Vino de Mesa
It was as awful as it promised to be, and worse.
The credit crunch dinner date at Jim's house had been compiled with a certain amount of young hipster irony and genuine necessary economy. He and Steve were still getting to know one another and it was risky but cheap to have Steve come over for a homecooked meal: he budgeted for 50 per cent pasta, 5 per cent pesto and 45 per cent affordable booze to ensure Steve would stay over and they could both afford to buy lunch the next day at work. Times were hard for everyone but that was no reason not to see one another for dinner, a DVD, some wine and some quality time together, right?
The dinner was established a failure early on, however, when Jim served reheated butterbeans mixed with a tin of tuna in brine because Steve had recoiled in horror at the gluten-rich pasta and possible nut allergy inspiring pesto. And the two individual cartons of Tesco Value Vino de Mesa were meant to be an amuse bouche rather than the main tipple for the evening, as Jim had assumed that Steve would bring something far superior (ie. actually drinkable), seeing as he was the dinner guest. He arrived empty handed, and they sat with their bowls of hot fishy beans, glasses of tap water and cartons of foul Vino de Mesa, pretending to find it hilarious while stealing furtive, miserable glances at the kitchen clock.
"I found someone's bus pass on my way here," stammered Steve when the ghastly silence became unbearable. "I don't know what to do with it."
"Let me see," said Jim with obvious delight that conversation might be revived. He turned the slim plastic wallet over in his hands and then flipped it open. He nonchalantly flipped through the out of date tickets, crumpled receipts and wadded flyers and junk mail shoved into the sleeves. Then he noticed the little gleam of gold at exactly the same time as Steve. "What's that?" they asked each other. Like two Charlie Buckets finding the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, they stared and stared at the gold credit card tucked into the back of the bus pass wallet, disbelieving their own eyes. Jim pushed the cartons of Vino de Mesa out of the way and his hand found Steve's across the table, a faint tremble evident in his finger tips. "Get your coat, Steve. We're going out."
Steve did stay over that night. In a suite, at the Hilton, with Jim nestled into the Queen Deluxe bed next to him. Jim snored until dawn; he always did after drinking champagne.