Waiting for Men
The widow waits for men. They come Wednesday when they promise Tuesday, late afternoon when they promise first thing in the morning. Some don’t show at all.
These guys call her ma’am. They caulk her windows, suck lint from her dryer vent, and change air filters high on her vaulted ceiling. Her house crackles with their can-do energy, and flatlines silent after they leave with a hefty check.
Sometimes she wishes one would stay. But she was married once, and knows the price she’d have to pay for that.
The widow tells her friends she’d sooner slit her throat than register with an online dating site. Why would she want to go to the trouble of putting on lip gloss just to meet some flatulent old man at Starbucks? She’d have to listen to him cry about his dead wife or brag about his custom hubcaps. If she went out with him a second time, she’d have to freeze her feet off at a hockey game or sweat buckets at some 1970s one-hit-band outdoor concert. She’d have to make him dinner. Take up golf!
The widow’s sister convinces her to at least try Silver Singles. There, she’s never seen so many ruddy-faced, white-haired men in one place in her life, all of whom indeed play golf (and tennis), although one claims he’s “looking for a lady who likes to fish.”
The widow despairs. She does not want to get hooked again.
But hugs? The widow would like one every now and then. She eyes guys her own age pumping gas at the Shell station or pushing shopping carts out to their cars in the grocery store shopping lot. These oldsters in their baggy chinos, baseball caps, and transition lenses look anything but huggable.
When she sneaks a peek in her rearview mirror at her gray shrunken self, she’s gotta admit: she looks just as unhuggable back.
The widow has nothing better to do with herself, so she irons her freshly-washed pillowcases. The satisfaction she gets from steaming out the wrinkles is so great that she irons the flat sheet as well.
Her back spasms as she stretches the last corner of the still-wrinkled fitted sheet over the edge of the queen mattress.
Her husband used to help her make the bed. Sometimes they’d mess it up right afterward. Now it’s yet another two-person job grimly done by one.
The widow never used to talk in her sleep, but now she wakes every night to the sound of her own voice. I asked for a doughnut, she hears herself say. The boat is blue. The waves are high. Goddammit, man, you should have told me you’d never come back. Who’s going to change the lightbulbs now?
Rita Ciresi is author of the novels Bring Back My Body to Me, Pink Slip, Blue Italian, and Remind Me Again Why I Married You; the story collections Sometimes I Dream in Italian and Mother Rocket; and two award-winning collections of flash fiction, Female Education and Second Wife.