Tuesday, November 3, 2015

2 - Boomtown


              So. I guess I’m going home. My mom says she’s dying.  

              The last time I went home, I flew. That’s not really an option these days, what with the constant rain of debris hurtling down from outer space, so the best I can do is a train from San Francisco to Chicago, and then a bus the rest of the way. It’ll take about four days, if I’m lucky.

              The last time I was home, it was Christmas 2006, and warm. Shirtsleeve warm. I flew into Rochester and then took a rental Impala down the 96 to Owego, stopping at a few wineries along the way, mostly because I hadn’t remembered to buy anyone any presents, and most of my siblings still drank back then.

Going to wineries by yourself is weird. It’s uncomfortably weird. A few of them were places I’d been before, back with Terri, and part of me kept expecting her to walk in, like my being back in New York would draw her out to me, like I was a magnet. Or chum.

But anyway, the places were bustling – tour groups amped up by the unlikely mixture of holiday spirit and warm sun, couples on romantic dates (Terri? No. Too short.), families making the trek north, bringing their smart kids home for the holidays from Cornell. And me, by myself, like an idiot, like that kid who went to the prom by himself. Nobody stared at me, but that was fine, I stared at myself on their behalf.

One place was quiet, and of course it was, it had to be, because it was the one place I would have felt less awkward in a crowd, and I’m not even sure why I stopped there. Walking in, it looked the same as it had back in 2001. The light was different, colder, but it was winter, and it had been summer before. The old guy behind the wine tasting bar was the same, five years older in theory, but identical. In my head, the conversation he and I were going to have went like this:

“Say, don’t I know you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Sure I do. You’re that fella who proposed in here a few years back.”

“You must have me mixed up with someone else.”

“Aww. No. I never forget a face. You’re the fella.”

At this point I’d nod, sheepishly, and say “Yeah. I suppose I am.”

“How’d things work out for you two?”

And I’d pause, and look off into the distance, or down into the bar probably, and I’d say something cool and sad, like “It didn’t.”

And he’d nod, y’know, sagely, and he’d pour me a glass of wine. “On the house, kid.”

In reality, as soon as I walked in, he told me he had to close up shop early because his sciatica was acting up, but he’d be happy to sell me something first if I knew what I wanted.

I didn’t.

Anyway, this time, I’m taking a train home, and then a bus. I’m not planning to stop at any wineries.