So far: Planning Thanksgiving for one and a ghost.
I woke up last night at three o’clock in the morning — the hour of the wolf, as Ingmar Bergman called it — and for a moment, I wondered where Richard was. Then I remembered.
• • •
A week after I told Richard I wanted to take some time off, Carlos called. We met at a Mexican restaurant and I tried to talk to him.
“How long have you been in the States?” I asked him.
He looked around the restaurant, smiling. “Pretty good, I like it pretty good.” Then he turned the full blaze of his smile on me. “Sorry my English is not so good.”
“What are you doing to make money?” I inquired, talking slowly and clearly.
“I work with my hands. Whatever I can do.” He picked his burrito up with both hands and started to eat it.
I couldn’t believe how much food was sitting in front of me. The bean burrito I had ordered looked like it would feed a family of four. I cut it in half.
When Carlos was done with his burrito, he finished mine.
“Let’s go dance,” he suggested.
We danced until the club closed. Then he wanted to come home with me. He kissed nice, but he didn’t make me laugh.
The thought of waking up next to someone I couldn’t talk to didn’t appeal to me. The thought of waking up next to someone who wasn’t Richard was a little scary.
I drove home alone. Carlos didn’t call again.
I lasted on my own another couple weeks. Richard never called me. We ran into each other one time at the New French and he smiled and waved, but didn’t even try to talk to me. I was impressed.
Then I was worried. Why had I broken up with him? He was probably seeing someone else already.
• • •
“I always thought I would die first, before your mom,” my father told me in the middle of a phone conversation. It was nearly nine o’clock and the kitten was already tucked away in one of her secret hiding spots. I had been lounging on the couch when he called.
“You’re a man. You were older than Mom. Like me and Richard.” That’s what I said. Like me and Richard. But inside I’m screaming, Yes, but she was seventy-two years old and you’re almost eighty. It’s not the same.
“I just wanted to let you know that Nancy wanted to make sure that you didn’t want to come to Thanksgiving. She says you would be more than welcome. You know her and all. If we could persuade you ...”
“Not this year, Dad. Thank Nancy for me. Maybe at Christmas. Who knows. But I’m just not ready at this time.”
“What’re you going to do?”
“Eat. Watch the fire. Go to sleep. The same as always. Me and my kitty.”
“Oh, yes. How’s that going?”
“She’s perfect. She shreds the curtains, digs up the plants, can’t find her kitty box, disappears for hours on end, wakes me up when I’m sleeping. She completely distracts me. Which is just what I need right now.”
“I hate to think of you alone.”
“I’m not alone.”
The doorbell rang as I was deep under the bed covers. I could think of no one that I wanted to see. Then I remembered Dewey and the wood. I needed that wood. I needed to stop him before he left.
Grabbed my old chenille bathrobe, I flew out of bed and ran to the door. Too late. No one was there.
Then I noticed a very small padded envelope was propped next to the door. The doorbell ringer hadn’t been Dewey.
When I bent over to pick it up, I saw Richard’s name written on the envelope. A wave of sorrow surged over me. Someone had mailed him a package. He would never open it.
Tomorrow: Chapter 22 continues.