There are times when the only correct response is excess and ludicrousy. The bottle of Burgundy lay in the bottom of his satchel as He climbed the hill from the tram stop. The Number 58. As the tram trundled by, He imagined what sort of relationships were formed by people travelling from one terminus to the other. Toorak to Coburg. What boundaries were crossed? Someone after some posh, or some rough.
He was stopped by a wiry middle-aged Chinese bloke who walking from a van into a restaurant carrying strips of plaster mouldings on his shoulder. The Chinese bloke was followed by younger men carrying heavy paint tins. The wiry bloke wore a blue facemask with brown stains on one side where he had pulled it aside to drag on a cigarette. He assumed this bloke was the restaurant owner, for he bore a strain on his face from the enduring and needling trauma of being physically able to trade and earn an income - but not legally entitled to. The bloke was changing the décor simply to do something. Anything.
Walking down the hill, taking long, loping steps in his worn, dirty trainers, was a blonde man not wearing a mask. The blonde man was having an angry conversation with an adversary floating about four metres above the ground and five metres in front. He thought He recognised the blonde man, perhaps a record company A&R from the 1990s. The red, swollen lower eyelids suggested a mixture of prescription and non-prescription cures for the fire in his brain. He avoided the travelling maelstrom by pressing his face against the window of a travel agent. Carved chairs with soft furnishings sat opposite a carved wooden desk. Posters of destinations lined the walls. The city with the iron tower, the city with the boats and canals, the city with the curvy buildings. They were slightly blue in hue from being in the light so long. On a low table, brochures for cruises, with a middle-aged American couple drinking champagne from glasses with dissected strawberries straddling the rim. A fine layer of dust covered the brochures, the coffee table, the carpet, and the bills wedged halfway between the inside of the office and the alcove in which he was standing. This madness needs Burgundy, he thought to himself.
The restaurant seemed odd. Not something unexpected considering the circumstances. But He did not expect this amount of oddness. The long, thin room had been pulled apart. A fit little Frenchman was cleaning the façade on the bar fridge, with determination. He called for a young waiter who was having lunch down the dimly lit back section. The normal white shirt and black apron were replaced by Le Coq Sportif polo and denim. Bonhomie was replaced by a little bumbling as the waiter fumbled for a pen. Take away lunches were obviously not being taken as seriously as polished night time service. He ordered duck. Duck a l'orange. Duck, He discussed with himself, needs a pinot noir, and duck a l'orange needed the wine in his satchel. The music playing in the room was odd. Not that it was Hendrix, but that there was music at all. This was a restaurant renowned for not playing music. Instead, the soundtrack was the hubbub of preened matriarchs at lunch, and midlife new love after dark. He peered down the back. A tall chef and two shorter chefs were lunching. One, a woman, got up from the table, and wandered into the kitchen. She was followed by an old Airedale. They don't shed hair, He thought to himself.
It was breezy in the park across the road. Breezier than He anticipated. The cork slid out of the neck of the bottle of 2012 Domaine Dujac. The waiter wouldn't lend him cutlery, crockery, or glassware without a demeaning deposit that He felt sucked the dignity out of what was otherwise a pleasant transaction. The IGA a few doors down, had a good stock of Black and Gold plastic beer cups. That long thin line of Burgundy flowed past his lips over his tongue to the back of his mouth. A clear, clean, fine tight line. Beautiful tannin structure. He remembered being introduced to this Burgundy by a young winemaker from Geelong. It was the late 1980s, and He was working at a restaurant known for its seafood and dancing on tables. Back then, He was earning $1000 in tips a week and, knowing himself way too well for a young man, stayed clear of white powders and instead became addicted to something far more costly. Back then the young winemaker showed him Domaine Dujac. A wine made with some whole bunches, the stems building that invisible structure, those fine lines, that square, that picture frame that determines everything else in the mouth and gives context to the aromas that escape it. Bitter, sweet, orange, morello. That young winemaker from Geelong didn't actually send Him on the path to this particular addiction, he simply offered a few landmarks so He wouldn't get lost.
The lines, the hint of bitterness, the darkness all fell away with the first morsel of duck. The chill had quickly cooled the jus turning it into a sweet and salty orange jelly. The duck was just warm, the jelly not yet cold. The Burgundy simply sat there, holding the flavours and aromas up, holding them together. Suspending the cold. Suspending disbelief. Stitching together the experience as a beautiful one. Cloaking him, for just one moment, from the reality that he was sitting alone in a public park, drinking a $500 bottle of wine out of a Black and Gold plastic cup, on a grey, cold afternoon. There are times when the only correct response is excess and ludicrousy.
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