She was feeling guilty about how they left things earlier that morning. It wasn’t an argument exactly. More of a suggestion that she was irritated that he would not take the hint lingering within. She worked hard. Whatever one could call work today. He did not. At least not in the sense of a type that brought in money. It was a casual relationship after all. She already had kids. One in junior high and another following up some two years behind. He was old enough to have been her father. Though she told herself, he was nothing like him. Her father had a job. One that saw him devote his boundless energy to traveling somewhere in the region for a week here or there. That’s what father’s were supposed to do. Provide. Not like the self-centered rat that passed himself as “Mr. Wonderful” to the female portion of the sales force. Want-a-be glamor girls in gray business suits carrying their life back and forth to the airport on a trolley. That particular ‘he’ had left her with her two sons and a lot of grief when the marriage had turned sour. Whose fault was it? It had lasted the best part of five years before she had to take the kinds to her father’s basement in the semi-exclusive community of Collinwood Shores. There she had been condemn to play the typical single mom loading the washing machine and dryer like a stoker condemned to long ocean voyages on the black gang of a tramp steamer. The customer assistant job that she held right now didn’t even compare to what she had known as a medical equipment representative. The kids were great. As great as kids could be. But she barely had time for herself. No mental space and few girlfriends to commiserate with. Her own sister, the space case with those PC girls that wandered about whining how their this or that was something or another. Always some imaginary injury leading to a crisis upon which the immediate salve of victimhood was spread. Her sister’s husband was a pouf. Some crisis counselor that might not have escaped the basement of his own were it not for a chance meeting at one of those feel good conferences that her ‘sissy’ had glommed onto him. Say what you will about her sister’s husband. The had a home of their own now that they couldn’t pay for. Their Dad of course being hit up for loans from time to time. So life wasn’t easy. It was normal. Something that one went about enduring watching all those things that one was going to do fester into stagnancy while watching those few old friends from better days drift on into the life one had always planned to one day have.
That’s why she felt off this day. The one guy that had come around to the store on a regular basis that had paid any attention to her on a daily basis. The guy that had asked her out for coffee and the odd and occasional brunch over so many weeks and months of a painfully polite persistence in the face of so many refusals due of course to the kids. This guy was mad. Well not mad exactly! But well distant. She had come back from a family kids that she had taken. With the kids of course. Going to places that it turned out her occasional and patient suitor had long memories of previous visits. He had in his usual way posed a seance. Something on the order of coffee or a drink to hear about the best parts. Week after week now for the last three something had come up each time that they had made plans and she had to text him to tell him another date the following Saturday or Tuesday. He took it in stride without comment. Not complaining. Not angry. Seemingly not put off but simply his same old extemporaneous rambling self. That was what she liked about him. He talked. Not like some modern day sexually challenged momma’s boy looking for the mother that he had long ago lost.But rather as if he was engaged in having a dialogue with the world at large. She knew that he was lonely. His parents had died a few years back and he had been slowly forced into retirement from the teaching job that he had slowly been forced out of. He was after all the age of her father. When she thought about it, this guy was after all the same age as her father. But there the comparison seemed to stop. He was gregarious to a fault engaging everyone int he store. Her father was that quiet brooding force in her life. In the lives of her kids! Spoiling them and contradicting her at every turn with continual indulgences that she could no longer afford to provide. Her ‘ex’ was no different. Every time he took the kids they came back with something new that needed a part of accessory that she had to dip into the week’s budget to find a way to supplement. But this other guy. He just wanted to spend time with her. To buy her a cup of coffee and listen to her. Listen for hours engaged with a word here or there but letting her hog the conversation. Sitting there not saying a word. Just listening! There was something hypnotic about that of itself. Perhaps men were sort of her mirror? There were those that reflected the flare ups of that daily lingering angst of riding the wave of continual ‘catch up’. Some provided exposure to her long list of failings without even so much as a look. An odd kind of frustrating reflective magic without any direct interaction beyond what had become the usual terse words. Yet some others had words that could take her back up to herself flying high in those clouds of drifting dreams of what she really wanted. That she had always hoped for. But what for those many time being’s she had had to put on a dusty shelf and do with out. It was maddening! She knew she felt guilty because her life had kept the one guy at bay that felt good to be around in limbo. And mad at men in general because her other guy kept her in perpetual check at long distance with his emotional hostage antics with the kids. The whole thing wasn’t fair somehow. Not fair to her! Not fair the kids or her father! Not fair to anyone foolish enough to want to spend time with her. Because God forbid! He liked her. It just wasn’t right. But, that was all she had for the moment.