Our lunch hours came and went without a hint of tourists. The estate felt eerily quiet as I sat in the bright courtyard eating my sandwich and studying the Black Madrone Bible. At one point, the marketing manager and Tom Cruise look-alike Kirk came out to chat with me. But other than him, Hilda, and Karen, I saw no human life to justify my employment. This was the Twilight Zone of wine jobs.
The afternoon felt like a weekend. I’d never been good at being idle and this place was already making me crazy. At the point where Karen and I had already wrapped two cupboards full of logo glasses, we heard voices: loud, rambunctious chatter echoing off the covered entryway and projecting excitement. We hurried to the door just as a group of seven twenty-something guys and gals strolled through the deep shade of the passageway. As they sauntered toward Karen and me, I saw Hilda charging out her door with big eyes that screamed: The people! The people!
I was so relieved that somebody had shown up: this monotony was killing me.
While Karen ushered the group inside, Hilda said, “This is the most people we’ve seen since we moved in.”
“I guess I got here just in time,” I said.
As we stood in the doorway, Kirk rounded the corner at a quick pace, wide-eyed.
“What’s going on?” he asked, peering through the shop’s windows. “Do we actually have customers?”
I took my place behind the bar, working beside Karen for the first time. The group was midway through their pours of the Alexander Valley. I got caught up in their conversations about wine, driving, and the back road speed limits, until one man suddenly hushed his posse into a twittering silence.
“I’m getting a feeling,” he intoned, with closed eyes and fingers on temples. “I have this sense – a premonition, if you will – that there is a very special person we must find here today.”
Kirk and Hilda stepped closer.
“Yes, it is a very, very special person. A woman, she is blonde and very attractive. And her name, her name… Mari.” His eyes opened in feigned beneficence. “Yes, Mari. We must find Mari.”
Everybody gaped at me and screamed with abandon, including Hilda and Kirk. I laughed so hard I had to squeeze my legs tight to stop from peeing my pants.
Finally, psychic guy confessed. “Your friend at the last winery told us to come here. Um, what was the name of the place?”
“Dubey,” someone said.
“That’s it, DuBey lady. She sent us.”
So, it was Rebecca who had told them I was here. On my first day on the job, my new best girlfriend sent me a bouquet of human flowers. What a gal.
When I phoned DuBey later, Rebecca laughed.
“I just thought it would be funny to freak you out on your first day,” she said. “And I knew these people would brighten up the place.”
This experience gave me a warm rush of acceptance knowing I’d just impressed my new bosses with the ability and connections to bring people into an as-yet undiscovered winery. But my sense of satisfaction did not end there. I felt the love of a new best friend who evidently had my back. I also had the admiration of the hemp community who wrote rave emails about what I was doing with HempWorld. I’d realized a new level of understanding with my daughter, who had found her groove with a circle of friends from her new school. And I had gained a way to balance my creative life with my wine life.
At this point, there was only one thing missing.
At the end of that first day at Black Madrone, I had spent almost all of my wages on two bottles of Alexander Valley Cabernet. That night, I drank one of them with my fellow wine slut, Rebecca. My preference would have been to drink it with my landlord, and use it as bait to seduce him, before he left next month for a summer in Costa Rica. By the time he returns, we will have moved out of this cottage. He must have known he might never see me again, but apparently that did not make him want to see me now.
I was becoming increasingly lonely and the thought occurred to me: maybe I should become a lesbian and date Rebecca.