When the wife and I got married, one of the gifts we received was a bottle of wine. It was not a fancy bottle of wine — not the type that’s aged in special oak barrels or hand-chosen by a sommelier — just the type that was sitting on the rack in the liquor store, next to a case of Miller Genuine Draft 64 and maybe a cardboard cut-out of a football post. Still, it felt like worth saving for a special occasion. It was a wedding bottle of wine, after all.
We were not yet adult enough to own a hanging wine rack, and this was even before we were adult enough to purchase the $16 wire-frame wine holder that you find in a Target. So I placed the bottle on top of the refrigerator. Counter space is so common and lowly, gathering the day’s cereal bowls and bills to pay. The top of the refrigerator was one of the few places in the house that seemed to hold prestige, high above everything else.
I failed to realize that each time you open and close your refrigerator, it moves a little. And as many times as I open the refrigerator each day, (often hoping wondrous, tastier food might appear magically) the wine bottle began its ascent to the edge. A few days before our honeymoon, the bottle fell onto the counter, shattering into hundreds of glass shards.
I don’t know what it is, but whenever a glass breaks, I always find it deeply unsettling. Maybe it’s some primitive reflex over a fear of blood. Indeed, the deep burgundy wine pooled and splattered all over the counter tops and floor, leaving behind what looked like a grisly crime scene. We picked up the big shards easily enough, before discovering the smaller bits of broken glass were more insidious and more hidden. We continued to find them for weeks afterwards.
We had been cooking dinner at the time it happened, and at first we tried to act like everything was normal. Oh, it’s just a broken bottle. The bottle didn’t fall anywhere near the skillet on the stove. It’s fine. Everything is fine.
It’s fine, even as we tip-toed around glass shivs and switchblades. It’s fine, as soaked up the pools of blood with our good towels, giving up on our pathetic attempts with paper towels and napkins. It’s fine, as we served the dinner and began to eat it.
Then the wife began to feel paranoid about accidentally swallowing glass. “You know I have that weird phobia about internally bleeding to death,” she said. I rolled my eyes, and my teeth crunched down on something that felt like glass.
We did not sleep well that night. We went to Disney World for our honeymoon a few days later, where neither one of us went into hemorrhagic shock at the Magic Kingdom in front of Mickey and Minnie and Pluto and Goofy. Although I imagine their handlers would have just quickly whisked them away to an area of the park where the tourists weren’t bleeding out.
Five years later, we’re still here. And more bottles have fallen, as we’ve lost loved ones, endured hardships, endured pain, sat awake long nights with a sick toddler, argued, made mistakes, screwed up. And it bothers you. It unsettles you. But it’s just glass. Just pieces of glass. And sometimes you find another shard, another bit, another fragment. Something more to compartmentalize, something more to process. Here and there. You clean it up. You move on. You go to Disney World.
We own a hanging wine rack now. We’ve grown up enough by now and I’m quite proud of it. It’s an expensive wooden one that also holds all of our stemware. Despite not being very handy, I anchored and hung it myself, and it’s either holding up just fine or it’s a guillotine about to let go. That’s the part I’ve never enjoyed about life — the uncertainty — but we’re optimists and we have four bottles of wine on it, being saved for some special occasion.