I tell Maggie I’m off to meet the boys.
She rolls her eyes. Their ages span from late fifties to late eighties. The mean is probably eighty. So I guess she’s right.
When I got there, only one was there.
He’s not so much the leader as he is the center of gravity. I look at him and remember that I’ve known him since he was my age.
He runs through the group. One can’t make it because he can’t drive anymore. The guy who usually drives him can’t make it because he has a funeral. Another doesn’t come much anymore. The last one might be working.
Not really meeting the boys this morning. There’s just one. Just Bob.
We talk about politics like always. We talk about the news. He has facts and figures at his fingertips that just astound me. He tells me how many people have been killed since 1970 in the US. He talks about how many people have been killed already this year in Chicago. He then uses it in an argument about our current and planned immigration bans.
We’ve been discussing the news now and then since Reagan’s first term.
Finally, the line drops down so there’s only one person waiting. I stand and get in line. Bob doesn’t want anything. He’s got his coffee and he’s already had another cup today.
With one person ahead of me I get served in just under five minutes. While waiting for them to pour a cup of drip coffee for here, I look back over at Bob. He’s reading a newspaper.
He’s always reading. Always learning something new. Always has a story to tell you about something he read.
I sit back down. I check that he’s sure he doesn’t want anything. He waves me off.
I gesture at his Smithsonian magazine on the table between us. There’s a giant Cambodian Buddha on the cover.
Bob tells me he read an article about Einstein and space time theories.
Not in this issue he tells me, pointing to the magazine between us. He has a bunch of back issues stacked up at home.
Me too, I tell him. That’s why I finally unsubscribed. I love the magazine but I wasn’t reading it.
National Geographic too, he tells me.
Yeah. Me too.
So he tells me about a mental model from the article of how space is bent. The metaphor uses a bowling ball on a trampoline.
Bob pauses, looks up, and asks, “are you dating?”
“No,” I say, “I thought I might try it but it didn’t really work out.”
He doesn’t ask why.
He wouldn’t pry anyway but there’s something in the way he doesn’t ask.
This isn’t a question about me. This is a question about him. Not that he’s wondering about dating. But it’s about him.
His wife of sixty-plus years died a little over a year ago.
“I miss the two of us sitting and talking,” he says. He looks to me to see if I know what he means.
I nod. “Me too.”
Sitting with him and talking is good. But it’s not the same for him and it’s not the same for me.
I lean forward, “especially,” I say, “especially, now. I would love for her to help me make sense of this world.”
He nods but you can see his thoughts have shifted again.
“And cooking,” he says. “I miss cooking for two.”
“Yeah,” I say. I miss that too. Really it’s not that I miss cooking for two so much as I miss cooking for Kim. She appreciated it and always helped out. It was coupled with the time we would talk to each other.
She’d go to the refrigerator and cupboards for ingredients. We’d stand in the kitchen a few feet from each other. She’d cut with her knife on her cutting board. I’d cut with my knife on my board. I’d go to the stove to cook.
Cooking for one. One cooking.
Bob brought me back from my thoughts telling me that there were only really a few people left connected to Sue: her sister, their son, their daughter, and their grand-daughter.
The daughter lives close. I asked about the son.
He lives far away.
“Did you ever visit?” I ask.
No, Bob says. He and Sue were going to drive out there.
They had a trip planned that included side trips and stop-overs. He mentioned the Carl Sandburg house. That’s so Bob and Sue.
I look at him. I know it’s not a trip he’ll ever take. Not now that it’s just him.
I look at him again. I don’t think of me. This is his story, not mine.