Thursday, October 18, 2007

To my wife, who hates it when I drink all of the wine

I'm sorry honey. I drank the rest of the wine that you were saving for yourself on the refrigerator door.

I know this angers you and that you think it is inconsiderate. I know you don't like beer or hard alcohol. I know that you sometimes like to have a glass at night when you paint. I know all of these things.

Yet still, I drank the wine. I drank it on the porch while I smoked a cigarette. It was late. You were asleep.

Before Shabbos last Friday afternoon you sent me out to the liquor store. You told me to get only two bottles because we were having company on Friday and Saturday. Instead, I bought three bottles that were on sale. I also bought a bottle of 14-year old single malt scotch. It too was on sale.

You never understand my zest to drink a bottle at the table on Friday nights. You call it gluttony. I tell you that a bottle of wine usually yields three or four decent-sized glasses. I tell you that, in the grand scheme of things, three glasses of wine is not that much. You don't agree. We debate this endlessly.

I tell you that Kiddush on Friday nights uses one large cup. Then, after singing and blessing the children, we have chicken soup. I like to sip another glass during soup. I also like to dip my challah in wine, then the soup. This makes it even more delicious.

Before the main course, we sing. I tell you that I love to sing zemirot and pound my fist on the table in time. I like to see the beats of the music make ripples in my cup. I like to see the breadcrumbs fly off the table when I pound my fist. When we have guests, their children and ours like to jump and dance together on the couch as we sing. This delights me. I look at the food on the table. I look to see if you are looking, then pour more wine.

By the time the soup is away, the chicken, kugel, salad, roast garlic, and steamed vegetables have arrived. You pour yourself a glass. The bottle is now almost gone, and we begin our conversation about how I drink all of the wine. I am always defensive, placating. You are always annoyed. You shake your head. I eye your wine, greedily.

As we end the meal I like to speak words of Torah, or of some pearl gleaned from the week. Often I tie the ideas into what is happening outside at this time of year, or in our lives. You love these the best. I am always pleased when you say this, because I have been preparing these words all week for tonight. They are just for you. When we have guests, sometimes the women leave the table to go talk privately somewhere, leaving the men to sing and talk more. I pour more wine.

We put out desert--a plum tort you made this week, some fresh fruit, hot water for tea and coffee. You grab the bottle from the table. You tell me you are saving the rest for yourself, that I am banned from touching it. You hide it on the door of the fridge, behind the tall stack of cheese slices and horseradish. I always know where you put it.

But then as we clear the meal, I notice the half-glass you have left on the table. Unfinished. It is almost time to bentch. You have forgotten about your glass. You always do. This also happens every week.

You are at the sink when I sit down at the table again. Fiddling with a final piece of cake, I flick the crumbs from my tie. I make a grab for your wine, but tonight I stop and hold myself back.

A small victory, sometimes. Soon, bed.


Now it is Saturday night. You have finished painting and are sleeping on the couch in your clothes. Your music is still playing, your oils are spread out on the table. The piece you are working on dries on the easel. It is a painting of our daughter. I slowly put your remaining paints back into the jars. I clean out your blades and brushes in the sink. I put away your easel and hang the painting up in the extra bedroom, where the oil fumes can air out. I look at you on the couch.

I arrive at this moment every Saturday night. Shabbos is over. I stand poised at the beginning of a week of work. It is late. You are asleep. There is one glass of wine left in the bottle somewhere in the fridge. I grab it. There is too little left to worrying about using a glass. I take a cigarette and walk out to the porch. The Bronx is so still.

I drink slowly. The wine at the bottle's bottom is mixing with the sediment and tastes sharper, more potent. I take my time smoking, exhaling though my nose. When there is no wind, I love how it sits in the air not knowing where to go, gently folding in upon itself.

I find myself here often, smoking the dregs of the week.

I think about what I'm going to tell you when you find out that I've done it once again. That the wine is gone.

How will I explain myself this time?

What will you say?


Seth said...

Steve: This is beautiful.

Toby said...

This is a very touching piece; it is deep and caring and loving, and it is beautifully written.

Steve said...

The same thing happened again. Except this time I finished it at lunch today.

tonya said...

this story is so rich and full o' soul that i could weep for joy. i am left to wonder... what happened, what did she say?! did she throw a shoe at you?

Karen said...

This is such a tender and well-written post, Steve. It basically makes me want to pack my bags, head to the Bronx and move in with you guys.


Steve said...

T: It's to the point where the shoes have all been thrown.

There's nothing left to do but shake your head in disgust.

Suzanne said...

This is beautiful. A love letter. Better than a love letter.

Seth said...

There better be enough wine when I come to visit...

I need to get drunk everyday!

Jerome said...

very nice!