Props to you if you can steal my drink without me noticing. My mind must’ve been elsewhere to not give a damn about the product of my hard labor. But if I catch you stealing my drink, and you double down, then we have a problem.
There is a bar in Rio called Ovelha Negra (Black Sheep) that doesn’t sell beer, wine, or spirits—just champagne. It was embarrassing for my Danish roommate when we went the first time and he asked for Skol, a cheap Brazilian beer you can get for $1.50 on the street. He realized the type of establishment he was at and quickly adjusted, adopting more of a nouveu rich accent that would have the King of Denmark proud.
The bar has only one room in the shape of a long rectangle. There are little tables on one side and then a big table in the middle where most of the action happens. Starting at 6pm the place packs with the professional happy hour crowd. Almost everyone speaks English and $1,000 jailbroken iPhones make constant appearances.
It can be challenging to pickup here because everyone is in large groups, but really it’s not because those guys with the girls are usually coworkers. Girls are looking to flirt, and Danish and I have done well enough that we’ve become regulars. The young bartender with the moppy haircut greets us with a thumbs up whenever we come in but I keep forgetting his name. I think it’s Thiago.
It was so packed one night that we ordered two bottles to ride out until closing. A lot of people go to a place like this and get the second cheapest bottle of champagne, or at least something that’s not the absolute cheapest, but we always get the cheapest (R$ 37). We don’t know the difference between a champagne and sparkling cider and we’re not going to pretend like we do. Is it making us burp? Are we feeling tipsy? Garçon this is great champagne!
My roommate likes to start his approaches with a cigarette angle. If we’re outside he asks for a light and if we’re inside he asks to bum a cigarette. He did this on one girl and she walked out with him to find smokes from a street vendor, leaving me with the bucket of two open champagne bottles. By now we had finished one and was about to get started on the other. As usual the bartender put a salt solution in our bucket, ensuring the second would be near freezing temperature when we were ready for it.
The bucket was on the communal table and I stood in front of it behind a high bar chair. To my right was a girl that looked cute from the back—I was working on getting facial confirmation—and to her right was an obviously drunk girl in a white dress. Sitting next to her was a guy petting her back, her boyfriend maybe, or at least trying to be for the night. Across the table were three more of their friends.
I’m standing there with my champagne glass, trying to act cool, when I see the drunk girl in the white dress reach over and grab the neck of our full bottle. Good thing I was watching it, I thought.
“No no no excuse me that’s our bottle.” I said it very loud, almost shouting, because I know how drunk people can be hard of hearing when it comes to things that hint at possibly limiting their alcohol intake. My face had not a hint of humor or generosity or kindness or anything to suggest I wasn’t serious. I was a father scolding his little girl.
The bottle was now out of the bucket, dripping with icy water as it very slowly traveled past the girl next to me and directly in front of white dress. It approached her glass. There was no time to think about specific actions. No time to devise a battle plan. The autopilot light in the cockpit burns bright orange and your belief system take over.
“Hey hey no, that’s mine and I’m sorry but you can’t have any.”
From the side of her face I could see a quick frown, but she kept going. Her right hand began tilting the bottle towards her glass. She looked at me, squinted her eyes, and then made the “just a little bit” sign with her left hand. She didn’t care what I said and was going to take whatever she wanted.
Slow motion. I’m moving. The weight of my body shifts to my left foot and then I take a big step with my right. I’m next to her friend now, touching the side of her body. My hand shoots like a rocket from my hip. It’s flying through the air across the table. I’m leaning. The back of my right shoulder hits the chin of the girl next to me. She scrunches her face and flinches backwards. White dress is beginning to pour, an entitled, upper-class smirk on her face. I make contact with the neck of the bottle. My hand muscles tighten. Death grip. My knuckles are white. I tilt it upwards. I’ve stopped breathing. Now I’m snatching and pulling. Pulling away. It’s raining champagne like New Years on my arm, on the drunk girl, on the girl who got sidearmed, on the guy who wants to get laid. Cheap champagne on the dark wood table, on professional work clothes. I’m pulling still, and bring it safely back to my side. I step back. Less than a second.
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING YOU DON’T JUST STEAL SOMEONE’S FUCKING BOTTLE LIKE THAT WITHOUT ASKING WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE I DON’T BELIEVE THIS SHIT!”
I’m flailing my left arm in the air like an excited monkey. My right hand is still squeezing on tight to the cheap bottle of champagne. My arm and hand is wet and cold. Then silence.
White dress is beginning to cry. Her five friends are staring at me with their mouths gaped open. Half of the bar is looking at me. I’m the bad guy, the arrogant, angry gringo who doesn’t know the capitals of European countries and comes to Brazil only to bang prostitutes and do cheap drugs.
Fuck you all I don’t care what you think.
All her friends gave me the “calm down” sign, apologizing. I pursed my lips and nodded my head up and down. I took a deep breath then put the champagne bottle back in the ice bucket.
I looked at her glass. Only a few drops made it in.