I always figured if anything happened to Don I would just be single the rest of my life. He’s kind of a tough act to follow, if you want to know the truth. Also, I’m old now. Not exactly bringing the boys to the yard, so to speak. My hair is grey, my face is a little saggy, and my bingo wings are dangerous in certain situations. I try not to make sudden moves, I might knock someone down.
It was lovely to grow old with someone, because we were both sort of deteriorating together. Don’s beautiful blond hair had long since gone the way of the dodo bird and migrated to his ears. He was still quite slender, though, and as far as I was concerned he was doing pretty well. My body, not exactly perfect to begin with has endured pregnancy and nursing and weight lost and gained. Don was fine with that, though, as far as I knew. It never occurred to me that anyone else would see me naked ever again. “You broke it, you bought it,” I used to tell him.
It wasn’t just that, though. The idea of even flirting with another man after 20 plus years is terrifying. It feels weird, plus I don’t know how to do it. Things have changed since 1989. I’ve changed.
I went out on a date, sort of. A friend at NA insisted on taking me out, even though I told him no, like, eleven times. I finally relented, thinking it that would be the end of it. “No!” said Aiden, from the same group. Aiden is 19 and gives me advice. “That makes it worse.” I guess so. I figure he knows what he is talking about.
So I went out on a date with Andrew, who is like, 15 years my senior, and nice, I guess, even though he is a little racist and thinks the homeless in our neighborhood are akin to a pest problem that the city needs to eradicate immediately. His clothes are expensive and he brags about his condo. He is intelligent and funny and I keep thinking he is a character from some book I’ll write someday. He’s Irish American and reminds me of my Dad.
“Dude, you realize I live in a commune and I don’t shave my legs, right?” Andrew tells me he had hair down to his waist at one point, and he hitchhiked the country in the sixties, hitting all sorts of music festivals and winding up at Haight Ashbury.
Apparently I am part of reliving that time in his life. Or he’s a chubby chaser. Or he likes my personality. It doesn’t matter, truthfully, because he is uh, not my type, and he makes Trump look like Medgar Evers. I once asked him if he ever considered joining a Militia. He was offended. “Have you seen the way those people dress?”
Andrew picks me up and we drive, listening to Betty Everett, Jason Isbell, Terry Collier. I stare out into the night and wonder what the hell is happening, I fell asleep and woke up in Bizarro world, I am out on a date. This was such. A bad idea. I should have listened to Aiden.
We pull up to a little coffee place that I realize, to my horror, is one of the first places Don and I ever went to when we were dating. We talk, Andrew talks, I try to participate. I just want to go home, though, and for a fleeting moment I tell myself how great it will be to tell Don this story when I get there.
I cried myself to sleep that night.
I told Andrew when he called the next day that I was a little too broken hearted, just yet. I need time. He understood, but he still flirts with me, which seems ok. I hope he finds someone nice that likes his condo and reads Anne Coulter with him.
I spend a lot of time on the phone with Don’s best friend. My best friend, truthfully, sometimes it is hard to tell who he was closer to. Don’s death was the last of a series of events that had just about done him in, including his daughter’s illness and an ugly divorce.
When Jude was sick he was there, because he worked at the hospital, taking care of kids who were as sick or sicker than Jude would ever be. It was great, we would sit and talk and Don would light up around him. He was a weird combination of a friend from the outside and someone who understood what the hell was going on with Jude, as much as anyone could, including doctors. At times I was so glad he was there I would tear up when he would walk in the room.
We chat on messenger, remember stories and laugh. No one understands me like he does, because he missing Don, too, and he knows what it is like to for your child to suffer and you can’t do a thing about it, and maybe your best days are over, and how lonely it is at 1 a.m. when your favorite show is on and there is no one there to laugh with. We believe in one another’s better selves, before life knocked us down and wrecked us. I intend to get back up, the floor is just slippery. I am here, though, still here, planning my comeback, gathering strength. He is too, I can tell.
At times he sounded so bitter and awful towards his ex wife I told him not to call anymore. I hated seeing that side of him. Once I pounded on his door in the middle of the day, sure he was drinking, and yelled, “You have to cut this skid row shit out!” and burst into tears. Later I asked him if he was mad. “No, just confused…” because really he had just worked all night the night before. Oh.
The truth is we both need time and space. It feels like I won’t heal if I am all by myself, but it would suck to expect someone to fix me. I can see that someone could fill different parts of me than Don did, and I know it isn’t wrong to want that. I just have to figure out what the hell I am doing before I try to build a new life on a shattered heart that shifts and moves like an amusement ride at the fair. I try to let God in. Give myself to Him, just do what you want with me, help me not be stuck in the nowhere. God I hate the nowhere.
In the meantime maybe I’ll do some Pilates and get my eyebrows done. Just a thought.