“You don’t talk about your wife.” It was a funny thing for her to say, but Rebecca was right. I’d been driving her to cancer treatments for a couple of weeks. We’d covered her stripper daughter and her addictions and the vague possibility that the daughter might have a side job of a sort.
We’d talked a lot about her grand kids. They were slowly leaving her nest and getting on with their lives.
It sounded like she’d done a good job with them.
We even discussed FOX news, her grandson’s pornography collection and what she liked best. She liked Jesus, cleaning houses for a living and television shows involving witches and that girl from “Who’s The Boss?” We’d shared. She’d baked me cookies and a slab of Mexican cornbread. I’d bought her an apple fritter from the Donut Connection and she’d laughed when she’d returned from her treatment to find me napping behind the wheel.
“You do too much,” she’d said.
I shrugged. Stuff has got to get done.
“You don’t talk about your wife.”
And she was right. In conversation, I’d mentioned being married and having kids. I’d talked about the new house and getting ripped off on the used lawnmower I’d bought from a guy by the side of the road: that one should have been obvious. I’d said a lot of things, but I’d said nothing about my wife.
So, I told her.
“My wife and I are splitting up.”
I’d already broken the news to my sisters, told a friend, but otherwise hadn’t worked up the nerve to say anything to the people I worked with or to my parents. For a couple of weeks I’d been carrying it around; the inside of my chest feeling like it was made of mangled tin and leaking mercury.
I told her as much as I could tell her, explained that it was real, it was final. I felt like shit for mentioning it. She was sick (technically, though her treatment was more of follow-up to what had already been done through surgery). I was taking her back and forth to the hospital and she had a lot on her plate besides. How fucking selfish was that?
Rebecca was quiet for a minute then she said she’d pray for me.
“You’re a good man." She smiled. "I’ll pray for a good woman for you –one who can cook.”
I might have raved a little too much about the cornbread and the cookies. They were pretty amazing.
I told her she didn’t have to. I told her I was a long way from even in thinking in that direction. I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, let alone a wife. I wasn’t ready. I wasn't going to be ready for a long, long time.
“You’re young,” she said. “A young guy like you can’t be alone.”
I assured her it was possible and under the circumstances, pretty likely. I did not give her my reasons, but I think she knew them.
She laughed and told me she’d pray anyway and bake me some more cookies.
She made me a couple of dozen to share with whoever I wanted. It was one of the nicest things, I think, anybody had ever done for me.