Mary took care of everything that was required to have a functioning family and home. She worked hard to support me so that I, in turn, could support the family. Never did I have to worry about the mundane such as whether there was sufficient propane for the grill or enough gin for our gin and tonics or a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
I cite those three items because, upon returning home from the office last night, I intended to keep my vow to prepare a feast to remember, or at least a dinner to eat. Unfortunately, the filet mignon had to be finished in the broiler because the propane ran out. And as it broiled, I walked away from the kitchen to the wet bar in order to pour myself a drink, only to discover that I’d finished the gin. By the time I returned to the kitchen, a one-alarm fire was taking place in the stove. Attempting to put out the fire, I located the fire extinguisher under the sink, but it barely sputtered. Thankfully, the fire was contained through the combined forces of baking powder, pot lids and luck.
I’ve been without Mary for nearly seven months. It’s hard for me to admit that I’ve managed to continue to live without her in this world. I counted on statistics to prove correct in our marriage, that I would precede her in death, that she would be the one to live on.
All of our family and friends knew that she was the stronger one. We all knew she could sustain my absence far better than I could sustain hers. Certainly, she would have mourned, but she had far more support outside the immediate family than I could ever have. When I say “family and friends,” I am, of course, referring to her friends. She made them, she nurtured them, she maintained them. I was merely a beneficiary. With her gone, the friendships have largely disappeared, although from time to time, a guilt-ridden woman who knew Mary from church, from golf, from the Junior League will call to chat. The conversations I have with these women – and the occasional husband clearly put up to make the call by his wife – are always stilted, punctuated with such incredibly long silences that either one of us on the phone may wonder if a cell connection has been lost.
And why are the conversations so uncomfortable? Entirely my doing, I’m afraid. I am so good at making small talk and chit-chatting and making others feel at ease when it comes to business. When it comes to making the sale, I have no issues in keeping up my end of the conversation, or even carrying it entirely. But when it comes to personal relationships, I am as befuddled as a pre-teen with a crush on the prettiest cheerleader in the senior class. I sputter. I stutter. I putter out.
And, really, what is there to say to the people who inquire as to my well being? One can hardly tell these do-gooders the truth. And what is the truth? The truth is that I am consumed by a loneliness that I can hardly bear. That the only thing preventing me from drinking myself to sleep each night is the little reddish pill I take each night at 8 p.m. Were I not drugging myself to sleep nightly, I would be drinking myself into a stupor. I work longer hours now.
That’s something that Mary would never have been able to fathom: that I could work harder than I ever had. It took hard work and long hours to build my business in the first place. Mary understood that I was doing it for our good. So our futures would be secure. Had I been able to accurately foresee the future, I wouldn’t have bothered, of course, Mary never got to enjoy the security. And I could care less about my security.
Up until Mary died, I took pride in what I did, in who I was, in what I had achieved. I was a self-taught man. No one helped me get to where I am today. And now? And now I haven’t even learned how to keep a properly stocked bar, much less how to get on with my life.
[I am not a widowed man. This is a work of fiction. It’s time for Scribbit’s Write-away contest, and this month’s topic is “Learning,” and this is my entry.]