My Life on Rye

In the financial depths of Manhattan, 40-year-old asset management cog Nolan Buckle watches the contents of his life swirl like ice clouds in a tumbler. His wife leaves with no explanation, forcing him to reconcile the uninspired man he’s become against the hungry, heartfelt musician he once was. When the death of a coworker catapults Buckle onto the fast track at work, he navigates the highs and lows of capitalism and alcohol in a role that takes him from NYC to Dublin and back again, all the while trying to recover whatever dregs remain from his pre-corporate-shill self. Told in an unadorned narrative voice reminiscent of a Sam Shepard character and paced as tightly as a Gillian Flynn thriller, My Life on Rye is the everyman’s quest for redemption served dirty, dry, and with a twist.

Originally published in weekly serialization by At Large magazine

Freshly poured

Episode 61: The Final Episode

On the edge of the parking lot sits a canopied antiques market — the type of place Kitty thrived on. I surprise myself by walking over, studying furniture with intricate carvings. Records and lamps and old suitcases with travel stickers from all over the world. I’m tempted to purchase a wooden bench despite having no outdoor space to place it. It’s the type of no-frills piece that exudes craftsmanship and solidarity, as though one could sit forever without fear of falling.

Episode 60: Jim Beam

In the city, everything from historical landmarks to zoned tenements get flattened to make way for condos. In my hometown, however, nothing changes. Facades unspool the same old stories, weathering with time. It dawns on me how thoroughly location shapes one’s worldview, that I’ve grown to expect that everything will someday fall.

Episode 59: Arrogant Bastard Ale, Part 3

He ate his last bit and clapped off his hands. ‘Anybody’s father would have trouble keeping up, you know. First it’s music, then it’s animals, now it’s ass management.

Episode 58: Arrogant Bastard Ale, Part 2

For all the love my father put into acquiring his collection, he was shit at care and maintenance.

Episode 57: Arrogant Bastard Ale, Part 1

It took half an hour before I admitted my father wasn’t coming to pick me up.

Episode 56: Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon

I think back on sixteen years of right angles, clean surfaces, muted colors. Weak coffee, overzealous air conditioning. Power cords, corridors, conference rooms. Panes of glass, separating me from the city.

Episode 55: Cherry Coke, Part 2

We finally break. Laughter cues hiccups. Pornstache eyes us from afar. We hold onto each other to keep from falling over.

Episode 54: Cherry Coke, Part 1

I stop by a street market flower shop. Hunt through lillies and tulips and roses. Uncover a crimson orchid still in the pot. A thing of austere beauty.

Episode 53: Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey

Thus inspired, I sip. Tree bark, soil, and honey. Fire, where once there was nought.

Episode 52: Old Vin Zin, Part 3

There’s a humidity that descends on New York in the summer. It threatens to burst but holds true, leaving one pining for a release.

Episode 51: Old Vin Zin, Part 2

Conor takes my hand again. Is this just a thing men do in Ireland?

Episode 50: Old Vin Zin, Part 1

Esther rests the weight of her head on my arm, not sleeping. Light and shadow trace strange animals across her bedsheet curtains.

Episode 49: Belvedere

Summer arrives in the city, abrupt and ruthless. The trees blossomed months ago, before winter clawed its way back. Their branches are in a state of utter confusion.

Episode 48: Champagne, Part 3

I smiled a mayfly smile: it died before it lived.

Episode 47: Champagne, Part 2

The epicenter of music turned out to be a dirty stretch of blacktop. Druggies and drunkards wasted no time asking for money. I about-faced. Returned to the main drag. Night would fall soon enough.

Episode 46: Champagne, Part 1

Day by day, we rejigged our wardrobes to seem more robust. Night by night, we ordered delivery or cooked something easy. The kitchen belonged to neither of us. Everything went toward the future.

Episode 45: Old Speckled Hen, Part 2

Nervous glances, from others at the restaurant. I leave my seat and pace the area out front.

Episode 44: Old Speckled Hen, Part 1

Happiness is like honey — it sticks until something diffuses it.

Episode 43: Orange Flower Water

There’s a gnawing pleasure in getting tanked during daylight hours, laughing stupidly as we disappear and become more realized, ripping each other’s clothes off and laying bare our demands, rising to the other’s challenges, forgetting whatever pain lies outside the moment.

Episode 42: St-Germain, Part 2

I join her in a first sip, expecting straight vodka over ice. Instead, it’s a soft floral elixir with a hint of sweetness.

Episode 41: St-Germain, Part 1

Fifth floor. No elevator. These stairs are ready to collapse.

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Episode 40: Powers Irish Whiskey

It takes a certain talent to say nothing and sound articulate.

Episode 39: Bordeaux, Part 3

Without clothes, one can see her every vertebra, her every rib. Her limbs are nothing but muscle and bone.

Episode 38: Bordeaux, Part 2

Blood pounding in my ears, I follow her to a dimly lit hallway.

Episode 37: Bordeaux, Part 1

What does one call the feeling — wanting to watch the world burn, wanting to burn along with it?

Episode 36: Olde English

40 of malt liquor in hand, I realize my apartment no longer belongs to me.

Episode 35: High West Campfire Whiskey, Part 2

Whiskey appears by magic. The next performer starts strong, then fizzles. I fuzzily think through my set.

Episode 34: High West Campfire Whiskey, Part 1

When an open mic becomes a litmus test of your emotions, you know you’re in a bad state.

Episode 33: Tres Mujeres Extra Añejo Tequila, Part 2

The hostess returns with a tray of glasses and presents Conor with the bottle. His accent wins big smiles — as do his watch, his suit, and the dozen or so other details that promise a big tip.

Episode 32: Tres Mujeres Extra Añejo Tequila, Part 1

The momentum of Dublin grinds into the reality of conference calls and paperwork. I rejig contracts only to have clients change their minds, or our legal department weigh in, or Conor propose some new idea. Track changes become my nightmare.

Episode 31: Johnnie Walker Blue, Part 2

Bit by bit, we eroded the level of whiskey. We laid siege to the kitchen pantry — foregoing my future mother-in-law’s rice crackers in favor of Kitty’s doomsday supply of sugar cereal. Still left wanting, we nuked burritos.

Episode 30: Johnnie Walker Blue, Part 1

From across the street, framed by the door, my wife is a frenzied silhouette. She zips her collar against the lackluster rain. A storm’s not a storm until it speaks above a whisper.

Episode 29: Jefferson’s Ocean: Aged at Sea Bourbon

I cannot help but wonder if the lawyer considers himself to be God in this scenario.

Episode 28: Flying Dog Double Dog Double IPA

For the entirety of the first class flight home, I’m comatose — foregoing food, flicks, and frills to commence what’s sure to be a prolonged recovery.

Episode 27: Kahlúa

Our legs connected under the table, our hands clasped when we rose. Without a word, we headed to her place.

Episode 26: Green Chartreuse

Thanks to Conor’s affinity for infidelity, I have our final night in Dublin to myself.

Episode 25: Writers Tears, Part 2

The more powerful the financial institution, the sparser they keep their lobby.

Episode 24: Writers Tears, Part 1

Our first day with clients, I awake with a cavernous hangover. There’s no other word for it. Someone’s barrelled out my body.

Episode 23: Teeling Whiskey Single Barrel, Part 3

Conor’s apartment occupies the top floor of a pre-war building on the Liffey. He attempts to give me a guided tour that I indulge — jettisoned as we are.

Episode 22: Teeling Whiskey Single Barrel, Part 2

How many ways do the Irish have of saying somebody’s drunk?

Episode 21: Teeling Whiskey Single Barrel, Part 1

Quick nap back at the hotel. Luxurious trip to the steam room. Shower and a shave. Red-eye be damned, I feel like a human again.

Episode 20: Guinness, Part 2

I walk through public art that belongs in a museum. Captivating bronze sculptures that nonetheless manage to blend in with their surroundings. Perhaps all of us are gaze-worthy. Every last soul.

Episode 19: Guinness, Part 1

First class is filled with bottomless booze, top notch cuisine, and endless movie selections, both foreign and domestic. God bless and God damn my company for paying for this unnecessary luxury. A mild-mannered passenger is better off not knowing what lies beyond the curtain.

Episode 18: Bulmers Cider

I’m horizontal on the living room floor, Spud by my side. The minutes lift into hours as the liquor leaves my system. A car idles outside, blaring radio. A parade overtakes my ceiling — crip-walking giraffes and twerking rhinoceri.

Episode 17: Booker’s

Money and power are not things to which I aspire.

Episode 16: Natural Light, Part 3

She was a girl who never stopped half-dancing, and her red triangle tongue flicked into view in slow sweeping motions.

Episode 15: Natural Light, Part 2

The doorknob to my dorm room had a sock on it. A white gym sock on a steady slog toward grey.

Episode 14: Natural Light, Part 1

There was a time when I thought the world was split into two groups of people. Those who cheat, and those who don’t.

Episode 13: Basil Hayden’s II

Vets are roughly six times more likely to off themselves than the general population. That’s right. Six.

Episode 12: Laphroaig, Part 2

Twenty minutes later, I take my first sip. Nail polish and citrus. Wonderful indeed.

Episode 11: Laphroaig, Part 1

In life and sex, compassion goes a far way.

Episode 10: Jameson

“Not going to lie, Champion. This role involves late nights, drinking, and women. You’d travel the world, earn a crack salary. Game changer, pure and simple. Question is, are you a feller who would fuck it up?”

Episode 9: Calvados, Part 2

Her left hand emerges at last to cover her face, wedding band missing.

Episode 8: Calvados, Part 1

Her voicemail lasts eight seconds. “It’s me. I heard you stopped by, and…” There’s a silence, then, “We should talk. Call me.” I play it twice before calling back. As it rings, I try to subdue my hair in the mirror. Given recent weeks, I have a full revolt on my hands.

Episode 7: Peach Schnapps, Part 2

Everything in town was walking distance and within minutes we reached her off-campus apartment – a large room above someone’s garage. Kitty had decorated every inch of the place with tapestries and lamps and strange thrift store furniture. It was like stepping into a Moroccan blanket fort.

Episode 6: Peach Schnapps, Part 1

It was freshman year. I harbored plans of becoming a vet. And my assignment one Wednesday was drawing blood from a white Himalayan.

Episode 5: Jack Daniel’s

Guitar flaccid between my legs, I watch a kid half my age own the stage at this open mic. He plays mandolin. He’s able to last full verses without taking a breath. He finishes up with his third homespun masterpiece in a row.

Episode 4: Beefeater

The news spreads like a punchline through the office. Morris Stump, deputy head of Client Relations and all-around vanilla-flavored human being, was struck and killed by an amphibious tour vehicle while traveling on business in Dublin. “Right,” goes the joke, “If anyone was going look the wrong way stepping off a curb.”

Episode 3: Baileys

Spud yips and twitches in his sleep, chasing rabbits. I watch the digital numbers as Friday succumbs to Saturday.

Episode 2: Interboro Negative Space

The work day starts with stalking my wife on social media. Online, we are still together. A framed picture of our wedding sits atop my desk, monochrome and timeless.

Episode 1: Basil Hayden’s

I swore I would never be a man who looks for meaning in a bottle.

Digging My Life on Rye?

Wish you could take it home as an artfully designed paperback to enjoy over a drink? Consider ordering signed copies of Nathaniel’s novels Dahlia Cassandra & Concrete Fever. They’re plenty boozy as well.