“Sam, seriously?” I could feel her absolute disappointment slipping past my head on the heavily expelled huff that my, apparently silly or annoying question inspired. “What is a blouse, exactly?” the huff inducing question I had dared to ask. I’d heard the word used thousands of times, maybe even used it myself, (but I doubt it) from time to time but I was never quite sure what the word “blouse” meant really. “It’s a woman’s shirt” the words puckered up with the vinegar of annoyance from my coworker once again peeved by my somewhat dramatic lack of girl sense. “Oh. Okay. Well I didn’t know if it was a specific kind of shirt…like the up top version of coolots or something.” My eyes sort of scrunched and appley bits of my cheeks just beginning to turn warm, and pink as the “you suck at girl” hammer once again thumped at my noggin and yet, “Well how come they have to use a different word than shirt, and what the hell does blousy mean then?!” went and got my vinegar going too. Stupid clothes. Never got any of that junk, pretty, “blousy” and stylish doesn’t speak to me, never did actually, least not in the more traditional sense of the word.
Late August trips to the Gemco near the house we were living in meant two things to me as a preteen, time away from that awful place and putting down payments on my back to school goods. I would deal with the drudgery of having my mother hold clothes up to my husky frame, cock her head, stand back and watch as I wriggled into corduroy pants and had her own huffery party as I whined and winced, pissed and moaned about the weird sound the pants made when I walked and as I bent in half with my hands shoved in my crotch area, voice cracking as I tried my best to convince her that my chunky thighs, in those pants was sure to start a fire from friction alone. Endured the shoe shopping, the grabbing of the plastic tube of day of the week crunders that we had to buy every year and counted the seconds with each screech of a metal hanger as my mother scoured the sale rack for my back to school finery. I put up with it for one reason and one reason only, to get to the aisles that were packed with Trapper Keepers, boxes of aromatic #2 pencils, stacks and stacks of spiral binders, Pee Chee folders and bin after bin containing my two most cherished items, colored pens and sheets of lined paper in varying sized widths….nirvana. Trips to Gemco were always welcomed as a way to escape the nightmare of a dream house we were enslaved in but in August, it was an excuse to visit those rows of school supplies and fantasize about sharp pencils, crisp paper and the ripping sound of Velcro as I tore into my Trapper Keeper to fetch a clean sheet of college ruled paper and a sharp pencil just waiting….
Now one might think from my love of school supplies that I was a fan of that whole school business, like I was looking forward to getting my learn on and was an eager student but the truth of the matter was that I loathed school, like a lot and it was just the freedom of that blank sheet, the pens or pencils in my hand and the mere idea of being able to create something, anything that made my heart sail and filled me with hope. I would hoard paper, not wasting them on pesky homework assignments or anything, save them for the nights I couldn’t sleep in that house, when I could hear people walking around, their drunk and drugged out stumbling echoing through the tragically empty halls like ghostly creatures, keeping me from sleeping or ever feeling safe. A radio gently whispering and a stack of fresh paper at my side and I could find a tiny slice of peace. The music pulling at my body and the wide open space of paper pulling at my soul. I used to write my thoughts, share my day and speak out loud through the written word, that was until I discovered my mother would read, share and loudly mock me for my pubescent mutterings, took to hiding my journals of scrawled on sheets of paper but she always found them. One night after walking down the hall to hear my mother’s smoky voice laughing my words into the wall mounted phone I decided that writing wasn’t my medium, or a safe one anyway and I turned to forcing my feelings into the pounding of my feet to music, figuring out how to lure with the curve of my hips, the bite in my lips and the occasional drawing of my flowers. The stillness of my lines, the crazy mixture of textures my voice, my yelling, my begging and my feelings all spilled out in patterns and colors.
“You again?” my words sort of greeting a dazed looking customer that was standing in my Burgundy department. He had been in that same spot less than ten hours earlier, his fingers laced around the neck of two bottles of wine, his grin the kind of articulation that words could never even begin to encapsulate, “I’ve never spent this much on a bottle of wine….and now I’m buying two” the last words I heard from him the night before as he headed to the registers with two bottles of Grand Cru white Burgundy tucked into his arm. Now here he was again, still looking a bit shocked, dumbfounded and wistful, back at the wine store that introduced him to the wine that was still haunting him. His smile and sort of goofy, mussed hair a tell that he hadn’t even bothered to wash before heading back to our store to get an extra copy of the list of wines we poured, and to just be there, surrounded by the bottles holding all that luscious complexity and texture…I swear I could feel his heart pounding just standing next to him.
“Those weren’t just Chardonnays” he told me, each word full and saturated with wonder, “I’ve had lots of Chardonnay but those? They are a whole other thing, and I feel like I can still taste them” I stood there nodding trying to contain my chuckles as I watched a young handsome man fall madly in love with something….beyond pretty and easy to taste. His hands falling on and fingers rubbing the labels we had been exposed to the night before, his energy nothing short of contagious. “I guess I didn’t think white wines could do…..that” as a big toothy smile spread across his face. We spent twenty minutes discussing minerality, Premier Cru and Grand Cru, the power of place but mostly we kept landing on the way those wines felt in his mouth, the richness and volume, the spreading that would get right to the point of over indulgence but was pulled back by mouth tingling acidity…how that dance made the wines just that much more compelling.
Once we’d said pretty all there was to say I took a glance at my watch and knew I had better start preparing for the next tasting that was to take place that afternoon, I bid good wishes and gratitude to my young wonderer and headed to the kitchen to pick the cheeses for the tasting. I glanced back over my shoulder to see the young enthusiast once again walking the aisle, shaking his head, fingers tracing and sides of his mouth turned up into a surprised half smile. I walked into the kitchen, reached below the counter, using my fingers as a hook I removed one of our big bowled wine glasses from a clean rack, pulled open the door of the fridge, stuck my arm in, the cold air stark and shocking against my skin as I rummaged around clinking bottles and sliding big hunks of cheese out of the way. “There you are….” The glug-glug-glug of fiercely textured Grand Cru white Burgundy falling upon itself in the glass, the spin of my wrist causing the oily texture wine to roll up the side of the glass, the aromas of fresh cut white flowers, browned butter and roasted nuts sneaking out the top of the glass in waves that seemed delicate at first but within seconds had my mouth watering…demanding me to take a sip. Took everything I had to resist but this glass wasn’t for me. This glass of wonder, power, textured stokes, it was for the dreamy-eyed youngster that was hovering over my white Burgundy department…my blank sheet of white paper just waiting for another stroke of my pen.
Fuck, I love my job….