The Lonely Wine Man
Every so often, he would stare at the three bottles of wine behind the red leather couch in his room. They were placed there out of the sun to keep them cool. He didn’t know much about storing wine, but this was his attempt at keeping them preserved. He peered over the couch to inspect them. Still there. Still wine. The first layer of dust had already begun to form around the necks and golden foil seals. He thought that gave it an aged vintage look. Also, it would show proof that they hadn’t been touched since they were placed there. If even one had been opened, that would prove him to be disloyal.
So he would inspect, smile, and that was all.
Also, there was one other bottle on the table in the room next to the couch, next to his bed. And sometimes he would readjust the one bottle of red wine on the table on his room. He assumed that was the one that was left there for him. But he just looked at it and created scenarios on the day he would open it, and it would be shared. It was so fancy. There was a wasp, or a bee embossed on the foil. The bottle was a dark colored glass. And thick. The neck was long, and the shoulders were curvy. The bottles had a nice weight to them. Some nights he would notice the moon shining on it, and other times the candle on the candle holder behind it would be lit, and it would remind of him of being in a 5-star restaurant.
Always waiting for the waitress to pop the cork.
He was not much of a drinker, but he was curious about these four bottles. At the tasting, he had positive feedback. But he did not fully indulge. He was focusing on the moment. The place. The memory this was creating a mini story in his head to enjoy for years to come. The figure sitting across from him, so prestigious, built, knowledgeable and experienced. He enjoyed the atmosphere only she could provide.
The taste of the wine could never be compared to the feeling he had captured that afternoon.
After a while, his room began to feel abandoned though. He would look at his bottle on the table and say to himself, “I might as well drink it all, this place is lonely, and I don’t think anyone’s coming back.”
But instead, he would bring home a different bottle of wine or liquor and consume that instead. How many weekends would he wait for her? He thought of her sliding open his patio door and hovering over him holding a bottle, pouring it, just for him. And then spilling a little. Enough to stain the carpet.
He imagined looking at the stain when they were both grey. 65 years of age grey, together, and happy. Pleased with one another. Maybe there would be one more bottle leftover all the years, and they would sip that one too on a cold, winter afternoon to warm their old bodies. They would glance at the floor, and though the stain would be faded, the memory would still be fresh. The night she returned.
One day while shopping at a local store, heavy rain began to fall. He could see it through the large windows as he was paying for his items. He wasn’t dressed for the rain, but he didn’t mind. When he walked out into the sudden storm, he felt a bit youthful looking up at the clouds and walking in a puddle. The puddle was a bit deeper than it looked and he felt his socks begin to swell with water.
Not an ideal situation but he was happy to be feeling the warm droplets. He rushed in and tossed the bag on his couch, then he kicked off his big black soiled boots. He stripped down and for a few seconds, he stared at the bottle of wine on his table. He ran to the kitchen and grabbed a corkscrew. This was it. Love was not returning to his room anytime soon. As he began to rip the golden foil. He stopped. Love wasn’t there, but hope was. He poured a glass of whiskey, sipped it slow, and let it burn his throat, and stomach. Almost like punishing himself for almost drinking the wine without her. He bathed, grabbed a book. And fell asleep.
A week had passed, and still no word. So he decided that instead of waiting, he would send a letter.
The letter read:
“When two people are in love, nothing keeps them apart. And together is more than physical. I’m sorry for holding on to you for so long. If this is your type of love, it’s painful. Bearable, but there’s no reward. Endurance begets more grief for me. If you do not plan to return, then this is it.”
Although he meant every word, a few days later he began to get very anxious about her response.
He waited a week for the response, running up to the old mailbox every day. And every day it was as empty as his big, lonely room. And that big room began to feel even bigger, as he would drink his whiskey, always leaving enough for one more shot. He would glance at the wine, and out loud say, "I love you, my only love! Please come pour me a glass. I've saved all four bottles for us. Remember you said you would be back? And I said I’ll be here.”
Saddened by the lack of response, he stayed strong every day working his job, reading his books, writing his own, until one day while returning home with a friend, he checked his mail box. She had sent him a letter. He felt sick. His friend began talking, and every word he said sounded like a different tongue. Then it became inaudible. Then he was alone, in a dark void.
The letter was opened, and the first sentence read, “I found someone new…”
He could feel his face get warm. He felt his eyes grow heavy, then blurry.
He began to hear his friend rambling until the words were again distinguishable. The blackness faded, and his face now felt a cold chill. His ears were still hot though.
That night, he let the letter sit in his fire place. It was the best place for that horrible update. He couldn’t cry. He wanted to, but nothing happened. He wasn’t angry, and somewhat more relieved than hurt. The love he felt would never die, but in that moment, he had to dismiss it.
Now that wine was simply taunting him. The bottle on his table, looked at him in his face, and said, “It has been two months.” Then it laughed.
"Did you really think she was coming back? I was a parting gift."
He grabbed the bottle and then the corkscrew! Forcing it into the top of the bottle, without peeling the seal off. He screwed and pulled the cork off. He grabbed a slender flute and poured the first glass. He drank it all in one long gulp. He did that again. Half of the bottle was gone by the end of the night.
The next night, he prepared baked chicken, spinach, and a few slices of sourdough bread. He brought the bottle into his dining room and reached for a glass. But instead of pouring, he put the bottle to his lips. He finished it.
He woke up at the dinner table two hours later. He stumbled into his room. That night, his bed felt like one large pillow. He rolled over to the edge and reached out to the other side. He held his hand out as if she would grab it. He fell asleep with his arm suspended in the air.
A few days later, another bottle called his name. He got up from his reading chair and pulled a bottle out of the black satchel.
“She was planning on asking you to send us to her, but right before she left she changed her mind. She knew then she would not return.”
Once again, he opened the bottle. He swallowed every bit of the red liquid. He imagined the first time he had tasted a merlot on her lips. It was sweet and beautiful. It made him want a glass, but preferred to taste it from her lips, so he did again every time they kissed. Every sip was like swallowing a memory. He finished the bottle in an hour.
This night, he dreamt of her. He kept seeing her walk into his room, but when he would follow her with his eyes, she would no longer be in the room. He would get up and look for her, but she would be gone.
He woke up, and this time, he did shed tears.
The room was now just a lonely place where he talked to the last two bottles over the next month. They would dance on the table, laughing at him. Calling him "The Lonely Wine Man."
Sometimes he would even get up and dance with them and laugh as well. Then he would plop down on the bed and say to himself, "The duo that is you two, are my friends, you are right. I miss her, but what was I thinking?"
Then he would pass out, dream a dream of her that would never materialize. And in the morning, he would cry.
Some time had passed, and his sadness began to feel ridiculous, so it went away. He was happy again, and one afternoon he came home, and picked up one of the bottles. He looked at it and returned to the living room. He had company! A few friends sat around a table, laughing, smoking, drinking, and telling stories. He poured three glasses, and on the fourth, he spilled the remainder.
Briefly he felt his eyes begin to tear up, but no one stopped laughing. No one stopped talking. Someone was already bringing him back a cloth to assist with wiping the spilled wine. He couldn’t understand why no one felt the sharp pain in his side as the wine reached the edge of the table and began to spill onto the floor.
But this love he felt was enough to continue to laugh along with his friends. He dropped the bottle, everyone stopped, looked at him and someone yelled out, "You’ve had too much to drink friend!"
And they all continued to smile and laugh.
One year passed and there was one lonely bottle left.
What would he do with this bottle? It had not spoken to him like before. He still checked on it occasionally; dusty and cool behind his red leather couch.
He sat on his bed, preparing for sleep, and he heard his front door open. He fell on to the floor and hid on the side of it. Weaponless, he prayed this was not an intruder. Had he forgotten to lock the door? He did not have much to take. He heard footsteps approaching down the hall, and he began to sweat. If this was it, he was not going to die cowering behind his bed.
He stood up to meet the assailant. His bedroom door creaked open, and he thought he was looking at a ghost. Dressed in all white, his love stood there. Huge tears ran down her face. They began to stream uncontrollably. He could only stare. He thought that if he reached out she would turn into mist and evaporate. But she fell into his arms, and he caught her. He picked her up, brought her over to his red leather couch and laid her down softly. He kissed her on the forehead, and she pulled her face up to his lips. She kissed him passionately and cried more.
He noticed the white dress she was wearing was a wedding gown, and she was clenching the veil. She loosened it and it fell to the ground along with a single key. He held her tight and reached behind the couch, pulling up the last bottle of wine. Two glasses close by, he poured. They drank, and laughed, and melted into one another. He fell on the floor, still holding her hand. And when he woke up in the morning, she was there and so was her hand, still holding on tight to her love.