Juli’s arm was winding up for the pitch — and clutched in her hand was the wine bottle we’d traveled overseas with, from Colombia to Vietnam. She and I were spending six weeks in Hanoi for an alternative business program.
There it was, about to fly through the air, the bottle we’d lugged in our overweight suitcase, up five flights of stairs to our apartment in the oppressive June heat. The bottle that had prompted our AirBnb host to go on a quest to find us an opener. The bottle we’d been putting off drinking in search of the right occasion.
And though that occasion had finally come, in the form of girl talk and an impromptu therapy session, when Juli went to open the bottle the cork disintegrated as she was pulling out the screw. I watched as she grit her teeth and took a breath, removed the screw and tried again . . . but it was no use. Each time there were more pieces of cork and we were no closer to our wine.
Next was the growl of exasperation, the wind-up —
“No!” I exclaimed, darting across the room to take the bottle from her. “You just sit tight . . . I’ll try.”
She’d had a hard day. A hard couple of weeks actually. Our dream trip hadn’t been as seamless as we thought it would be. Like the fact that we had to leave our first apartment — a studio — after we’d heard rummaging in the middle of the night and found bite marks on our cereal box. We told ourselves it was a mouse, but something flashed in the eyes of our host when we told her. Something that said, “No, not a mouse…” And when we came home the next night, we caught a glimpse of the real culprit, its eggplant sized body and its dexterous tail scurrying up the pipe of the building.
No, not a mouse — a friggin’ rat!
We’d since gotten a new place, finally learned to cross the chaotic streets and enough Vietnamese to buy groceries and order Hanoi’s famous egg coffees. But a twelve hour time difference, six weeks away from our friends and family, was starting to take its toll on Juli’s relationships back home.
When one of us was down, the other was just OK enough to do the cheering up. That day it was my turn. I assessed the wine situation, checked YouTube for opening hacks, but in the end it was careful observation and a little patience that uncorked that bottle.
Once I'd poured it for the two of us, I lifted my glass with triumphant exuberance. “Cheers, friend!”
“Cheers!” she said, and just as our glasses clinked something seemed to come over her. She was suddenly pensive. “We’re such good friends,” she mused.
I knew what she meant — the sentiment was overcoming me as well. In all the challenges this trip had brought us, all our petty married-couple bickering about who would take out the garbage, we somehow became a team. I’d never spent this much time with her (nearly 24/7) — or any other person for that matter. In our process of togetherness, we’d overcome every obstacle we faced. We got a new apartment after the rat incident. We stopped taking our frustrations out on each other, stopped judging each other. We rose to each occasion and became pseudo therapists, cooks, doctors and advocates in support of each other. We’d grown . . . together. And I knew in that moment, without a doubt, we’d be there for each other forever no matter what. No matter what life threw at us, we were bonded and we'd help each other through.
So, that night, we toasted . . . to what we’d achieved and to whatever lied ahead.