She had seen the man before. Older than her, she thought, though that had become a tough call only because it was hard to remember just how old she had become. They attended the same church service, and he usually walked past the pew where she sat and joined a younger man sitting several pews ahead of her. She had noticed this younger man also, but because of his toupee. Her husband used to announce “rug alert” whenever he spotted a toupee, and though her husband wasn’t there the first time she spotted that toupee she heard him announce it in her ear just the same. The older man would join him, and they would greet each other and chat before the service began. This was the normal routine for many weeks, until the younger man no longer appeared.
After that the older man would look a little forlorn to her, as he searched the pews with his eyes and eventually sat in his regular pew, alone. Until the week that he joined her, sitting on her left and saying hello. He introduced himself, a tad loudly, she thought, and she assumed that everyone around them were hearing the conversation also. She told him her name, and he responded by asking her where she lived. Odd, she thought, as she responded with her general neighborhood. But when he announced, rather proudly, that he lived in a fancy private community she realized that he was sizing her up. “You live alone?” he asked, and nodded knowingly when she answered yes. “Your husband passed away?” He was still nodding and looking sympathetic when she again answered, yes.
He then announced, rather gruffly she thought, “I have a wife. She’s a pain in the ass!” He proceeded to tell her that he was a ‘clean’ man, one who hangs up his clothes and doesn’t throw them on the floor. Which made her smile to herself because she herself was one to leave a wake of chaos in her path. They ascertained that they both were Italian, which seemed to be a point in her favor. And he spoke of his friend that he had been sitting with previously, and that he had only known him from church, and that he had suggested that they get together for lunch, but he had always declined. He wondered out loud what had happened to his toupee-d friend, he said he really didn’t know, and suggested that maybe he had found a girlfriend. Changing the subject he said, “After this I take my wife out to lunch. It’s a treat for her, so she doesn’t have to cook,” and she gave him a couple of points in his favor. Until he went on, “We go to Burger King! It only costs $4 for both of us.” She rolled her eyes, but only to herself she hoped. When the service was over he said it had been nice to chat with her, and he’d see her next week.
The next week she made sure to get there early so that she would be in her seat already and wouldn’t have to make an awkward choice of whether to sit with him or not, but she needn’t have been concerned because he wasn’t there. Or wasn’t in his usual spot at least, a relief she thought. But the next week he came in and walked past her pew, as he always used to, and she noticed a slump to his shoulders, and an air of sadness to him, as he seemed to look for his friend, and then took his regular seat, alone.