The widower next door is coming over tonight. My wife invited him for dinner and I didn’t object. His wife died last spring and we went to the funeral out of proximity more so than anything else. I can’t even be certain of the dead wife’s name. Though honestly that isn’t saying very much. I am awful with names, it’s just one of those things I can never seem to remember. Faces, I don’t forget.
The other day I was in the supermarket by the produce section and out of the corner of my eye I see a face I haven’t seen since high school. I know exactly who he is. He sat two seats in front of me in freshman biology. Bright guy, always scored high. I was a terrible student. Never really applied myself to the books. Probably on account of the dyslexia, but whatever the case, I don’t read well. My wife is part of a book club, which is how she got to talking with the widower in the first place. He joined a couple months after his wife died. I imagine it must be very lonely to sit at home alone. She used to ask me to join the book club, but she’s stopped bothering with that.
I don’t say anything to the guy, the guy from high school that is, because I don’t like those types of conversations:
“Is that you, (insert name).”
“Yeesscan I help you?”
“It’s me, Eric, Eric Benjamin. From Hebrew Academy? Remember? (Insert iconic high school moment. Maybe that time someone let mice loose in Rabbi Zuckerman’s class).”
“Oh yeah! Eric how you doing?”
“I’m good, I’m good. It’s been ages since I last saw you. You look (insert lie).”
“You look…well…you look just like you did in high school …”
This carries on until you get to the part where you both agree to keep in touch. He jots down his number on the back of a business card and hands it over. You lose it in your wallet. Then three years down the line you empty out your wallet and find it along with that Tasty Delight card –the one that counts how many you’ve purchased so that when you get to the coveted ten, you get one-free-any-size cup. Sadly, though, after just three visits you lost it behind the business card and had to start from scratch with a new card counter.
So instead I duck my head behind a grapefruit bin, wait till he heads down toward the frozen section, and leave. But I sure as hell knew that guy’s face.
Thinking about it now, the neighbor’s dead wife might have been Jane or Jill. Yes, it is definitely Jill. They did not have children, which is good because that would be truly tragic to leave children behind to raise without a mother. He should be thankful that he doesn’t have children. We don’t have children and I should think that if my wife died I would be pleased that I wasn’t left with mouths to feed on my own. I suspect that’s why my wife invited the widower over for dinner. He probably doesn’t really even know how to cook. Even if he did, there’s just no sense in cooking for one.
“He’ll be here around six thirty. So I’d like you to turn off the television. Take out a book and read something instead of rotting your mind with nonsense,” Betty says from the kitchen.
“Okay,” I say back. There isn’t anything on anyway. I head into the kitchen to see what she has made for us. It’s a lot of food that we don’t normally eat unless it’s a holiday, in which case Betty’s mom cooks when it’s her side’s holiday and my mom cooks when it’s us.
“Looks spectacular,” I say sticking my finger into the mashed potatoes.
“Eric! Stop!” says Betty, eyes widening. “Seriously leave,” she says. “I really hope you can control yourself when Richard arrives.”
Richard, Richard, Richard. R is for Richard that’s good enough for me. Richard.
“What does Richard do?” I ask because I want to remember his name.
“He works in advertising.” Then adds, “He’s very successful.”
I think I would be an excellent ad man. Although I don’t like suits. I didn’t even wear one to the funeral. Betty was upset by that. But I think that if suits weren’t required, I would have certainly been an excellent ad man. Ideas come to me all the time without even trying.
The doorbell rings at exactly six thirty. I open it. Richard is standing with a bottle of wine. His blue eyes shine. His hair is gelled lightly to the side.