A Nice Card
It was a nice card. On the outside, a dark blue, flowing mechanical script read, "Thank you," against a tasteful pastel blue. On the inside in blue ink, a hand-written note. "Thank you for boosting the ego of a lonely, abandoned middle-aged woman. I will never forget your kindness last summer. Ava." A nice card in the same way a pastel blue gravestone would be nice.
We had met, for the first time, a summer thirty years before. Middle age was just knocking on my door and she was a nubile twenty-something divorce'e. In mourning over my own failed marriage, I couldn't respond to her breathless, "You are so virile!" Over the following years, I occasionally glimpsed her playing the piano at the Unitarian church or singing in the choir. Once I sat next to her when she was on the board of directors and I was treasurer. When she was half of a married couple, I tried to sell them life insurance. Greg, her new husband, ran a lawn service. By then, she had her therapist certificate. A few years later I saw, listed in the local community college flyer, her non-credit course for couples, "The Doable Dream."
Thirty years after our first meeting, widowed and lonely, I looked her up. It was serendipity, I thought. She had a lovely home, paid for from the estate of her Southern Baptist mother. She was still married, but Greg had fled to renew his affair with an old girlfriend a state away. Ava considered him unbalanced. It was two months, and she had begun divorce proceedings. She and her lawyer agreed that hubby was no longer entitled to his forty-nine percent of the house.
Seated next to me, at a Buddy Holly impersonator's open-air concert, she smelled sweet. She grabbed my arm. "Let's dance. No? Why not?" "I'm too inhibited." "Well, quit being inhibited!" I couldn't. On the way back to the car, she pulled her hand away from mine. By September after two more months of dating, I knew she would always keep me at arm's length. When I asked her why, she said fourteen years in our ages was too much of a difference. She had read that ten should be the limit. Before that, in August, she had left to attend a national Unitarian conference two states away. Upon seeing my "Welcome Home, Ava" banner above her double garage doors, she said from her car's window, "Thank you so much! No one has ever done such a nice thing for me." One mid-morning after she had said I was too old, she appeared at my door. She needed a recipe from me for a party she planned to throw. With a head full of curlers under a flowered kerchief, she gave an embarrassed laugh. "I'm on my way to the gym," she grimaced, "so I will look cute." She once confessed she used sex to control her husband. Then he returned, and she took him back. However, as reparation, he now had to pay rent. That was when I got her nice card.
A year after the nice card, she phoned me from a supermarket. She had lost that recipe I'd given her and couldn't remember one of the ingredients. The recipe was for a crockpot dish I'd served her at my house. She said she wanted to take it to the memorial service for Greg. He had thrown himself off a bridge into the Missouri River.