40 YEARS WITH AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER
by Brenda Havens
Lou Mitchell’s was bustling, damn it.
The hostess settled me at the counter, a bit away from the bustle. I was here for fuel, not fellowship. All these perky tourist families were quite annoying.
I left a seat between myself and the next guy.
Oh, he’s reading a book! And I’m reading my Russell Banks! We have something in common! I wonder if he’s an English teacher. We could have a conversation about books. I’d love that. An affair would be nice. Wow, how’d I transition to that idea so fast? I wonder, too, if that skillet thing he ate was good. Oh, well, I’ll just read. It’s The Darling. I’m pretty into it. Main character was in the Weatherman Underground, so I’m learning about that from the inside out, if Banks knows what he’s talking about.
Oh, darn. He’s packing his book away, so it’s too late to talk about it. He—taller than I thought-- strolled on out of the restaurant.
Oh, well. I’ve got my book.
I had the day in Chicago before my husband got off work. We would spend the night in the condo borrowed from Cousin Judy, and then head back home to Indiana in the morning.
This time, he would be armed with Viagra, tested, discussed and blessed by his pecker-checker. I felt anxious, but looked forward to the intimacy, the closeness of being touched and held during, before and after lovemaking. A big, boundless orgasm wouldn’t hurt, either.
However. In the car on the way to our Steppenwolf matinee, I noticed his breath. Again. The halitosis he gets when he doesn’t use the hydra floss for a week.
After the play, where I spent some mental energy hoping the guy next to me couldn’t smell my husband’s breath, we went to dinner at Marcello’s on North Avenue. We chatted about the play, recalled some good times living in Evanston. I did have to ask him to smooth the duck fuzz at the top of his head, but I couldn’t smell his breath.
We called our sons, who were in the middle of the traditional Chicago May 1 move from one apartment to another. They agreed that some pizza & pasta would be helpful, so we ordered, and when finished eating, set the GPS for their new address: 24-something Leavitt, and drove over. Fun to see them and their new place.
“Sorry. I was defecating,” he shared, buckling back in. Oh. Great. My mind raced ahead of his next words. Yes, it was true. A bad bout of diarrhea. Heeewww.
That did it for me. But what about him? Hopefully, he feels too sick to think about sex.
After his shower (so glad he realized the need), as I poured myself a bit of Cousin Judy’s white wine, my peripheral vision caught him in view through the just-opened bathroom door. My ears caught the crinkle of plastic and foil in his hands, his voice, “Well, are we ready to try it?”
Unbelieving, I looked at him, damp, hairy, gray chest hanging over wrapped towel. I thought fast--decided to bring up the breath, since the bowels didn’t discourage him. And, truly, how can we have decent foreplay with halitosis as a guest?
We talked. Defensive at first, he agreed he had been thoughtless to focus so much on those projects that he ignored basic hygiene, and, no, he wouldn’t want to kiss me if I had monster breath.
He lay his head back and dozed on to sleep. I walked out to the balcony, taking in East Loop lights, like thousands of stars twinkling eternity, and hope, light and love. I sighed in tandem with a waning siren rushing south on Lake Shore. On a rooftop to the north, I saw partiers, young, buoyant. Awake.
I sighed again, then turned back inward. Oh, well, I’ve got my book.