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I loved those lunches.  Those lunches alone.  Well, not quite alone.  I had a companion.  But no one knew about those secret lunches.  Those lunches were no one's business.  No husband of mine knew about those lunches.  They never knew how frequent they were.

I didn't plan the lunches.  They were always an impulse.  Suddenly, it would all come crashing down on me.  The caretaking, the stress, the confusion, the busyness...all wearing me down.   The teenagers, the totaled cars, the missed curfews, the never-thought-would-happen-to-me divorce, the judgment of friends, the loss of friends.

But I had a secret friend.  

I had good taste.  I loved fine food.  I loved fine wine.  I knew all the hot spots.  The beautiful restaurants.  

 

I walk into the restaurant at noon.  They want to take care of me.  I can feel all the needs, all the demands slip away like a ripple that looses it form as it fans out across the water.  I feel like I've come home. I can breathe again.

I sit down and look around.  I watch the people at lunch.  I love being alone at lunch.  I am carefree.  No one needs me at lunch.  

I look at the menu.  I'm hungry in the deepest of ways.  Inner contentment is not coming today, but the lunch will be enough to get me through.

I order the freshest of salads, the catch for the day.  And this is when my special friend joins me.  

"I'll have a glass of the Cakebread Chardonnay please."  It's a splurge.  An extravagant splurge.  Oh, but this particular wine, so full-bodied, so buttery.  The wine is my lover.   It exists to please me.

I'm shaking just a little.  They bring me the cold glass of wine in a beautiful glass.  I deserve this.  No one will know. The sunlight from a nearby window makes the wine look like a magical potion as it sparkles and beckons.

 

I take the first sip and feel the familiar sense of relief as the wine slides down my throat and spreads its warmth to my eager parched heart.   I bring a book with me and get lost in the book, nibbling and sipping.  Nibbling and sipping.  My real life disappears as I absorb myself in the story of someone else.  Anyone else.

Another glass is ordered and yet another.

Time for the check.  Time for a nap before the teenagers come home.  

No one knew.  No one ever knew.

*The wine and I parted ways almost 3 years ago.  I gave up my "loyal friend" but gained the inner contentment I was searching for.  For me, the two were ultimately incompatible.  Friends ask me from time to time if I miss those days, those lunches.  To be completely and totally honest, the answer is Never.  Something I never thought I would say.  There was a price I paid for the relationship with the wine.  The exchange for a connection to me has been, sorry for the cliché, priceless.



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