The night sky is pulling itself over the mountains, the sliver of a moon, tilted so perfectly that a boy fishing from it’s seat is all too possible. I’m tucked in between a set of hills above Ojai, the rolling earth creating a horizon well above my eye-line. The creek below runs under the porch, I can stand on the edge of my lookout and drop a penny in it if I wished to do so. It sounds of a running bath and leaves me in want of the heat that rolls out of a faucet, the steam that fogs the windows painting a history of hands wiping away its curtain to see the man behind it. But it’s not warm tonight. Cold air snuck over the hillsides as the sun went down, as if afraid of the light and coming out to play now that it was safe. It washed over the floorboards of the old house, quickly replacing the stale afternoon desert air that you could nearly taste the sand on with a thick and chilling breath that creeped up your legs and down your neck and wrapped itself around you in preparation for a cold and mischievous evening.
To get to this place was something out of a spy movie. A twenty minute progression down a single lane road lined with forrest on both sides, unnecessarily large speed bumps, multiple gates with codes, and sign after sign of no trespassing, eventually led to a large stone parking lot and a botanical garden. There I left my car and walked down a set of stone stairs to the house buried in the hillside, placards warning the patrons that this was a private residence, my guess that it probably doesn’t stop the type of people who’d know about this place anyways.
An old, old man came to check on me after I had let myself into this relic of a desert oasis. His son drove him, and had a cocky smirk and a tilted head as he watched me through dark sunglasses while, whom I presume is his grandfather, talked to me about the property and the rules. The old man, John I believe (though Jack would be so fitting) was the result of too many bottles of wine and enough wealth to get plastic surgery in his old age. Spots covered his tightly tucked face like a Pollock painting, and I was sure if I reached in and grabbed one I would pull a layer of skin off like the outer dry skin of an onion. He didn’t smile, or frown, but I’m not sure he could if he wanted to. As his son drove off, speaking for the first time to wish me a good week, I felt like this wasn’t the last time I’d be dealing with John and his driver.
There is a bottle of white wine in the fridge, a gift left by the host. As I unloaded the groceries into the empty shelves I stared at it, wanting it, tasting its honey and apricot notes and feeling the thick sugar on my tongue, without even having to pick up the bottle. And remembering that elated feeling, that moment the alcohol hits your ears, your stomach turns cold and your leg muscles let go. I crave that feeling each time my eyes pass it. I can grasp it for just a moment, but it slips through my fingers and the voice in my head reminds me that all I need is to pour it in a glass to hold on to it. I knew that to even touch the bottle would be one step in the wrong direction, and after the day of driving through wine country and the lunch at the bar in the wine room I was already too close to the precipice of no return. How frustrating it is to watch others enjoy their wine, especially when saturated in this city of wealth, arrogance and ostentation. It comes so easy for them, it’s so natural to see a wine glass in their hands as they chatter away, effortlessly holding it as if it weighed nothing at all.