She was consumed by saudade, a deep melancholic nostalgia for him, for them. Time does that. At first, when she left him she was in mourning and had to use the 12 steps that had failed him so miserably to get over him. She promised herself each day that she’d call him tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. After time spent outwardly mourning, her feelings turned inward to a saudade, a bone-felt longing for what was gone and what never was at all. It was this yearning and absence that drove her to know what was imagined and what was real. If she saw him, what would she feel?
So she drove to the gas station in another town. A pretty dress and well-heeled, she stood in anticipation just outside the gas-mart. Dressed to the nines for him or her? What did she expect to feel for the gas station attendant? Was she so cruel as to want him to want her when she was unattainable with the distance of the years between them? Their paths should not collide. Yet, here she was forcing fate’s hand and risking nostalgia on a reality devoid of feeling.
At home, she fussed about straightening throw pillows and wiping off light switch plates. She wanted the house to be immaculate for him, better than him. He had been so dirty at the gas station. She could see the streaks of grease on his taut upper arms. It made her giddy to think of it. When the doorbell rang, her mouth went dry. It was him. When he crossed the threshold, she held her breath. It had been so long since a man stood within these walls, years since John had been gone. He’d walked out on her, and she’d lived with her loneliness ever since. But now, Sam was there. He’d washed, she noticed, even under the fingernails.
She offered him a drink, but didn’t specify what kind. She wanted to see if he was truly sober. He asked for a Coke. She was happy to oblige. Just then the oven ‘dinged’ to alert the roasted chicken was ready. Pleasance placed Sam at the head of the table, the roast chicken on a serving platter, and removed her frilled apron. It was like a scene out of a ’50s T.V. show. It was perfect. This was turning into the night that she should have had every night with Sam, if his addiction hadn’t ruined their relationship. They were so young. But now, they had experience and sobriety. And she could still feel the old chemistry between them. It was lust hanging thick enough in the air you could have chewed it. But was it more than lust? With her years of celibacy under her belt, it was really hard for Pleasance to tell.
His lovemaking was just the same. First him on top, then her on top, and then him on top again. Not that she was judging, and it had been so long it was wonderful, but quicker than she remembered. It seemed to have lost its fever early on in the act, and it left her with that lingering melancholy. As he rose to leave, too soon afterward, she knew she had failed to recapture the past.
“What about dinner tomorrow?” she said.
“Sure. Same time,” he said then he added a delayed and unwanted “Thanks.”
Pleasance was unsure if the thanks was for dinner, the sex, or the renewed invitation. Any way you sliced it, she came up feeling hollowed out. Neither she nor Sam could live up to her fantasy.
“I could use a beer. You got one,” he said.
And now she was sleeping with an alcoholic gas station attendant. The dreams of her past and future were washed away in the present with the tears in her eyes.