26 November 2010

Cellar of the Devil

In the aqueous humor of bar light, the wine in Jason's glass was looking like blood, and this disturbed him to the point that he hesitated to bring the glass to his lips again.  The bottle was near two-thirds gone.  Jason's stomach trembled a little.  His arm relaxed as he gingerly set the glass down on the worn zinc of the bar top.  A ragged sigh escaped his lips and he wiped at tired eyes gone dry.  He was tired, and slightly drunk.  Contemplating the implications of wine and blood was nothing he cared to do even when sober.

Jason leaned back in his bar stool and gazed owlishly at himself distorted through the bottles on the back bar, arrayed in front of the mirror.  He was shocked at how tired he looked, and rumpled.  He straightened up, embarrassed.  This was no way to end a shitty Wednesday, no sir, he told himself.

It was a semi-quiet night at the Mort Subite, Jason's watering hole of choice when his hankering for a good Belgian brew outweighed his normal fondness for stout.  Looking about, he could see the regulars in their usual spots.  The Lawyer and the Countess sharing breath at the far end of the bar.  Vincent the Broker and his cronies staking out the middle ground, laughing a bit too loud at their own jokes.  Moody Jim, or Eeyore as Jason called him, spinning another downer story to Angelique and Jock, the native Belgians who owned the place.  Angelique usually took pity on Jim, but Jock just rolled his eyes and looked to serving the customers as an escape route.  Tonight was no different.

No different, Jason thought, except I'm drinking wine instead of lambic and I've no idea why.

He took a deep breath while refocusing his eyes.  On the bar top, the cork from the bottle lay next to his glass.  He could just barely make out some writing on the side, it was too dim to read at arm's length.  Jason realized he had forgotten what he had ordered.  He reached out and picked up the cork, squinting at the blurry ink.  It read "Casillero del Diablo".  Jason chuckled grimly, his rusty college Spanish rendering it as "Cellar of the Devil".  Looking up and around the dimly lit bar, he thought it a fitting moniker.  He brought the cork to his nose, to inhale...

...and tumbled into a pool of memories, soundtracked by a laugh, a voice that could stop time and mend broken bones.  Hair that felt like straw and silk, skin like cream in your coffee with a taste of salt and sunlight.  She was sitting across the table, the patio door open and copper-salt smell of the ocean breeze surrounding them.  Wineglasses sparkling like huge rubies on the glass table top.  Hands together, eyes locked on his and that smile, oh, that smile.  That last weekend getaway of theirs played out in his head.  Jason swayed in his seat, feeling that whirlpool opening beneath his feet.  He grabbed the edge of the bar, desperate to stop the spin before he fell, like he had the day she left...

"Jason, are you okay?"  Jock's voice shattered the bubble Jason had felt forming around him.  He opened his eyes, blinking and breathless.  Embarrassed, he shook his head to clear it.

"Yeah, Jock, I'm okay," he said with a weak grin, "That's what I get for..." he trailed off, not wanting to say That's what I get for drinking wine that tastes like a lover long gone, on top of a heart too full to swallow anymore bitter.  He cleared his throat and started over.

"That's what I get for having one glass too many, my friend."  He stood to leave, taking his wallet from his jacket pocket and tossing some bills on the bar.  "It's good, but I believe I'm done with that bottle."

Jock shrugged, offered a noncommittal smile while scooping up the money, saying "Good night, my friend."

Jason thanked him and made his way on wobbly legs towards the door.  Just before he got there, he remembered the cork in his hand.  He stopped, swaying and confused.  turning around, he made his way back to the bar and dropped the cork in front of Jock, who raised an eyebrow to Jason.  Jason smiled.

"Some things, " Jason said, "are best left in the cellar.  Goodnight, again."  Jock just shrugged. Jason turned back, navigating his way to the door like a tanker in shallow water, and surfaced in a cool November of forgetting.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...