I’m lonely without you, though you are sitting right next to me. Decades spent together but I can’t remember how your lips taste.
I don’t know when this happened or how or why, but like cancer the loneliness has spread and there’s no cure in sight.
We sit side by side watching television. Or streaming. I guess we are technically watching streaming on television? What does that even mean? I don’t understand any of it.
Our one child, grown and long moved out of the house. All pets dead, their paw prints lining our hallway; it’s just us now. We’re like two old mannequins in an ancient storefront, dressed in out of date fashion, sitting on a vintage but not in a cool way sofa.
I want to go back, back to that old movie theatre we used to frequent with its stale popcorn and Bogart double features. Back to our lovemaking, which left our bedroom looking like it had been ransacked by a rock n’ roll group. Back to our eating canned tomato soup and grilled cheese for a year straight so that we could save up enough money for a down payment on our first home.
You ask me if I want a glass of sherry. I hate sherry and always have, but I say:
Just like I don’t remember what your lips taste like, you don’t remember what I like to drink.
I sink into the corner of the couch and drink the sherry. A blanket covers my lap. It’s an ugly hand knit blanket that a close friend made for me. I’m unable to part with gifts from loved ones, no matter how ugly or useless they are. I have a whole closet full of such gifts. That one time, when you went a little nuts with spring cleaning and wanted to give everything away to The Salvation Army, I said:
“No. I’m keeping all my friend and family gifts.”
You called me a hoarder, which was mean. But sometimes you’re mean, it’s one of your character flaws. I’m used to it though. I pay the meanness no attention, shrugging it off like a cardigan – taking away its power. They’re just words, I can handle words.
You pass me a shortbread cookie. Since when do we eat shortbread cookies and drink sherry? What are we like 85 yrs old suddenly? Jesus H. Christ.
“No thanks,” I say to the cookie.
I want to go back to Paris with you and eat pastries that look like art. And sit outside at cafes and people watch, kicking each other under the table when someone truly fabulous walks by:
“Did you see that woman? She looks like Catherine Deneuve. Stunning.”
“Did you read Sarah’s email?” I ask.
“She’s coming home for the long weekend next month. She’s bringing her new girlfriend, Jemima.”
“What happened to Chrissy?”
“They broke up. But Jemima sounds like a better match for her, I have a good feeling about this one.”
“Good. I hope your feeling is right. It’s time for her to settle down, we’re not getting any younger,” he said annoyed.
“I hate sherry,” I said.
“You hate sherry? Since when?”
“Since forever. I’m getting a glass of red wine.”
He sighed, annoyed again. Annoyed was his new go-to default mood.
In the dining room I poured myself a large glass of wine and stared at a painting that Sarah had made for us when she was eight years old. It was the three of us standing in front of a fuchsia-painted house with eight multi-colored cats at our feet. I had spent a fortune getting it professionally framed and honestly it looked like something that could hang in MOMA.
Back on the sofa we continued watching whatever it was we were watching. It was one of those shows where the female detectives all had shiny blow-outs and perfect manicures.
“I think I will take a cookie if there are any left,” I said.
He passed me one.
“That guy is bad news. He’s up to something,” he said, slurping his sherry.
I nodded knowingly:
“You’re totally right.”
It turned out that shortbread cookies and red wine went beautifully together – who knew?
“Should we go back to Paris this fall? We haven’t been since before we had Sarah,” I asked.
“I’m not getting on a plane, it’s still not safe with covid.”
“I really want us to go back while we’re still healthy enough to get around.”
“Go alone then, just don’t bring back covid.”
“You want me to go to Paris alone?”
“If you want to go just go. I’m not going to stop you.”
No wonder she couldn’t remember what his lips tasted like. Her husband wanted her to go to the most romantic city in the world alone. Lovely. Fucking lovely.
“I don’t trust Detective Monaghan, I think he’s corrupt.”
She ate the final bite of her cookie and took a sip of wine.
This was her life now: Detective Monaghan and his partner, the shiny-haired detective. And sherry. And shortbread. This was her life?
It was both comical and sad. No wonder she felt fucking lonely – he was completely checked out. She could probably go to Paris and he wouldn’t even notice she was gone.
Maybe Sarah would go with her? They could have a fun mother -daughter adventure. Except that Sarah was busy living her life. A delicious life full of fucking and discovering herself and finishing her PhD.
Maybe she should go back to school. She could get her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management, or, just study something completely different like Italian or astronomy. She wrapped the ugly blanket around her, took her wine and walked towards her office.
“Do you want me to pause it?” he asked as she walked away
“No, don’t bother. I’m not coming back.”
At her computer she started looking up different university classes, but soon found herself on the United Airlines’ website. They had a seat sale to Europe, a really good seat sale, like they were practically giving away the seats. Work-wise this was the perfect time for her to travel, it was quiet and she had tons of vacation days saved up.
One of the seat sales included hotel accommodation. The hotel was located near the Louvre which was right near the most amazing patisserie called “Tartine, Toi et Moi.”
She sent a formal email to her boss requesting time off due to a family emergency. Then she purchased her ticket, bumping herself up to first class because WHY THE HELL NOT?
Wrapped in the ugly blanket and holding her half-empty wine glass, she went back to the living room.
“You missed a really good ending. It was a surprise ending, totally not what I expected.”
“I leave for Paris in two weeks. I’ll be gone for ten days.”
Photo: Jane Fonda, 1961, Cafe de Flore