Put The Cork Back In The Bottle by James Gilbert

-I don’t know why you have to drink so much all the time.

They were sitting at a small wooden table in the kitchen. The dinner was long finished and between them were two empty plates that had been gently pushed aside, and two bottles of wine; one empty, one full.

-What do you mean?

-Nothing.

-I don’t drink very much.

-Well. It seems like you do. You drink more than me.

-I’m larger than you.

-…

-And I don’t think I do drink much more than you do, by the way.

She rolled her eyes.

-Sure. Whatever.

-You drink plenty on the weekends when you go out with your friends.

-…

-I hardly ever go out with friends.

-That’s not true, she muttered under her breath.

-What was that?

-Nothing.

-…

-Are you going to have any of that? Or can I clean up now?

She gestured vaguely towards the newly uncorked bottle and leaned back in her chair.

-You don’t have to clean up right now. I can help clean up.

-I’d rather do it now so that I don’t have to think about it.

-Just hold on a minute. I’ll do it. I’ll do all of it. Just sit for another minute.

He reached out lamely for the wine bottle and half-heartedly poured a smidge of wine into his glass. He moved the top of the bottle towards the rim of the other glass on the table and, peering cravenly up into her eyes, gestured with it towards her own. She grimaced and her face became pinched and then she shut her eyes and shook her head in refusal.

He put the bottle back down on the table with a gentle thud.

-What were we just talking about?

She was staring off into space behind him. One of their chairs creaked.

-Hmmm?

-I said what we’re talking about? Before?

-Oh. She met his gaze for a moment, eyes empty. I can’t remember. She looked off into space again.

-Well?

He sipped some of the wine. It was red and bitter. He put the glass down and fiddled with the cloth napkin next to his plate.

-We should watch something.

-…

-After dinner. I guess it’s already after dinner.

-Oh. Sure.

-What should we watch?

-I don’t mind.

-…

He leaned back in his chair and it creaked and he wondered if he was putting on weight and he hoped he wasn’t because weight was hard to lose once it was on.

-Well I guess we should clean up.

She didn’t say anything. She rose to her feet, empty plate in hand, and leaned over, reaching for his.

-I’ll get it.

-It’s fine.

She walked away with the two plates and dumped them in the sink.

-I just have to use the bathroom and then I’ll help you with the rest, he said, draining what remained of the smidge of the wine in his glass.

She was running the tap and banging things around loudly in the sink, pretending she hadn’t heard him. He looked sadly at the nearly full bottle of wine, wishing he could pour himself another glass or two without that itching sensation crawling down his spine. That awful feeling you get when a parent or a teacher is watching you with undue scrutiny when they, godlike, seem to know you’ve done something wrong, and you’re still struggling to figure out what it might be. He put the cork back in the bottle.

-Well. I’ll be right back.

-…

-You can leave that if you want. I can do it.

-It’s fine.

-Still want to watch something?

-Maybe. She was focusing her attention entirely on the dish she was wiping down with a cloth. I’m tired, though. I might take an early night.

-…

-…

-Well. I’ll be right back.

He corked the bottle of the bitter red wine and noticed that it was in a green bottle. He remembered that someone had once explained to him how different wines were deliberately stored in different coloured bottles, but he couldn’t, as he lurched down the hallway towards the bathroom, for the life of him, remember why this was.

 

James Gilbert

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

5 thoughts on “Put The Cork Back In The Bottle by James Gilbert

  1. “peering cravenly up into her eyes,” kind of tells the story. Two people grown apart, because of the bottle or for other reasons too. In the end, the man is out of the woman’s control, no matter how she tries. She knows. He knows too, but is filled with guilt and I think a sense of loss. I like the way the dialogue goes…. no redemption here.

    Like

  2. Hi James,
    This is recognisable and more realistic than some of the dramatic stories about any form of addiction.
    The escalation is always there and noticeable. But it is when the conversations start, that is when relationships will either be destroyed or used to help.
    This ends with us not knowing and I don’t think anyone ever knows if they can (or have) truly kicked a habit.
    Excellent.
    Hugh

    Like

  3. This story nicely captures the angst of addiction. The character would probably be happier if the woman went away and he could drink the bottle of wine in peace. She would probably be happier without the drunk in her life. But neither of them can move out of the rut they’ve fallen into.

    Like

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