A shot of Fireball

adriana suriano
3 min readOct 5, 2022

When I was 16 1/2 my parents would go to the bank every Friday evening. My parents loved going to their bank. My parents were local celebrities. They spoke in their broken English. Always teaching a few Italian words to their favorite teller. They paid their bills at their bank. Cashed their paychecks there.

When my parents were at their bank, I was at our house opening their liquor cabinet to find a few bottles. They had the same bottles for years. Grappa (smelled like gasoline). Some red liquor from Italy. And get this . A random bottle of Fireball. The kind that tastes like big red cinnamon gum. It tastes all cinnamon and sweet until you are just about to swallow. The burn hits the back of your throat. Depending on the week I had in high school, would determine how many shots I drank. This week was awful. Just like the week before. I would let the first one burn my throat and quickly take another. I would shake it off, putting the shot glass in my purse. As soon as my friend pulled up, I lit up a Marlboro light.

Now at 52, I call my dad at 7 am most mornings. Sometimes he spoke to no one else all day. I made sure I was the best active listener. Afterwards I get dressed and walk to the bus stop. The 70 bus takes me to the apartment building to see a client. I am exhausted as usual. This year is 20 years working for a toxic non-profit although serving amazingly resilient Washington, DC residents. I tell myself the usual. It’s a young person’s job. It’s okay to be tired.

On an earlier phone call, he tells me he is in all kinds of deep shit. With the legal system. With his property manager at his apartment building. With people on the street who try and take advantage of his sharp tongue and small stature.

Lloyd doesn’t quite see me, so I try and see what he is doing outside of his building.

“Hey Lloyd. I am here for our 10:30 am check-in.”

“Listen we gotta walk this way. I got the box on my ankle so if we walk one block the other way this thing goes the fuck off and I’ll get locked up.”

“No problem.” I ask him if he’s hungry and he leads me to the nearest Mcdonald’s. he switches places with me, so he walks closest to traffic. He tells me that if a there is a drive by, he would rather die than see me dead. So, we switch places. “Thank you, Lloyd. That is very thoughtful.”

“Well, you know the world already thinks I am a piece of shit. So, you know. Better me than you.”

“The world is a piece of shit Llyod, not you.”

I tell him to order whatever he wants. He orders a couple double cheeseburgers with bacon but no fries. “The fries at McDonald’s aren’t worth shit.” I order a bottle of water.

“You aren't eating miss lady?”

“Lloyd it’s 10:30 am. I cannot eat a double cheeseburger with bacon.” I realize how obnoxiously privileged that sounded.

“I am going to save mine for later.”

I start the same way with Lloyd, as I do every client.

“Okay, so tell me everything.” And Lloyd does.

I take the 70 bus back home and look at the clock. “Fuck. It’s only 1:00 pm. I have so much fucking paperwork to do.” I answer phone calls. Write a few client contact notes.

When it turns 5:01 pm, I close my laptop. I silence my work cell phone. I decide this is a Fireball shot day. I don’t like the smell or taste, so I have elevated what I drink. I grab the long-stemmed white wine glass and add a few ice cubes. I pour the driest French Sauvignon Blanc and take a healthy sip.

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adriana suriano

i am a first generation italian-american who grew up in southern new jersey. Life is amazingly beautiful and devastating. Sometimes in the same day.