There was an older woman in the grocery store. First impression…a contemporary. But you know how it is sometimes when you’re shopping, how you keep criss-crossing a person as you cruise from aisle to aisle. About the fourth time we passed, I said, “Excuse me. I can’t help noticing that we keep passing each other. Are you stalking me? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?”
The woman bowed her head a moment, revealing a thinning spot in her died-red frizz of hair. When she raised her eyes, which was all I could make out above her Covid mask, I had a flash of recognition. She looked familiar. Her eyes smiled. I think she knew me despite my mask.
“Don’t I know you?” I asked.
She lowered her mask past her nose and the oxygen tubes in each nostril. “Tom,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized, “I just don’t remember your name.”
“Cary, from Sault Ste. Marie.”
Then I remembered. We had rented our beat-up old house in 1974 to a group of college girls. Cary was one of them. Back then, my wife and I identified more with them than, say, our parent’s generation. We wanted to give some sweet girls a break. Won’t do that again. After they slipped home, below the Mackinaw Bridge, that summer, we did inventory. A candle had dribbled down the back of a dresser and all over the bedroom wallpaper. There were nail holes all along the ceiling and down the wall where they had nailed up a curtain to accommodate a stow-away tenant in the hallway. And in the backyard, there was a mouse decaying in a fishbowl. Cary was the only one still in town. Left facing the rap, she made an effort to clean up and explain that her roommates thought it was cruel to use a mouse trap and then forgot to feed the mouse…apparently.
So, now there she was standing in front of me. Cary. We hugged. Sometimes you gotta live dangerously despite the plague.
On the way home, I calculated she had to be twenty years younger than me. But, at first, I took her for older…at least my age. Hell, I must be an old fart when a kid, a generation younger than me, looks old. Damn. My mirror’s been lying to me.
Retired trainer, and writing instructor, Joe Novara and his wife live in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Writings include novels, short stories, a memoir and various poems, plays, anthologies and articles. Read more at https://freefloatingstories.wordpress.com/