I woke up at 3:00 a.m. today. And I don’t know anymore if today is really today.
What is today. Not even sure it merits a period or a question mark. Or maybe just a blank space. All the things that rhyme with it. Tokay, Hungarian sweet wine. Maybe it does maybe it doesn’t. I remember that. Bringing it to someone’s Christmas party. Or maybe it was a birthday. It’s a sweet wine and that does not interest me anymore.
There is a bottle of Sauternes in the basement. From 1989. I saw it there the other day wrapped in an old rug someone gave me years ago. The one with the hunter green background and pink hummingbirds. I read somewhere that I should have opened it about ten years ago, or maybe five. It is drinkable now and not to hold. It was drinkable. This bottle will not get better with age. That alcoholic poet/ waiter gave it to me. Other than this bottle, 1989 was a good year for Sauternes. The year my father died.
Whenever I look for a recipe for some holiday dinner and I go rummaging through my old “Gourmet” magazines, all the good recipes are from 1989. Odd. But true. As though his death made everything taste better. As though his ashes enriched the soil, made the plants grow taller, stronger. The recipes full of interesting, complex and rich ingredients. And I make it and weep a little. My father would appreciate that Sauternes. Taste his own ashes in it.
Sauternes is sweet. But that is an understatement. It is not sweet like candy. Sweet like kisses. But sweet like air, water, soil, somewhere, that magically produced this grape. It is supposed to have a hint of apricot or peach or honey. What kind of honey? The jar of honey that is standing on the kitchen table smells like insecticide. That Sauternes is to drink with goose or duck livers. Foie gras. The food of murdering souls.
I always identified Sauternes with murder. Rich, lavish, decadent murders. I think I’d rather just eat a real peach or real apricot. Or a spoonful of unpoisoned honey.
I always thought you and I might drink that Sauternes with a delicate tort or something less evil, something more divine.
Maybe something dry and ascetic like a Carr’s water cracker. A thin communion wafer.
Maybe we could just sip it in the open air. Summer is too hot and spring too uncertain.
A nice cool forest would be nice. Even a snowy field. The one we crossed once skiing in the dark or was it early morning?
It might be nice to sip it on a mountainside in Switzerland over dinner with cold friends wearing freezing pearls at one of your dinner parties. And the snow would be falling on their bare skin and the Sauternes might keep them warm until the fires start and they could open up their presents.
My feet are so cold now sitting here in this ugly little room. The one the engineer built in 1939. What a time to build a house here on this vacant German farm land. The religion and codes all gone. The apple orchards gone. The wheat rotting in the back yard replaced by ragged Viburnums.
I put on some old socks hurriedly to protect my cold feet. But I feel the icy floors anyway. But my socks have no holes in them. If a sock has a hole in it I just throw it away. Shameful I know, but that is my one extravagance. Throwing old socks away. Because my mother never did. I remember visiting her one day. She was sitting on that old silk couch and staring at me and I looked at her and shrieked. “You have a hole in your sock!” And she shrugged as though it was alright.
“A hole in your sock, a hole in your lungs….what’s the difference?”
I have no idea why I am thinking now about my mother and the holes in her socks. That she never bothered to mend. That beautiful evening dress I bought her that she stuck in the back of her closet. All “schmatas” she said.
My father on the other hand never had holes in his clothes. Because he never really wore them. Buy him a shirt he hangs it up in his closet. Buy him blue silk pajamas he puts them in a drawer. He wore an ugly red robe day in and day out that terrorized us. We thought it looked like a devil’s robe. It was bloody red like the White House Christmas trees.
The animals are trying to get in the house this morning. I heard something banging against the back door. A racoon or possum or maybe a great big bear trying to force its way in. Instead of checking it out I just pulled the blinds tighter. It stopped then, the noise. Just stopped like a bear getting bored with you and going fishing.
There are always weird tracks in the back yard. Tiny claw like ones and big wide ones like snowshoes. Big and fat ones like pudgy fingers gardening in the dark.
Like stars collapsing on the lawn. Like ducks falling down. Like gnomes walking around. Like my mother coming to peer into the windows and leaving holes in the garden. Maybe for me to fall into.
That bottle of Sauternes is waiting. Waiting for me and the moon and some light refreshment. Something you can eat on the run or in the dark. Something light to take with you while feeling the snow the rain the everything of this night. And maybe catching whoever is pounding at your door.