Dorothy sat by the window smoking and listening to the faucet drip, drip, drip into the smelly sink. She didn’t fiddle with the handle to bring the dripping to an end because she was too busy exploring her newfound freedom, the freedom to ignore such things, the freedom to be lazy. Her over-achieving anal-retentive husband Conner had unexpectedly keeled over and died a few months earlier, leaving her to her own devices. Leaving her to toss dirty clothes on the floor of the bedroom, leaving her free to scarf takeout from Styrofoam containers. Leaving her alone. What Dorothy couldn’t get used to, what she really hated about widowhood was being the one that had to make all the day-to-day decisions. Their son Peter handled the funeral arrangements, immediately afterward he’d flown home to Baltimore, home to his family. During the marriage Dorothy never paid the bills, she never balanced the checkbook, nor had she filed insurance papers or tax records. These tasks were not her problem. Now they were.
Dorothy wouldn’t be so idle had she seen fit to form friendships with other women over the years, had she taken classes of some sort, had she taken up a fulfilling hobby. But she had done none of those things. Spending the years keeping house, raising their son, seeing to her husband’s needs, hiding out back in the tool shed to smoke, those were the activities that constituted the sum total of her life. Conner abhorred cigarettes, filthy slovenly habits in general. It was inevitable that she go straight to hell in a hand-basket without her good husband around to keep her on a straight and narrow path.
Really, she needed to find something, anything. Someone. How long could she stew in her juices? Reaching fifty had taught her something, the years roll by and there you are. Alone, old, and at a loss about how to proceed. Taking a shower would be a good start, changing out of the sweats and into something clean would make her feel better about herself.
Showered and dressed, she reached for the phone book, looked up a maid agency, dialed the number and spoke with a pleasant woman about sending someone out to whip the house into shape. Then she hopped in the Jeep and drove over to Starbuck’s. Caffeine would help bring things into focus, jolt her into action. Dorothy sat in the back by the cream station in a stained velveteen armchair going over her options: learning how to knit, writing bad poetry, going back to school and finally getting her degree in art history, studying the Kabala, volunteering to read to old people at the nursing home, joining some kind of women’s club. Or maybe she would try one of those dating services and find a man to replace the one she lost. But, she would need a computer. Conner had one on his desk at work and claimed that he didn’t need to stare at a PC screen at home as well, so they had never owned one.
Dorothy purchased a laptop that afternoon—an Apple McIntosh. Jeff, the salesman, said the Mac had the easiest operating system. A new operating system was just what the doctor ordered. She’d be able to pay her bills online, the software would balance the books; the computer would make everything so much easier. Or so Jeff claimed it would. By the end of the week she had set up her own Facebook page, and had signed up for a dating service that promised to provide her with quality prospects.
Her first date was with an older man. His name was Blake Simmons. They met at The Macaroni Grill and he insisted that she order something called a Bellini, even though she would have preferred a glass of white wine. When she ordered fettuccini he insisted that the chicken scaloppini was better, but Dorothy did not change her order. When the waitress returned she handed over the Bellini and ordered a glass of wine. Fancy drinks had never appealed to her. It turned out, Blake Simmons didn’t appeal to her either. Thank God she had driven her own car and was able to ditch him.
Dating became a vocation. She lost a few pounds, bought new clothes, and changed her hairstyle for the first time in years. The men came in a constant parade. LA was full of them: dentists, pool contractors, florists, musicians, actors, teachers, and one unemployed bartender named Floyd that she took an immediate shining to. No matter that Floyd didn’t have a home of his own, (he lived with his ailing mother so he could care for her), no matter that he didn’t have much money, (due to bad business deals and a nasty drawn-out divorce), no matter that he was a slob. Dorothy didn’t mind at all.
All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.