Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wine 03: Rooftops and snapshots

Note: Read Wine 02 First

Half the guests have gone now, but the wine still flows and the music plays softly as the hipsters become more like friends to me and less like pests. I’ve met several people over the course of the evening and I’ve had to eat my words. They are not douchbags. Far from it.

I meet night’s hosts - a man named Terry and his wife Joyce. When I offer to pitch in to help pay for the evenings wine, the host laughs at me and tells me to hold onto my money. Evidently the whole evening is some sort of tax write off and a chance to meet new people. Go figure. I do pitch in by washing and drying a set of glasses, not taking no for and answer. I also clean up the remains of a broken glass and take out the trash. Guilt assuaged, I follow my cheese girl, Michelle up to the roof.

I’m not sure where Steve is and I’m glad. I don’t need his words of wisdom right now. I slip into my jacket and move to the far corner of the roof with Michelle. The wind on the roof is cold and filled with moisture, but the wine coursing through my veins acts like an internal heater. We look out towards the park as a police siren and dog serenade us. Streetlights glow orange in the fog and I take a deep breath of cold, clean air.

“So, does that cheese trick always work with guys? Like some siren – you lure them to their fate with brie and sharp cheddar?” I’ve lost count of the amount of wine, but have a firm grasp on just how buzzed I am.

“Works every time. Men can’t resist the allure of a woman baring dairy products.” She shivers.

I remove my coat and she presses her hands against it as I try to wrap it around her. “No, you’ll freeze. Put it back on.”

“No, take it. I lose my gentleman card if I don’t give it to you. Come on. You’re dressed for summer in the islands.” I manage to work the coat onto her and she finally stops resisting.

“Well, thank you.” She smiles and sips her wine. "

We stare out into the night for a minute without saying anything. We rest out elbows against the roof wall and just stare. Finally, she breaks the silence.

“I’m not sure if my brother would approve of me being up here with some stranger.” She giggles and gives away the fact that she’s as buzzed as I am. “Inebriated and on a nearly deserted rooftop with a strange man. Not ladylike at all. We should have a chaperone.”

I hear Steve and bow my head, praying that he doesn’t notice it’s me in the dark. “Well, we have one. The loud guy back there. My friend Steve. He’s the one that invited me here.”

She glances back, then faces forward again. “I just see a couple making out.”

Lucky Steve.

“I’m glad he doesn’t see us. He has a bit of a social grace issue.” I swirl the wine in my glass and steal a glance at her. The light does wonders for her already magical look.

“I see. Not very pleasant?”

“No, he’s fine. We just have a strange relationship. I think he thinks of me as his younger, retarded step brother.” I smirk. The wine is in perfect balance in me. I’m happy and giddy, but not sick. Wine nirvana.

“Ah, I get it.” She finishes her wine and places the glass at her feet. I follow suit and place my glass next to hers.

I start to feel the awkwardness creeping in around the edges and try to think of something to say or do to drive it away. I reach into the left coat pocket and pull out my little pocket camera. I power it up and aim towards the park over the rooftops. “I have to document everything.” I switch to view mode and check the picture, then power it off and smile to her.

“Let me see it?” She holds out her hand.

“Sure.” I place the camera into her palm and watch as she steps backwards, aims the camera at herself, then snaps a picture. “Oh, the flash didn’t go off.” She turns on the flash and points it at herself again. The Flash goes off and her face is imprinted on my eyes for a moment. She’s really pretty.

“There. Now I’m documented as well. I don’t want you forgetting me.” She smiles sweetly.

I smile back and the awkwardness seems to drift away.

“I have to head out. Walk me down?” She slips out of my coat and hands it to me. We make our way across the roof and down the stairs, supporting ourselves so we don’t take a tumble.

“We leaving?” Steve walks behind us with a brunette on his arm. Her lipstick is smeared and hair a mess. “You kids have a good time?”

“Wonderful time, thanks for asking.” Michelle doesn’t look back. She grips my arm as her foot slips out from under her and I hold her up.

“Nice catch, champ.” Steve chuckles. “I’ll call us a few cabs.” He pats my back gently and winks as he passes me with the brunette giggling at his side.

“Thanks.” Michelle smiles up at me and smile back. We stand in the hallway and she moves closer to me. “I left my glass up there,” she says softly.

“I can get it.”

“I really think this is where you kiss me. The glasses will be fine up there.” She presses forward and I kiss her softly. She tastes like wine and smells like flowers. Lavender, I think. She wraps her arms around my back and gives me a little squeeze. I do the same and slide my hand up to the back of her head - not down to her backside - and run it through her hair. She moans softly, then breaks away first and I rub her arm.

Joyce's voice bursts from the living room. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!” Laughter fills apartment and the spell is broken.

I’m not sure what to say, so I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. “Can I have your number?”

She rubs at her arms – still chilly. “Why?” She tilts her head. “Are you going to call me?”

“I may need advice later. You know, about cheese and things. I figure it might be good to have your number in case I run into anything I’m curious about.” I shrug playfully.

Michelle grins and looks around. She pulls a scrap of paper and pen from a basket by the phone and writes. “I knew it would come down to cheese advice. Men always want to use you for your knowledge.” She hands me the paper and slides the pen back into the basket.

“Need a ride?”

“My brother’s taking us back. He doesn’t drink.” She smiles. “Thanks though.” She bites her lip. "I'd offer a ride, but we're crushed in like sardines."

“No, not a problem. I need to head back with Steve anyway.” I sound like an ass in my head and I want to smack myself. I need to come up with something witty. Some closing remark of note so she’ll remember me.

“I have a cab. Mind is Jen rides with us?” Steve pulls on his coat and the brunette – Jen, I presume – sways next to him. Steve looks over to Michelle and I wince. “Did you need a ride home? We can all share the fare.”

Jen slurs slightly, but seems sweet. "Yeah, come with. It'll be nice."

“Thanks – my brother is giving me a lift. He drove us all over.”

Steve nods. “Cool. Well, goodnight.” He looks at me. “Coming or…?”

“I’ll be right there.”

I walk Michelle in to find her brother and promise to give her a call. Her brother shakes my hand and tells me it’s a pleasure to have met the Cheese Guy after all this time. Michelle blushes slightly and I take is as a good sign. I touch her arm and make my way out to the front door.

People file out and say their goodbyes and I manage to get a thank you and wave in to the hosts from a distance. I find it hard to leave. The apartment is warm and the smells of wine and food and candles make me think of holidays and parties from my childhood.

The buzz of the wine warms me as I make my way out into the cold, night air clutching Michelle’s number in my hand. I find Jen and Steve standing out on the curb and manage to make it to them right as the cab arrives. We pile in and Steve offers to drop me home first. Jen seems friendly and talks quietly about the wines she tasted as the cab makes it way through the fog.

Steve manages to remember the merlot and asks me if I liked it. I tell him it was the best I’ve tasted and he nods. “I thought you’d like it. You love merlot and that was amazing. I sent you a link about it.” He waggles his iPhone at me and I thank him, wondering if he’s changed or if I just never really saw him as the friend he really was.

God, I love wine.


laleh said...

Hi Malcolm!

I really like the story. :)
It has such a warm feel to it.


Via said...

Hi Malcolm,

This is such a sweet story. great imagry... and all characters really come alive...I am not sure I love the last line.... it seems to undermine some of the sweetness of the story. "i love cheese," may be better. ;)

Via said...

oh god, i just realized that "i love cheese" can ALSO be interpreted as "this story is cheesy"--which wasn't what i meant.

i just meant that ending it with wine implied that the character only had good things happen to him BECAUSE of wine-- but that is such a harsh cynical view. i don't know. i really liked this story, though. it came alive for me.