Her Widow Excerpt 12

Published August 27, 2018

Her Widow

The dogwood has white blossoms, and six yellow tulips stand erect at the tree’s base like lady sentinels.

Dear Catherine,

Pat Cominos came over for lunch today. I was worried when I saw her sad expression on the other side of the screen door. “Are you okay?” I asked, opening the door.

“Me?” she answered surprised. “What about you?”

I grabbed two Cokes from the fridge and swallowed down the lump in my throat. I didn’t think I could tell her what had just occurred to me.

But Pat is observant and she said, “I’m sorry.”

I handed her a Coke. “For what?” I asked, trying to sound cheerful.

“For being down in the mouth.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” I said, and then I told her what I’d thought when she greeted me with sad eyes. It was nearly cruel of me but I asked, “Did you wish I was Catherine when I came to the door?”

Pat didn’t flinch. “No,” she answered. “But I understand why you ask.”

“Really?” I said. “It was rude of me, I know.”

“Yes, really.”

“Yes, really rude?”

“No, really understandable.”

“That I’d be rude?”

“That you would ask that.”

“Because I’m rude?”

“No, because you’re an idiot!” she answered with a smile, and we both laughed.

“I’m a mess,” I confessed.

“Really?” she answered.

“Yes, really,” I said straight-faced as I pulled on the fridge door, this time reaching in for the salad I’d made.

Looking at it, Pat said, “Really?”

I’d made a ham salad, the specialty of the Mayflower. What kind of idiot would serve ham salad to the ham-salad maven?

“Yes, really,” I said, laughing.

I’ve been sitting here in the kitchen since Pat left, feeling better than I have in three months. After our first awkward moment, Pat and I talked about you in a lighthearted way that lifted my spirits. She has a way, without being insensitive, of not taking anything too seriously. Her sense of humor reminds me of yours.

“This vanishing act of Catherine’s is a bit much, don’t you think?” she asked.

You were able to do that, turn a tragedy into a comedy and help me see that in so many ways life is a farce. And I thought of another reason I love Pat. She is entirely dependable. If she says she will do something, she will without fail and without needing a reminder. Three years ago, I called her and said we needed our car to be removed from the hospital parking lot because I was leaving with you in an ambulance, heading down to North Shore Hospital for the next weeks. To complicate matters our car had to be jumped because in my distracted state I had left the lights on and run the battery down. Pat didn’t flinch. She dropped whatever she was doing to rescue a friend.

She told me she once ran out the door of the Mayflower as a customer was coming in, and said, “You know where the kitchen is, make yourself a sandwich; I’ll be right back.”

Right back after she’d solved some world problem or at least someone’s problem.

May

The thatch in the grass is gone, supplanted by spring’s fine green.

Dear Catherine,

Tonight, I tucked the dogs into their beds downstairs in the kitchen. They have been keeping me awake at night, each vying for the spot the other has next to me. If I begin to feel lonely up here without them, I can always go fetch them and they won’t complain.

What luxury—to be able to take another for granted. You would go down to the city for the day to show your portfolio to art directors, knowing when you returned home, dinner would be waiting for you. I stuck my nose in a book and hours passedbefore I looked up and wondered where you were, confident you were close by.I took it for granted that when I got up mornings you would have a pot of coffee brewed for me. You knew when you returned to the bedroom to dress for the day, our bed would be made. How splendid this arrangement without the slightest planning or request.

Mornings now I wake imagining you in the kitchen, feeding the dogs and putting on a pot of coffee. I lie for hours, not getting up because I know when I do I won’tfind you there. I can only imagine you, and after a while that begins to feel as thinas a dry leaf. My mind moves forward a day, a week, a month, trying to envision a new life for me, and I think, no, I can’t do it. I don’t want to live without her. Some nights I don’t go up to bed; I stay downstairs on the couch and watch television until 3AM when I’m too tired to haul myself upstairs.