About The Author
November 19, 2015
Some of what Albert said, I can relate to. For me, it isn’t about cheating with a younger woman. It’s hard for me to regret the years that I’ve spent with my wife or my five beautiful daughters—four of whom are my biological children—but I do feel guilt over the way I left Sarita. How I paced the living room in our apartment the day before, rehearsing what I was going to tell her, replaying in my mind what she would probably ask in response: “Why?” She’d want to know why, just as anyone who thought they were happily married and was told every day by their spouse that they were, too, would. I did love Sarita, but, at the time, I didn’t love her enough to stay married to her. I didn’t know how to tell her, so I just left without explaining myself.
There’s a loud knock on my car window. “Ray, you’re blocking the garage. Pull around.” Eve is standing there with her iPhone in her hand, in a charcoal pantsuit with a belted peplum jacket that I’m sure came from Saks, as most of her clothes do. Her face is fully made up with lashes and perfectly arched brows, and her hair that has changed colors dozens of times is golden brown now and in a layered pixie cut. She’s coming from her job as a pharmaceutical sales manager that she’ll retire from at the end of the year.
I start the engine and pull around our circular drive, remove the mail from our mailbox, wait for Eve to park, and then park between my wife’s company car and her Mercedes G-Wagen. I check my cell phone to see if she replied to my I-love-you text the way she used to. She didn’t, and she doesn’t stop to greet me, either. She marches her red-soled heels into the house, cursing about her laptop.
“I had to take time out of my hectic schedule to drop off my laptop at Computer World. I’ll still have to pay a hundred and twenty dollars just for labor whether they fix the damn thing or not. What a fuckin’ scam?”
“What’s wrong with it?” I ask as I look through the mail. It’s all junk, including a letter from my mom asking for money.
Eve shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe a virus or malware. The screen froze, and everything went black. I hope I didn’t lose my files. I need those for work.” Eve snatches my mom’s letter out of my hand. “Who does that woman think she is? She’s always asking for money. We’re not an ATM. If she needs a loan, she owns a four-family flat. She can take out a second mortgage on it.”
“Eve, babe, that’s my mom.”
“And? Didn’t you tell me you’ve never been able to call her Mom? What kind of mother is that? I’m glad I never met that woman. She has some serious issues.”
I change the subject back to Eve’s laptop. “You’ve had that thing for at least fifteen years.”
“I hold on to the things I love. It’ll be ready tomorrow, but I’ll be in Savannah and won’t be back until after they close.”
“I can pick it up for you. I don’t want you to stress. What else do I have to do? I’m retired.”
“I thought you wanted to teach. Wasn’t that the whole reason for getting a master’s?” She drags her words as she says, “I don’t need you to pick it up. I’ll get it.”
Eve stands in front of the open refrigerator. “There’s no food here. I thought you were going shopping. Next week is Thanksgiving, and the stores will be busy and out of my favorite things if you wait until the last minute. Did you order a HoneyBaked Ham yet?”
“I’m trying to give up pork.”
“That’s you. I need my HoneyBaked Ham for Thanksgiving and so do the girls and whoever they bring with them.” I don’t want to argue, and I can tell if I say another word that’s what it’ll lead to. Eve slams the refrigerator door and wanders into the walk-in pantry. “What are we going to eat?”
I walk into the pantry and slide my arms around her small waist. “I know what I have a taste for.” I start to kiss her neck. Eve’s petite. Even in her three-inch heels, my head is above hers. I always wanted to be taller, around six-two, and being with her makes me feel taller.
“Does it honestly seem like I’m in the mood for that?” Eve pushes me off of her and walks back into the kitchen. For better or worse. My wife needs to know she’s wanted. She longs for that. So I snuggle up behind her and place my arms on her waist.
“You’re never in the mood anymore. What happened, huh?” I kiss her neck. “You used to want it all the time.”
“Used to. I’m sixty-three now. There’s more to life than sex.” She places a firm grip on my wrists and pushes down to break free. I know couples go through things. And we’re definitely going through our thing right now. “Look at me,” she says. I stare into her baby-blue eyes. “Look at me the way you used to when we first met.” I try again, but she huffs. “Forget it.”
“What? I’m trying.”
“You used to stare at my face as if you were in a trance. You would tell me how beautiful I was. How beautiful my eyes are. You don’t do any of that anymore because I look old, much older than you. My face and neck are wrinkled, but you still look the same, only you’re bald now, and I’m glad because you had an obsession with your wave cap.”
“I had the best three-hundred-and-sixty-degree waves, though. I miss those.”
“I prefer your bald head.”
“I’ve gained weight,” I say. I feel as if it’s necessary to point out my flaws. The major one had been my teeth. Through the years, they had become slightly discolored from drinking coffee, and I had a chipped tooth in the front from the time my mom threw me down the stairs. As soon as I started making money, I got a natural-looking set of veneers. But I have other flaws that aren’t physical, and only I can fix them.
“There’s nothing wrong with your weight, Ray. You have a little pooch. So what. For years, you had ten percent body fat.”
“It was actually nine percent.”
She shakes her head and frowns. “My whole point is that your stomach is only noticeable to you.”
“I wear glasses now.”
“Those tortoise-shell frames make you look younger, and you only wear them for reading.”
“They’re progressive lenses. I should wear them all the time, but I can’t get used to them.”
“That’s the thing about glasses, you can take them off. I can’t take these wrinkles off unless I get a face-lift, which I’m not about to do. Stop trying to make yourself look bad so I can feel better. You know you look good because there’s never a shortage of women around who aren’t willing to tell you.”
I laugh. Eve has quite an imagination. “Women don’t tell me that.”
“My girlfriends tell me all the time how handsome you are.”
“They may tell you, but they don’t tell me.”
“I’m sure some of them do, and you’re probably too afraid to tell me. I’m sure they’ve probably come on to you, too.”
“Never, and you know I don’t play that. One of your friends? That’s a line I’d never cross.”
“I hate when a woman, a wannabe cougar, asks me how much older I am than you. When we were at Murphy’s for dinner the other night, and you went to the restroom, a woman sitting at the table next to us got out of her seat, came over to me, and asked me that. She then had the nerve to look surprised when I said, ‘Ten years.’” Eve places her mug on top of the drip tray of our Keurig and waits for her coffee to brew, which won’t take long. “‘Oh, is that all,’ she said. She thought I was even older.”
“She probably assumed I was a lot younger. I don’t think her statement was any reflection on you. It couldn’t be, because you’re still sexy.”
“Sexy?” Eve watches as the coffee fills her cup. “That’s the word men use when they can’t say beautiful.”
My wife is vain. She’s lost her sense of security, which was tied to the compliments strangers dished out to her over the years. It took me a while to realize how much stock Eve put into her face. She doesn’t care about long hair, not after women started wearing weaves, and all of a sudden if you had enough money, you could have enough hair. She wasn’t standing out, so she chopped hers off a few years after we got married. When she told me that she was getting her hair cut short, I tried to talk her out of it because I’ve always loved seeing women with long hair. But when I saw her hair short, she was even more beautiful. The haircut brought out all of her facial features: her high cheekbones and straight nose, those blue eyes, her dimples, and best of all her smooth skin. There’s only one other woman who had skin softer than hers, and I married her, too.
The heads didn’t stop turning for Eve after she cut her hair. In fact, more heads turned. Now, though, they don’t, unless they’re checking out her clothes, because if there’s one thing my wife knows how to do, it’s put an outfit together. I know she can’t handle that loss of attention, and it’s my job to build her back up.
“I don’t see wrinkles. I see Eve. The same beautiful woman I married twenty-six years ago.”
“How sweet,” Eve says sarcastically as she places her hand against my cheek and pats it twice. “How sweet.” She walks out of the kitchen with her cup of coffee and up the stairs and slams the bedroom door.
I don’t know how to please my wife anymore. Maybe that’s why I’ve been having chest pains. My heart aches.