betray an awareness that he is harassed from all sides by an invisible threat. The ticking of seconds will register in the twitching of the corners of his eyelids; the knowledge of an impending disaster will be inscribed in the furrows of his brow. He will detect a scent of ozone, a phantom trace of asphalt or of clover.

Stage 10—Pseudo-Ricketted. The thigh-bones, knees and ankles of the tequila drinker soften during this stage, becoming flexible and even distended. The drinker may crouch, slump, or seem to collapse or fold up. If he moves at all within the tavern or beer garden, he must move with extreme caution and slowness, relying on the strength of a crutch or other aid. If possible, he may fortify himself with high-protein snacks like whole nuts, salt cod, or jerky.

Stage 11—Burdened by a Terrible Secret. In this stage of tequila, the drinker will seem remote and, on closer inspection, wrought by an inner torture, as though he bears both the brunt of and the responsibility for some ancient and unfathomably grave crime, a crime of history or of generations, a sin so black and mysterious that even if he lived for a thousand years he could never even begin to approach the slightest understanding of its enormity and consequence, even though it suffuses his very blood.

Stage 12—Pyramidal. A tapering effect will occur in the twelfth stage, whereby the drinker’s lower quarters appear squarish and fundamental, his midsection and torso moderate of girth, and his head-region diminutive or tiny. The inverse of this formation may sometimes result in an enormous, table-like head, and feet that seem stuffed into the shoes of the strictest and most exacting of ballerinas.

Stage 13—Castrato. During this stage, the drinker will feel himself as one member of an almost infinite throng of sublunary castrati, all lined up hip to hip against the rear wall of an enormous starlit glass chamber, the gossamer hem-tassels of their liquidy silk choir-frocks gently tickling their neatly-clipped opalescent toenails, as, their soft hands clasped behind their backs, they raise their hairless faces upward and croon, through childlike oval mouths, the ageless lament, in haunting silver tones, of the transience of mortal beauty, the solemn mystery of suffering upon the earth, and the ever-distant mercy of the silent, brooding godhead.

Stage 14—Cephalopterous. The tequila drinker’s ears, during this final stage, become feathered and winglike. He will take on a mythic or emblematic attitude, but in bashful moments the wings may instinctively fold themselves down over the sides of his head, shielding from public sight the blushing cheeks.

Brian Booker grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. His fiction has been published in The Antioch ReviewConjunctions, _AGNI online, _EpochNew England ReviewOne StoryShenandoahTin HouseTriQuarterly, and elsewhere. His collection, The Sleeping Sickness, was a finalist in the Iowa Short Fiction Awards. In 2009–2010, Brian was a winter fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He received his PhD in English from NYU in 2009, with a dissertation on David Foster Wallace. Brian currently lives in Iowa City, where he is an Iowa Arts Fellow in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. (updated 8/2013)

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