Friday, February 10, 2006

Four Bitches

“Hi Bart. Can I pick up my case of Shiraz Mourvedre or have you sold it like last time.”

I put on the exaggeratedly sour and suspicious face that is designed to signify humor to someone who does not know me well enough to be sure that I am only joking. Although. Although last year he did break open his last case and sell it off rather than hold it for me, so there is precedent for worry.

While he is calling downstairs for someone named Aleef to locate the case, I wonder if I really need to use the big “cartoon face” to signify sardony when I am in New York. God knows I need it in Connecticut where ordinary conversations must be accompanied by hammer blows to the skull and 90 decibel laugh tracks before anyone actually gets you. Here perhaps, just maybe, may I actually relax and assume that the guy who sells me wine can swallow the nuances of his customers without choking? What a luxury. (Fort Lauderdale offers social relief that is the flip side of this coin: there is no such thing as subtlety, so no one tries it, and no one expects it. Traffic is loud. Men are drunk, and the sun sits on your face like a fat whore smoking a cigarette on your dime.)

While Bart makes the call, I lean on the counter and look at the other three customers who seem to have convened at exactly the same time, and may be wondering who ought to be served next. They are three Typical Upper West Side Women. Thin, spectral, with cheekbones of defiance, and straight hair streaked in a way that makes me think that a pipe must have burst at their salons, drenching their dos mid-tint and ruining the intended color. They are dressed in ski garb of teal and plum and lime. Ms. Teal holds a bottle of George DeBeouf Beaujolais Nouveau. Ms. Plum holds a bottle of Red Truck, and Ms. Lime is grinding her teeth into her cell phone. They are impatiently chewing gum, and when they see that I am looking at them, they each perform an almost imperceptible adjustment of carriage that throws forward their well-tended breasts. I smile with amusement. They read appreciation.

When Bart puts down the phone, I turn around to face him.

“Do you have any organic Sardinian wine?”

He comes around from behind the counter and brings me to a rack just a few feet away.

“I don’t have any organic, but it’s funny you should mention it because I was thinking of ordering some. I do have these four from Sardinia. This one’s fine, oh, but this one, the Cannonau di Sardegna, now that is one big, great big mouthful of good wine.” He taps the bottle and raises his eyebrows.

“OK. I’ll try that one.”

While Bart returns to the counter to ring up the sale, I turn to face Teal, Plum and Lime who have been intently listening to every word of my transaction.

I look at the bottle of Red Truck that Plum has placed on the counter.

“Oh. Red Truck. Pretty color. The label, I mean.”

I look at the bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, and then I look up into Teal’s face, hoping for an explanation. Finding none, I let the smile wordlessly fall off my face.

And now for the hat trick.

Lime wags a finger at Bart and at the bottle of Sardinian wine on the counter, and says into her cell, “Gimme one of those.”

“Sorry. He’s taking our last one.”

I turn to face her with a big Bette Davis cartoon face.

“I’d love ta invitcha over for a sip but my husband just washed his hair.”

2 comments:

Aaron said...

And that's Manhattan for you. Honestly, though, I'm not even a big fan of that Beaujolais in November, much less the following February. Once, in Vienna ... But that is a different story.

Anonymous said...

just love your writing. Have been reading your archives, and am mesmorized by them. Your perspective is elucidating and entirely original. I feel it coloring the way I observe and take note of the characters around me. Thank you for that. Hope you are published soon, if that is your goal. If it isn't, you should rethink that.