I’ll have a glass of what he’s having

Last night I watched a man drink a glass of nothing.

I was at a one man show* and noticed the character pour himself an occasional drink. Eventually the liquid in the prop ran out, but the actor drank on. This is something routinely seen on stage, of course, but  it got me thinking about imaginary drinks.

An imaginary drink can go on forever, like the endless drink featured in Norse mythology. Thor is tricked by a malevolent giant Útgarða-Loki into drinking from a drinking horn magically attached to the sea. Thor is made to look foolish as, despite drinking heroically, he is unable to finish the drink. According to Wikipedia, the annoying giant says:

And when you drank from the horn and thought it slow to sink, I dare say that was a miracle I had not expected to be possible; the far end of the horn was submerged in the sea, but you did not see that. Now, when you come to the shore, you will see what kind of sip you drank from the sea; there is now a sandy beach where there used to be water.

At least Thor’s thirst accounted for a bay full of water. The imaginary drink, however, is endless.

Having recently read The Shining by Stephen King, the tormented father Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic. Due to the malign influence of the Overlook Hotel, he sits at an empty bar which has been closed down for the winter. He starts thinking about drink, and a phantom bartender appears to fix him dry martinis. The book was written when King was himself in the grip of alcoholism, so these scenes have a strange force. These imaginary drinks are on on the house and Torrance quaffs them till he gets absolutely wasted.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the imagination. One thing that is wonderful about it is its unquenchable nature. Its freely available. It is intoxicating. And, usually, you feel fine in the morning.


Jack Torrance all smiles at the bar



* A promising play in development, called Big Man, written and acted by Martin Bonger, directed by Alex Swift and based on the myth of Orpheus.