Suzanne and I are sharing a bottle of wine.
That is, we are sharing a bottle of Campofiorin Ripasso Masi. Aged five years. Cost: $25.69.
Like I said, we are sharing a bottle of wine.
“To Dr. John,” Suzanne says, lifting her glass.
John is a math prof who neglected to tell me he had a girlfriend until the very end of our second date. Then he forgot his handmade Pashmina scarf at my place. I sold it on eBay. That inspired Suzanne to sell a golden pendant on eBay that she got from her ex-boyfriend.
“To Chad,” I say, clinking her glass with mine.
“At least we got something out of them.” To be precise, we got $25.69 out of them.
I take a sip.
My taste buds feel like they’re being massaged, all at once. Tastes like this cannot adequately be described, but that’s never stopped anyone before. I wrinkle up my chin like a dried prune, and say in my best British RP accent, “A delicate bouquet, is it not?”
“Indeed,” Suzanne replies. “Violet roses, with just a hint of – Heinz ketchup.”
“Now that’s a wine we can’t get at Hari’s Dépanneur.”
“No. Not even if we spank him first.”
The restaurant manager walks over to me and says, “Excuse me, Martine. I know you have finished playing for tonight, but there are two customers over there who would love to hear “La vie en rose” again. Would it be possible . . . ?”
From a nearby table, a 40ish man and woman wave at me. They are eating lobster. They look like big tippers.
“No problem,” I say, picking up my accordion.
Suzanne snickers softly. She hears me gripe every night about how much I hate playing “La vie en rose”. How I could tolerate it the first 300 times, but now I’m even sick of the song’s name.
I walk over to the couple’s table and play the song as schmaltzily as I can, drawing out the long notes so the bellows almost knock over their wine. After I finish, they kiss each other on the lips. Despite my contempt for their unoriginal song choice, I suddenly feel powerful envy for them.
The man opens up his wallet and puts a twenty dollar bill in my hands.
“Oh, that’s very generous. Thank you,” I exclaim, feeling like a poser and a fraud.
When I return to my table, Suzanne nods toward the bar and says, “That waiter over there is totally checking you out.”
I turn to glance at the waiter. It’s the new guy. He’s got a chocolate complexion and dark, short hair. He flashes me a debonair smile.
“He is damn hot,” she says.
“I think he’s a bit of a cheese ball.”
“So? Didn’t we both agree that it’s time to forget about finding your soul-mate for the time being and just take care of your sexual health – oh, he’s coming over here.”
I turn and face him.
“I really enjoy your music. “La vie en rose”, such a captivating song,” he gushes.
“Well, I thought so the first 300 times I played . . .”
Suzanne kicks me underneath the table. “Ow!” I exclaim, then quickly try to improvise myself out of what I was about to say. “. . . and . . . even after 300 times, it’s still beautiful.”
“For me, it epitomizes romance,” he says earnestly, grabbing my eyes with his own, and holding them meaningfully. Oh, pa-lease, I think to myself. As if she could read my mind, Suzanne kicks me again.
“Would you like some wine?” Suzanne asks him.
“Sure,” he says and sits down. “Now that I’m off for the night. I’m Ali, by the way.”
“Suzanne,” she says, pouring him some wine.
He swishes it around the glass and takes a sip.
“Hm,” he says, smacking his lips together. “A subtle bouquet.”
“Indeed,” Suzanne says.
“Indeed,” I say.
“A wine as fine as the musician.” He clinks his glass against mine with one hand and strokes my arm with the other.
We finish the bottle and I order another one with the twenty I got from the nice couple. At each toast, his hand gets bolder. It strokes the back of my neck. Pats my waist.
Once his hand gets to my thigh, he asks, “What are you two doing tonight?”
“No plans,” I say. “You?”
“I’m going to see a Gypsy band play in Little Italy,” he says. “Do you want to come?”
“Sure,” I say.
“Me, I think I’m going home to bed. Very tired,” Suzanne says, pressing her hands together and leaning her head against them. I know she’s full of shit, but I don’t care to call her on it.
We all leave the restaurant and Ali and I head up St. Laurent.
I didn’t realize how drunk I was until I start walking. I stumble and have to grab his sleeve. “Is it far?” I ask Ali.
In front of us is a limo. He opens the door and says, “After you.”
I could get used to this.
La vie en rose. I get in.
Suzanne and I are sharing a bottle of wine.