It was my turn, but the man at the door tilted his head and contemplated like he might deny me entry. I had waited my turn much more patiently than anyone else on line. I would have lost my shit if the man turned me away after he’d allowed teetering guys in greasy jackets to enter.
“What do you need?” he asked.
It was tempting to be a smart ass and answer “electricity” or “soul cleansing”, but I needed to get past the door. My husband B and I had moved into a friend’s vacant apartment where electricity had been restored, and planned to celebrate with our first hot meal and cold cocktail in days. S Liquors was the only place that sold booze on the boulevard. It was dark but open after Hurricane Sandy, and it was my one hope to get the necessities on B’s list: white wine for the clam sauce and maraschino cherries for the French martinis.
“White wine,” I answered.
The man snickered and asked which one, like S Liquors required a trained sommelier to serve the male clientele that walked out with bagged tall boys in one hand and king-size Cheetos bags in the other. He was surprised when I told him I needed to see the selection. B was exacting in his wine requirements, and I didn’t have the patience to explain that if I returned with Yellow Tail or something else he deemed swill, I could kiss my hot meal goodbye.
“Miss Lady, we have no lights.”
Duh, I thought.
“But you’re open, right? And the guys inside have flashlights. One of them can help me around.”
It was dark, but I was sure he rolled his eyes when he stepped aside. A Latino with a flashlight came forward to guide me. The look on his face convinced me that “pain in the ass” must have been among the things the guy at the door had yelled into the store, and I wondered how the Latino understood Urdu.
The sign on the shelf said simply “Whites wines”. I was surprised there was some organization by varietal.
“Here’s one,” the guy said as he grabbed a Yellow Tail Chardonnay.
“NO!” I said so sharply he almost dropped the bottle. “Just please shine the light and let me look, okay?”
I moved and reshuffled the bottles, like maybe I’d missed a hidden Kris Pinot Grigio or Banfi Sauvignon Blanc. The guy exhaled loudly each time I returned a bottle to the shelf. He must have wondered the same thing I was: What the hell did I expect to find in a liquor store that maintained a better stock of airplane-size bottles, beef jerky, and condoms than white wines? I was lucky that wine for a pasta sauce was my most pressing need that night. Hurricane Sandy disrupted everyone’s sense of “normal”. Some people’s normal might never return. Yet there I was at S Liquors, skeeved by the dust on the white wine bottles.
I found an Italian Pinot Grigio. It was unfamiliar, but it would be just fine. I decided to pass on the maraschino cherries, as if it was even likely that S Liquors carried them. The hot meal in a warm apartment that awaited me was the best topper anyone could hope for on a cold and dark night.