Back when Mike worked with Julia and ran a business together, they always kept a few bottles of cheap champagne in the fridge. These came in handy whenever they landed a new client or finished a big project. They would gather the junior designers — this was before anyone was laid off — and pass the bottle around, topping off the flutes. Champagne was good for morale.
Mike stops at a wine store on Main St. and walks in. The owner is Korean, so Mike says hello in Korean with a quick bow. The owner, friendly and in his fifties, smiles and says hello. The store is small and stocked with only the big name estates. Mike misses the wine store he used to frequent in Brooklyn, only a few blocks from where he and Olivia lived together. It was a hip and bustling store run by knowledgeable staff, stocked with all kinds of funky and interesting wines from independent vineyards. There, you could find quality wines for under ten dollars. Unable to decide, Mike picks up a chilled Yellow Tail Chardonnay. The owner makes small talk and asks where he lives.
I live in that apartment down the street, Mike says, struggling with his Korean. The owner also asks what he does for a living.
I write, Mike says, feeling embarrassed in having to say this. I’m trying to write a novel. Mike isn’t sure if he’s said it correctly. So-sul. The store owner seems to understand. He nods and rings up the wine. No tax is charged. Mike thanks him and walks home.
It’s seven dollars for the bottle. Mike would have flinched just a month ago. But times are better now. Through Sammy and his well-connected mother, Mike has found a small base of students to tutor in writing. At $25 an hour, the pay covers rent and pays the bills. Mike’s also mowed a few lawns, earning $15, $20 here and there. These labors afford him small luxuries like this bottle of wine.
Mike is disappointed to realize that he does not own any wine glasses. He’s relieved to find that he has a corkscrew to open the bottle. He uses his coffee mug and pours generously. Out of habit, he digs his nose into the mug and sniffs before taking a sip. It’ll do.
He tilts the mug towards himself. The straw yellow color of the wine looks darker inside the mug. One could mistake it for green tea. Mike quickly finishes and pours again.