Digby’s Wine

“Hey, brother. How are you tonight?” Aatish said from over racks of wine. “Hey man, I’m doing alright. How you been?” Digby’s hand reached for a bottle that wasn’t there, his eyes to his small-talk with Aatish.

“Tsst!” Digby pulled his hand up, his knuckles scraped from slamming into an empty wood rack.

Aatish watched him with worried eyes, “You come in here a lot.” He grinned.

“Yeah, heh, uh, me and the girlfriend. We like our wine.” Digby’s attention darted between Aatish’s grilling, and pulling tiny splinters out of his knuckle.

“Don’t…uh…got the yoosh’. Lessee…” Digby bent down, his eyebrows furrowed, “what the hell did he mean by that?” He thought.

Aatish watched Digby from the other side, silently stocking the racks of Merlot. His brows furrowed too, “What is this man doing?” He watched a crouched Digby stare at a space between the rack and the floor, his right hand clutching and rubbing his left.

Digby eventually rose with a bottle of $10 Cabernet he’d never tried, the name “Twin Peaks” catching his eye.

“I’ve never seen your girlfriend.” Aatish smiled. He continued packing wine, watching Digby stare at him with growing confusion.

“What?” Digby snapped back, confused and losing patience with Aatish’s topics of conversation.

“You and your girlfriend drink wine, but I never see her with you.” Aatish clarified.

“I’ll have to bring’er with me next time.” Digby started towards the counter in a rush, flustered. Aatish watched him, his hands mechanically placing bottles into racks.

“How are you tonight?” Aatma, an older man, said from behind the counter, scanning Digby’s bottle and placing it in a paper bag. He had watched the entire scene between Aatish and Digby while he stocked snacks near the register.

“I’m uh…good, you?” Digby fumbled for his wallet, looking back at Aatish, who caught his eye and smiled at him.

“Have a good night, brother!” He waved, rolling a cart of boxes further down the aisle.

“You, too!” Digby turned around, happy that was over with.

“$10.79.” Aatma said, though he knew Digby’d pay by credit card—he always did.

“That guy, huh? He’s somethin’ else…” Digby said, his eyes focused on punching in his PIN number. There was no response, save a warm, mustachioed smile from Aatma.

Digby gave his money, took his change, and smiled, “Have a good night!”

“You, too.” Aatma responded. Digby lifted his bag from the counter, “I hope your life gets better.”

“Whu..” It was a low sound, an unexpected gut-punch. Digby looked back at Aatma, then to Aatish, who smiled back at him—as Aatma did from behind the counter. Digby turned around and walked out the door; shocked, confused, and a little pissed off.

“What the hell was that all about?” He said out loud, as soon as he closed his car door.

“I hope your life gets better?” he mimicked Aatma, out loud, “What the hell is that?” Digby turned his engine, and let it run for a moment while he collected his thoughts.

“Wow. What the hell, man.” He looked at the bag in his passenger’s seat. Immediately, Digby felt a rush of guilt come over his body and mind. His thoughts immediately turned on him, “You have to cut this shit out…” His brain demanded. “I know, I know.” He shook his head, put his car in drive, and pulled out of the parking lot. That night, Digby’d make it to 11 PM before he finally cracked, and uncorked the bottle. He poured his first glass, and grimaced as soon as it smacked and stained his lips.

“Ugh, Twin Peaks?” He looked at the bottle after his first chug: a pencil-etched outline of dual mountains. It tasted foul, like it was curdling in Digby’s mouth. The smell was awful, it made Digby’s stomach turn. None of this shit would’ve happened if they just had Pernini. Regardless of the quality, Digby wound up drinking half the bottle by 12:30. By 1:15 he was in the bathroom; where Digby’d eventually fall asleep, clutching his toilet bowl with dried tears, vomit, and wine stuck to his pale face.

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A Word on Wine

There’s nothing to me like the low thooomm from a corkscrewed bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a warm note, it’s welcoming. I’m not a scholar on the stuff; I don’t sniff it, swish it around for its notes, or air it out. As a waiter, I knew a proper bottle opening was soundless, that an improper opening could completely ruin the taste of the wine, but I rarely drank the stuff then. When I did, I learned that wine tastes the same to me out of the bottle or in a glass. Cork properly screwed out, or shredded from trying to get a quick slug in before the boss caught us.

When I started drinking at home to unwind, I unscrewed the cork silently. I poured centered just above the glass but drank as I had when I was a waiter; gulps and pursed, purple lips. I’d watch a movie, maybe smoke a bowl, or write. I started during college, so most nights I would do assignments high and wine drunk. I did well enough in class but I was usually something’d out of my mind. On nights when I smoked before I drank, I’d forget my inner server and pop the cork out high pitched, splash it into a glass, but still sip; my already dry mouth couldn’t take much Cabernet at a time.

I started to pay attention to the sound the bottle made when opened. There’s a timeless sound associated to it, one everybody knows. It’s a nice note; it’s synonymous with celebration, achievement, and good will. When a bottle of wine POPs, something has gone right. I popped bottles like this for a while, I enjoyed opening them; I was quick with it, carefree. Once college ended and I quickly learned that an undergrad degree may as well have been a nevergrad for potential employers, I didn’t really care for the celebratory POP of my hasty, high removals. There was nothing to celebrate; I was without a job and out of my safety-net classroom.

thooomm

Another low, bass open. After a few sips I lay in bed, prop open the laptop, and start plugging away. I almost bought a different wine tonight, thought this one was sold out. Picked up another marked at 11.99 but when the new woman rang it up it cost 21.99.

“Whoa! Are you sure you want this? It’s 21.99!”

She knows me well already.

“21.99? Oh wow, I can find something else. No problem.”

I walked back towards the Cabernet to look for something inexpensive.

“Does the sign say 11.99?”

“Yeah, I think it does.”

This began a pretty long dialogue between she and I about the price of the bottle, involving Henry, a man I’ve known there for a long time. I didn’t care that it was 21.99, I never had it before. I wasn’t looking to get a better price because of a mismark; I could find something cheaper without hesitation.

“Yeah, I usually pick up this one, but saw it was sold out.” I pointed to an empty wood indent for a Chilean wine, priced at 11.99.

“I thought this one was 11.99 too so I figured I’d try it, but if it’s not it’s no big deal. I can find something else.”

With this, Henry bent down and looked at the bottles stacked beneath the presentation wood; he came up with a bottle of Cupcake, the 11.99 Chilean Cabernet I originally wanted.

How had I not looked down there? I saw the stacks, gave a quick glance, and figured there weren’t any bottles of what I wanted. I felt embarrassed about my laziness but got over it by small talking with the new woman about domestic beer until I told her a glass of wine puts me to sleep, casually laughed at her response, and said “goodnight”.

I open bottles now with a low, warm note because I don’t think I’m celebrating anymore. My temp job finishes tomorrow and though I sometimes really dislike it, I would rather see a paycheck than 12 pm on my phone first thing after waking up. I’ve gotten used to the idea of receiving unemployment, though I hope it’s not long. I won’t mind the checks for free money, but I get bored quickly. I don’t mind working for others in small increments of time, but I know I have to work for myself to really be happy and peaceful. I’ll probably take other temp jobs if nothing happens in the next few months and just hope for the best.

thooomm

It’s an old friend. There’ve been many bottles but it’s aged with me; its first sound when opened a symbol of myself at the time. POP’d in college, during a time when nothing mattered outside of the classroom; to the low, motivated and welcoming thooomm I lull myself to now. I can be ok without a job; I just need to rely on myself. Can’t give in so easily when things get tough. Shit, if it takes a bottle’s low noise to help convince me that it’ll be ok, that I can do this, then so be it.

Deadbeat

My days are typically OK until I walk to the boxes, plug in my key, and take the mail back with me to my place.

Dear Patient,

After many failed attempts to reconcile your balance, we have not received a payment in quite some time. We have been patient allowing you to pay off this balance, however since payments have not been consistent, THIS ACCOUNT MUST BE PAID IN FULL. Please be advised that if payment is not received by 4/20/13, YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE PLACED WITHIN OUR COLLECTION AGENCY AND WE WILL NO LONGER BE HANDLING IT.

Fuck them.

I’m past due on another credit card owing 7hundredsomething. I don’t have the money, shit, I don’t have ANY money. My student loans will be horse kicking me in the stomach soon too, maybe I can give the degree back, get a refund. Two quarters slide into my leg when I sit on the bed; the current balance of my total savings, without looking at my bank account. The last time I took a look, I had -.67 cents in it. They’ve probably closed my account by now; I haven’t received any mail with red and yellow “urgent!” and “sign here” stickers everywhere at least.

Christ. I think I’m a deadbeat.

I run a hand through my unwashed hair, slide it down my face, and try to soberly figure out a way to make enough money to pay back this shit. I could have had the money but I have too much pride. Quit my job because my boss is a child, a pretty dumb reason. The quit made my waterfall income a quickly depleting pool. The dry season is forcing me out of the apartment soon if I can’t think of something. I’d probably be at least tempted to shoot myself if I had a gun, but unless I can rent a gun for one quarter and buy a bullet with another, I’m shit out of luck.

I toss the mail from my lap to the far edge of the bed, I don’t want to think about it. I lay back on the mattress,  a little too firm for me. I’ve had it since I moved into the place about 6 months ago; my father helped me buy it. I picked it out hastily, as I did the apartment. There’s cockroaches in the room and the bed is too hard. I guess it worked out for me though; I don’t have a desk so the bed has been my desk, dresser, office, and dining room table. One night when I came home shitfaced it was my bathroom. Can barely sleep on the thing but at least it’s multi-purpose.

On the floor is a half emptied bottle of 7 dollar Moet and an empty glass that smells like stale wads of bubblegum; a deep red layer of sugar and nastiness from the wine sits unmoved at the bottom of the glass even when I pick it up. I pour a half glass, hold my breath while lifting it to my lips, and chug. Ugh! Jesus! The red stickiness is still at the bottom of the glass; doesn’t even look wet. Next to the Moet is a bottle of mostly drunken water. When I pick it up I knock the wine over onto the carpet and my computer bag. Oh god damn it what the fuck! I have carpet cleaner in the room somewhere. I use it when my cat pisses on the floor, or when I piss the bed. I’ll find it later, fuck this. I turn off the lights, it’s time for sleep. At 4 in the afternoon. Fuck it. I’m a deadbeat.