She hates Celine Dion. Celine is too skinny, and is she kidding with those arm dances? Even so, Shelly could not say no when the perky drugstore clerk spritzed her with Celine’s newest fragrance and told her that it would “entice any man.” She was too smart to buy the promise, but too weak not to buy the perfume. Just six months out of a boring divorce, it had been a long time since she had enticed anyone.
Husband hires young blond secretary. Husband divorces wife of twenty-two years and marries young blond secretary ten days later. Wife and two teenagers move into small apartment. Husband remains in big empty house with new empty wife and no regrets.
She scoots forward in her seat at the outside bar, afraid that the first thing her blind date will see is her ample behind straining through the wooden slats on the back of her chair. Is it too late to move to a seat facing the doorway? Will everyone notice that she is trying to avoid her bottom being the first thing her blind date sees? And if he sees her bottom first, will he go blind to any possibility of getting to know her further?
She is uncomfortable, self-conscious, and beginning to perspire in the early fall heat. In about fifteen minutes the sun will be directly on her and she’ll sweat right through her flowered rayon dress. How did she let herself get talked into this?
She thinks about Bobby, a boy she knew in junior high school. He was the first boy she ever kissed. It was at a party, and it was her turn to spin the bottle. She closed her eyes and prayed with all her might that the bottle would land on Bobby, and sure enough, it did. It was the happiest moment of her life. She has relived that kiss over and over again throughout the years, often imagining what life would have been like if she had married Bobby instead of Walt. Walt with the big house and the young blond wife. Walt who hasn’t seen their kids in two months.
Was that kiss really the most exciting moment of her life? She was married many years and raised two children, so there must have been good times, right? She strains to recall any. Life has always been rather boring. Walt made all the decisions and she obediently followed his lead, ever the good wife. She enjoyed when her children were young, but they have grown into teenagers who barely speak to her anymore. And they would certainly not be seen with her in public — “social poison” was the term her daughter used. She pretended not to be hurt.
She asks for some water, and, without making eye contact, the bartender plunks down a sweaty glass with melty ice cubes and a slimy lemon wedge. He seems irritated, so she puts a dollar on the bar, which immediately sinks into the puddle of condensation dripping from the glass. The bartender picks up the dollar and melodramatically shakes it off.
Her date is late. Her coworker told her that he is a podiatrist who recently moved back to town to open a new practice. Maybe he had a foot emergency, she wonders . . . or maybe he saw her bottom and high-tailed it out of there before she saw him.
Five more minutes, she decides . . . I’ll disappear just before the sun moves over me and I melt into a puddle of embarrassment. She drinks the water in one breath and shifts in her seat, horrified by the sound her sweaty thighs make against the plastic seat cover. She wipes her face with a cocktail napkin and stands up to leave, unable to bear the humiliation of the final five minutes.
She senses someone walk up behind her and hears a low voice.
She whips around to see a man in his mid-forties, a little full in the middle and missing some hair, but handsome nonetheless.
“Oh my God . . . Shelly?” he asks again, this time with a tone of shocked recognition as a huge smile spreads across his face.
She looks at him, momentarily confused, and begins to sweat profusely, but this time not from the heat. Thank god for Celine Dion, she thinks. As she reaches out to shake his hand, he pulls her gently toward him and hugs her closely.
“I go by Robert, now.”