A Glass of Wine

May 4, 2008
Mia sat glumly at the table, fiddling with her hair as she wondered how long she would have to stay here. On three sides of her, grownups were having lively conversations, but Mia had nothing to contribute. She felt sluggish and bloated from the enormous meal; she would have eaten less, and usually did, but her grandmother viewed every uneaten morsel of food to be a personal affront. Mia wished that her older cousin, Sabrina, was there, but Sabrina was touring colleges this weekend. Even when she wasn’t the only kid, Mia felt inordinately self-conscious at these family gatherings; it seemed that the more at ease the clan was, the more anxious Mia felt as she solicitously tiptoed onto the conversation, trying not to destroy the mood or call too much attention to herself.
“Mom, can we please go home soon?” Mia pleaded of her mother’s swishing hair. Her mother’s neck snapped to face Mia, the flushed cheeks and merry grin stolen from their bright context.
“Soon, honey, okay?” said her mother’s mouth, while her eyes and ears strained to rejoin the conversation.
“But Mom-“ began Mia, before she was cut off by a raucous bout of laughter.
“Will someone help me finish this bottle of wine!” bellowed Mia’s grandmother from the other end of the table.
“Hit me, Mom!” shouted Mia’s mother jocularly.
“Here you are, dear. How about a little bit for Mia? Mia, have you ever drunk wine before?”
Mia felt the constricting heat coming from every set of eyeballs at the table, and silently cursed her grandmother.
“I think Mia’s a little young,” interjected Mia’s father.
“Nonsense. In Europe, children half her age are drinking it. They drink wine in the uterus! Don’t be a prude,” she admonished her son-in-law, who furrowed his brow.
“Alright,” sighed her father. Give me the bottle, I’ll pour her just a little bit,” he said in a rare show of forcefulness.
Mia watched as her father half-filled her glass with the murky red juice, trying not to betray her burst of excitement, as well as her sudden anxiety. Her parents had reentered the conversation, leaving Mia alone to contend with the confusing glass in front of her. What to do with it? She had tried some wine when she was younger, but had never cared for it. It had stung her and she had wondered, as she spluttered and coughed, how grownups could drink it down so fluently. Mia had seen not a trace of the virtues that had been heralded by everyone from Shakespeare to Bob Marley. But even if she liked it this time, the rules of protocol demanded that this be her only glass. To ask for a re-fill would be awkward for all parties involved, because that would mean that her glass of wine was really a ‘drink.’ So this glass, and this glass only, was hers to do with as she saw fit. With a self-conscious tremor, though no one was watching, she extended her hand and wrapped her moist fingers around the cool stem of the glass. She lifted it, and swirled it around vaguely, before bringing it to her lips. Mia took a small sip and demurely swallowed. Instantly, her insides began to heat up, as though and angry mob was chasing its way down her esophagus, equipped with pitchforks and flaming torches. Mia was as surprised by the warm sensation as she was pleased by it, so she was dismayed when she felt it ebbing away like a shaken Etch-A-Sketch. So she liked wine. Thinking quickly, she deducted that she could take a small sip every three minutes and not run out before it was time to go. The three minutes inched by, and Mia passed the time indulging in her nervous tics: straining her neck, twitching her foot, fiddling with her hair, biting her nails. After two minutes and fifty-six seconds of this, she was relieved to have something to do with her hands again. The second sip, she bathed in the wine’s decadent taste, swishing it in her mouth before sending it down her throat. Over the course of the next few sips, she established a ritual for drinking: Lift the glass, swish the glass, take a sip, swish the sip, let the sip settle, swallow, deep breath. As the level of the wine in her glass sank by millimeters, so, she thought, did her tensed shoulders. There was a pillow on her chair that night, (if you wish to know why, consult to Four Questions, or simply ask Mia, who had just finished reciting them,) and for once, she felt herself reclining on it. She wasn’t thinking less, per se, just more sequentially. Everything seemed to come into greater focus. Intently, she stared at the back of her hand, calmly clinging to the table like moss on a tree. She had never really thought about it before, but look how daintily her skin interlaced with itself, seamlessly coating her body. She brought her eyes to an inch above the table and studied the stretch-marked mahogany, reveling in its every detail. It was so beautiful, she wanted to cry. And so was her family. Look at them, so vibrant in color tonight, teasing and flirting and gossiping together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle.
Oh my god!” she thought suddenly. “I’m drunk!” She probed her thoughts and feelings, scanning her body. Could she operate heavy machinery? Would she throw up? She didn’t think she would, and yet there was not denying that she felt somehow different than usual. “Being drunk,” she reflected, “was rather like being inside a beehive. Standing on the outside, looking up at it, dangling like a tantalizing piñata, there seemed no way to enter its waxy sanctuary. However, when you were drunk, you could somehow fit into the beehive, and move around the hive feeling more natural that you ever could have in the world beneath the tree. Everything hummed. The light seemed less harsh as people, inebriated, put away their stingers. Every surface seemed sensuously sticky;” (Mia snorted aloud at the alliteration) “every step you took coated you further in honey until nothing could permeate your glazed cocoon. People dripped in the saccharine juice, and as they brushed, it made them stick together. Noise echoed wonderfully inside the darkened dome. Even silence had its warm appeal, for it wasn’t really silence; the clinks and clatters, and that delicious hum, permeated its crevices.” Mia wasn’t looking forward to leaving the beehive, back to where everything had a harsh smell. After having fit so snugly into the hive, everything about her body would seem too clumsy and big. She would miss her daintily flushed cheeks and deft movements, as she looked up at the hive, wishing to emolliate the blinking sun, the winking dew, and the barking tree.
“Well, I suppose I shall have to stay drunk forever,” she thought primly. But for now, she was very, very sleepy. She gave an enormous, shuddering yawn, stretching her mouth and popping her eyes. Then her face closed like an airtight vessel as she curled up her legs, tucked her feet underneath her thighs, and nuzzled her eyes in the crook of her arm. And for once, the buzzing bees in the hive of her head drowsed with her.

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