I am a glass of Merlot. And what they never tell you about us is that we go on dates, too.
The suspense begins in the bottle. We never know which molecule of us will be chosen to go on the date, Poured out in a hurried storm that resembles an avalanche of jewels, or a rope of silk untwisting before your eyes. You might say that, in the bottle, we belong to a collective consciousness, a single unified awareness, and we don’t really know Ourselves or who We are UNTIL we are poured out, until we take the shape of the glass — until we soak up the shimmer of the décor, the swirl of the waitstaff and the roar of a restaurant rush, and become an I, a Me, a Self.
Until we are Poured, we are just grape juice that has lain sleepily in wait. But as the cork pops and we fly out into the air, individual glasses of Merlot are born, and within those loving curves, we acquire our individual names. Where the names come from, or how we come to know them, I am not sure. Mine settled on me like a gentle ripple as my surface stilled from the Pour. My name is Kate.
The dates are always blind. You don’t know ordered you or why, you don’t know who paired you with what or why. Fate can be capricious. Legend, and one of our kind’s most well-known tragic poems, speaks of an entire bottle of Merlot taken home and slurped down between bites of orange stovetop pasta. One of our giddiest romances speaks of a glass named Adéle paired with a perfect chocolate soufflé named Lloyd. They were so smitten on first sight that Adéle nearly tipped over in excitement. Their meeting still gives us all hope, and we still whisper about them in the cellars.
Of course, sometimes your date isn’t food at all. Sometimes it’s just the other person’s drink, winking at you from down the bartop, or revolving slowly in their nervous hands across the tablecloth, trying to meet your gaze. This is love at distance, a flirtation built on pining and sighs. Awkward moments do ensue when two (or more) glasses of Merlot are ordered, and we flirt in sight of each other, feeling exposed, sometimes judged or ridiculed by those we knew back in the bottle. But this is the game of chance that is the brief life of a glass of wine.
In the bottle we’re always encouraged to remain open about dating. This is, after all, our one brief chance to experience the world and its intimacies before we are drunk and transformed into something quite different, a process known as the Reclaim. We’re urged to love the glass we’re in, to let currents of sound and music and restaurant energy swirl through us — even, if we are able, to try and follow the conversation between the people on their date, to cherish every moment until our glass is empty and we are Reclaimed.
That is—except in one scenario.
That is the situation I find myself in now. There is no food coming, and there is no other drink. There is just this man who has ordered me, fifteen minutes ago, and has not touched me. Here I am, standing tall and beautiful on the fully dressed table, with its candles and flowers and napkins folded into flying horses — young, freshly Poured, ready to live. But he doesn’t seem to see me.
This is the scenario few dare to speak of — true aloneness. Plunging into your short life — the one thing that is truly yours, designed specially and exclusively for you — and finding that nothing, after all, was waiting for you. Nothing at all.
I arrived at the table full of hope, shy but bold, looking forward to my chance. But all this man does is lightly tap me with his fork, then drag the fork tines across the tablecloth. He looks at a bright screen in his hand, then, around the restaurant, where I recognize my fellow Merlots — there is Magdalena at a far table by the window, being enjoyed with salmon, and there is Chandra at the bar, eddying playfully at a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir a couple of feet down.
They are living. I am just waiting. And waiting. For something that might not come.
If I had a heart, it would be pulsing with panic and confusion — instead, tiny ripples fan outward across my surface. I vibrate mildly, trying to let out my energy. Thirty minutes have passed, and the waitress has come by twice to check if this man wants anything besides his glass of wine — nothing. He doesn’t want anything. He doesn’t want me.
It was safer back in the bottle. I didn’t exist, not as a separate being. I was just part of the We. Never forsaken, never alone. Of course, it was not my choice to be born, to be born with the name of Kate, into this glass container, or brought to this man with his particular reluctance to eat or drink. But it is my fate.
Maybe I will not even be drunk, Reclaimed. Maybe I will simply be thrown away. That is the other fate no one speaks of.
Small drops of condensation appear on my glass surface, flowing down slowly, twining with each other. I feel embarrassed, I feel broken, but I can’t control them. I let them flow.
I see that similar drops are flowing from the man’s eyes — hard to see, almost impossible. But glistening.
Suddenly it’s clear to me — I am not the only one suffering.
As different as we are, man and glass of wine, we are both crushed by the same feeling — that things have not turned out as they should. We are both aching over possibilities that did not come true. We are both disappointed.
We are both — heartbroken.
But we are together.
The pain curling through me is broken apart by a swirl of sympathy, then tenderness. I look more closely at the human man. He is young, his eyelashes long, his fingers also long as he twists them together and wipes his eyes. He is dressed in a jacket and tie, his hair is combed, his jaw is smooth. He is...handsome.
Perhaps he is who I was meant to meet tonight.
In the same moment, I see him looking closely at me, drawing me toward him in his palm. He sighs. He closes his eyes.
Then, slowly and tenderly, his lips hover close to me, and I feel their touch at last.