My eyes are heavy, but I manage to steal a glance at my muse. Her mind is somewhere else, but her presence is trapped by the thickness of the bitterness in the air. I slow down my alcohol intake. I don’t drink as much as I used to—as much as we used to. It was only this year that I felt the last decade take its toll on me. Besides, I am managing my acid reflux—something that has become both a funny and annoying thing whenever we wanted to “celebrate” valentines on ordinary days.
I prefer wine nowadays, especially on days like these. I like wine because it is not consumed to be drunk. It must be enjoyed, savored, and drank in deep thought, in contemplation. There is a ritual involved in drinking wine. The wine must be gently laid into the glass, as if the wine were a fragile baby being put to bed. It must be poured carefully so as not to unlock the spirits prematurely. You taste it first before you finish the rest of the bottle. You raise the crystal glass against the light and stare at the imprisoned spirits revealed by the prism glass. You slightly swirl your glass to release the trapped souls in it. You put it under your nose and consume the spirits. And when the spirits have started to possess you, you are now ready to drink.
We had our wine phase. It was you who introduced me to this restaurant where we always got our wine. It is the place where we became a couple (I think). It is also the exact same place where we broke up. Months after I left you, I kept coming back to that place and tried various kinds of wines. Some say alcohol affects your memory (maybe this was the reason why I have a very short memory) and helps you forget things. I frequented our favorite wine place not to forget but to remember. Somehow, the flavors of the wine that penetrate my sense of smell induce me to remember vividly.
Later tonight, I would visit that wine place. But now, I am drunk with the pretentiousness of the other people populating this sad beer joint, trying to put up a jovial façade just because it is Valentines day.
Suddenly, John Mayer’s “Love song for no one” starts playing. At the refrain, the crowd sings in chorus: “I’m tired of being alone. So hurry up and get here.” I look around and realize there aren’t any couples. All the tables are occupied by groups, mostly single people, singing the refrain at the top of their lungs. I laugh.
Funny how this day becomes the peak of sentimentality. I don’t participate in the sentimentality of the occasion. It’s a waste of energy. I don’t want to dismiss it altogether either and be bitter about it. Too many people have turned to this default mode it has become uncool. And so I want to reminisce without wallowing in sentimentality. And I won’t treat this day ordinarily either. I acknowledge it as the celebration of Eros, but I bow to it without ceremony.
The refrain plays again. Everyone sings the refrain, this time, more passionate and with more zest. The room is filled with laughter after the refrain finishes. The laughter adds to the thickness of the air. I have to leave.
I drag my feet to our favorite wine place. Two friends wait for me there. I was to crash their date. On the way, I grab a couple of white roses to mark the occasion.
My two friends don’t drink wine. They just wanted to try drinking red wine on a valentines day. I ended up finishing the bottle for them. It was a Merlot, not my favorite, but they didn’t like strong wines. So I told them the Merlot would be good for beginners.
I never found out which wine you preferred. Maybe because you always let me choose the bottle. As much as possible, I’d get us a Shiraz. Sometimes, a Syrah would do. I am not a wine expert but I have my preferences. I like them strong, with full body, a bit salty. We’d finish a bottle each whenever we went here. Sometimes, we’d take home a third.
This is the same place where we got together. I remember our conversation then. We were finishing our second bottle. You took me off my guard with your straightforward question. You asked, “are we together or aren’t we?” I was not ready for that question. I was enjoying our conversation too much to even plan anything about the state of our relationship. If I said yes, then I would have jumped into something I was not prepared for. If I said no, you might have slapped me and walked out, never to be heard from again. So I gave the safest answer I could muster: “Aren’t we?”
My answer was a question because ultimately, it really was. I did not know anything about serious relationships. You were my first. I was so used to chasing and being rejected that I found your question, absurd. My other relationships were too short to consider serious and the others were too…vague to be considered real. But after weeks of going out with you and seeing the darkest depths of your soul, I thought, there must be something about you that made me decide not to run away. So I trusted you. I replied with a question because I trusted that you would lead our relationship into the answer. And you did.
The breakup happened in the same place under the same circumstances. It was our second bottle also when everything fell apart. But this story, belongs to another letter. Let me spend this day reminiscing the good memories. After all, the happy ones are always the first to go. I might as well write them down here before they completely disappear into oblivion.
Our last bottle of wine together was also in that same place. We were not together anymore. You were with someone else. I don’t remember much of our conversation that night. But I remember vividly, your tears kept on falling as you stared at me. I did not understand then why you were crying. I figured you were already happy with your new relationship because he gave you everything I could not.
Months after, I realized why you cried that night. It was the first time I told you that I loved you.