Although he wasn’t the one to die, I find myself recalling the last time I saw Richard, as if he had.
That night my husband and I had stopped in at the Co-op to get a bite to eat before a movie at Latchis, and we were delighted to find a wine and cheese tasting going on. We dashed off to the bathroom first, where we waited in a painfully slow line, and then made our way eagerly around the corner toward the brie and crackers.
“What are you pouring Richard?” I asked giddily, looking up to him in his booth above the department. He quietly shook his head. The tasting had ended; even though I could clearly see wine remaining in the bottles.
Richard explained that he had to stop serving promptly at 6:30 as scheduled, due to liquor control regulations or something to that effect.
That was the last time that I distinctly remember connecting with Richard, a little over a week before the Co-op tragedy; but it’s just as likely that I saw him again, at South Pond, as I often did throughout the summer, with a tennis racket in hand.
What strikes me now is how closely Richard observed rules–those on the court, and those of wine tastings–only to break the cardinal rule so shortly after.
Richard Gagnon never looked like a man who would take a gun into the Co-op to shoot someone. He simply looked like Richard Gagnon, the wine guy, leaning against the frame of his slender office inside our community owned Co-op.
Richard was the guy who taught us about reds and whites, about the shape of a glass and how it enhances or detracts from flavor, about how to keep the wine fresh with a vacuum stopper. During the holidays, Richard pointed us to the bottles that would make the best gifts and offered us free wrap to adorn them.
Years ago, the Co-op suffered another loss–when Henry, the beloved cheese guy, passed away. The cheese department was never the same without him, but we embraced his passion for Vermont cheeses, and were soothed in our loss until we grew accustomed to it.
Now I can’t imagine shopping for wine where Richard used to be. It’s as if it’s all been tainted. The grapes soured. The vines withered.
I think back to the last time I saw Richard and look for something different in his eyes.
Maybe he was a bit quieter.
What I do know is that I can’t get his face out of my mind. I return, again and again, to the last time I saw Richard. Now I even see him 300 miles away as I pass the shelves of wine accessories in a department store. I flinch when I hear the manager called over the loud speaker; and I mistakenly refer to an old friend as Richard.
My mind insists on reworking this tragedy, but there is no bending of the rule that Richard broke. (If only he would have poured me a glass of wine.)
Kelly Salasin, August 12, 2011
Note: This is the 3rd piece that I’ve written on the Co-op tragedy, click below to read: