[This is an entry for this month’s Wine Writing Challenge #MWWC34]
With love and respect to those who try to forget.
Michelle was not, what you would call, a wine lover. She was neither a wine person, nor any other alcohol lover at all. She was a very sober 40-something woman, unsuccessfully trying to write her seventh novel. It was supposed to be another bestseller, yet since over a year Michelle hasn’t written even one word. Endless calls from her publishers were an unwanted reminder of the deadline. She had to find a way to write or at least come up with a great story.
One of the reasons was the place she was in: it was her mother’s house. Michelle was in between houses and decided to move in to her mother’s house for a few weeks, until she will get the keys to her new apartment.
“I can’t do it sober” Michelle took a pack of Vougue Verte out of her handbag and put them on the table “No, no, everything but wine” she said, clenching her fists. “I have to stay sober” Michelle lit one of her cigarettes and inhaled it deeply.
Wine was never Michelle’s ‘thing’, although she knew a lot about it. She had, however, no idea how to put herself in a writing state of mind. Wine seemed the only way to make her physically sit down with her Mac Air and start clicking.
Michelle didn’t particularly want a glass of wine to be her muse. Smoking cigarettes and drinking coke, in her opinion, was a much better choice than creating something under the influence of alcohol.
However, half a pack of cigarettes later, she was still staring at the blank page on her screen. Wine seemed to be the ultimate solution.
Quis ut Deus?
‘Who is like God?’ – Michelle’s mother’s voice filled up her head. She used to ask this question too often, when Michelle was a little girl. Followed by a cuddle and a kiss, it was her mother’s only way to show love. Words like I love you seemed not to exist.
“I am NOT like God, what a jumble of meaningless words!” – said Michelle very loud, looking at her mother’s photo hanging on the wall in front of her. Regret in her voice was very perceptible; her body tightened. “If I was Him, I wouldn’t let you drink yourself to death and I would turn wine back into water every time you looked at it”. Her throat constricted, unshed tears stung her eyes. “God damn it!!”
The woman jumped up and ran down the stairs, to a gloomy wine cellar that used to be her mother’s sanctuary. “What we’ve got here, is…”
Little piece of my heart
Michelle closed her eyes for a minute to make them used to the darkness. She touched the wall to keep the balance; the old limestone walls were moldy and damp. “Oh, gross!” she looked around with a hint of disgust in her eyes and went straight into a massive cobweb “Damn spiders! I can’t see anything, where’s the bloody light switch, for god’s sake!?!? ”
It’s been almost two years since Michelle’s mother passed away. Her mother used to spend a lot of time in this wine cellar, tasting wines and writing professional reviews to wine & food magazine she created in the late 60s. She was famous in the world of wine and undoubtedly had a gift to talk about wine. She loved to invite people for tastings and she adored to share her knowledge with others, including Michelle.
Over the years, however, Michelle’s mother’s passion and devotion to wine turned into excessive daily drinking to lose consciousness. One day she simply didn’t wake up, leaving her daughter in massive debt and even bigger pain.
“There you are you little…” Michelle finally found the light switch, yet nothing happened when she switched the lights on “you gotta be kidding me! C’mon, work!” Michelle said, frustrated. She clicked the switch for at least fifty times and eventually the lights went on.
Michelle’s mother’s wine cellar appeared in front of her eyes; it looked exactly as she remembered: damp, dark and full of wine bottles. “You definitely hadn’t been here for those two years, mum..” Michelle’s voice broke with emotion “you are gone, you’re really gone…”
It was the first time Michelle let herself cry after she received a message with the date of her mother’s funeral. Even then, Michelle didn’t shed a single tear; she couldn’t believe her mother passed away just like that, without saying I’m sorry, without calling back for so many years. It seemed unfair that her mother went to her eternal rest, leaving Michelle with so much regret and anger in her heart.
Praising the ugliness
“God, they are ugly” – said Michelle, suddenly looking at her left, where there was an old set of glasses on the table. Each glass had a pattern with white flowers on its edge. “They are so ugly, that it feels wrong to pour anything in”. She took one glass and looked at it carefully – “why would anyone create such a thing? Even worse, why would anyone pay money for such an ugly thing?” She laughed, but her heart was filled with bitterness.
Michelle looked closer at the old and dirty wine glass and noticed a trace of a pink lipstick on its edge. “Pink lipstick, huh? Your famous pink lipstick” Michelle took a deep breath and sat down on a chair, not paying attention to dust and dirt anymore.
“Why mum? Why did you choose this over me? You were my best friend; you were the most important person in my life, and yet you preferred these terrible glasses…” She burst into tears.
It seemed like it could take ages to calm down, when suddenly something attracted Michelle’s attention. It was a weird shaped bottle of wine covered with dust. One minute later Michelle was warily observing her discovery.
She picked up the empty bottle and dusted off the label to see what wine her mother had been drinking before she died. It was a bottle of Maury, a fortified wine made in France.
“Queen of Grenache” Michelle smiled “Damn! I don’t remember you being a big lover of fortified wines!”
Michelle looked around the cellar and went closer to a wine rack full of similarly shaped bottles. As she couldn’t see wine labels through the thick coat of dust, she decided to dust off all of them. She was so surprised how many sweet wines were there in her mother’s wine cellar! She rapidly scanned the wine labels and chose the bottle that was her mother’s last choice.
“I’m wondering, mum, whether this sweet sanctuary took you to heaven…?” Michelle paused for a second, taking the bottle with her and turning towards the stairs “…or to hell?”.
Cent Ans d’Histoire
There it was: her Cuvee du Centenaire AOP. A fortified wine made from Grenache. The longer she was staring at the label, the more sure she was that she saw it before.
“100 ans d’histoire dans une bouteille” Michelle read out loud with a perfect French accent and a smile on her face “Pour ce qui est de l’avenir, il ne s’agit pas de le prevoir mais de le rendre possible”*. She opened a bottle and poured it into the glass with a mark of a pink lipstick, after rinsing it with water.
“Let’s taste it and see what wine was your passage to a paradise”
Knocking on heaven’s door
Michelle took the glass closer to her nose and took a sniff. Rich, ripe red and black fruits aromas were coming from the glass. The bouquet was concentrated and very clear. Michelle noticed some caramel and coffee notes as well, and a hint of plum confiture.
She was about to take a sip, when she noticed a thick sketching book and a photo album on the shelf in front of her eyes.
“Oh no”, said she, “I don’t think I am ready for surprises, I need a cigarette” Michelle lit another cigarette. She carefully opened the photo album. The album was full of photos from her childhood.
“I remember this jumper; you made it for me when I was seven years old” She touched the photo and turned the page, “Ooo, our holidays in the Midi! I still love the French sun and its beaches!”, another page “Marshall, oh Marshall, I miss you so much! You were the best dog ever!” Michelle smiled and raised a glass “Cheers!” She took a sip of the wine.
Her mouth filled up with ripe blackberries and dried sweet plums. She didn’t expect the wine to be so delicious “What a balance!” Michelle took another sip and smiled “One more sip and I should be ready to see your sketches.”
What I need is for you to believe in me
There was the house from Michelle’s childhood on the first three drawings. She turned the page and her face froze in shock. It was her, when she was around seven years old, playing in the snow with Marshall, their Labrador. On another one she was about thirteen years old, it was a drawing of her from the birthday photo. Michelle looked so real in those sketches, she couldn’t believe it’s possible one could have such talent to draw like that.
“Damn, mum, I didn’t know you could do this” Michelle filled her glass up with Maury that was still left in the bottle “those sketches are beautiful”, she added, smiling.
Michelle was still holding the glass in her hand, when she fell asleep on her mother’s armchair. The same one, her mother used to fall asleep every evening for the last twenty years. The sketching book fell on the floor and opened at the last page.
Michelle couldn’t see the small note written there, saying:
My dearest Michelle, if you ever see this.. I hope you know how much I loved you, you are always in my heart. With love, mama
This text was written as an entry for this month’s ‘Monthly Wine Writing Challenge’. The theme ‘MEMORY’ was selected by last month’s winner, Kent from Appetite for Wine (visit Kent’s blog). The voting starts on the 1st of August 2017 (vote here – voting ends on 7th of August 2017). To find out more about the challenge, click here. This is a work of fiction and my personal interpretation of the theme ‘Memory’. Names, characters, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
If you would like to read my other entries for Monthly Wine Writing Challenges, here are the links:
* “Pour ce qui est de l’avenir, il ne s’agit pas de le prevoir mais de le rendre possible” – translation “As for the future, it is not a question of foreseeing it, but of making it possible”. Antoine de Saint Exupery