Do you see that woman over there? The one sitting all alone at the bar?
This is her story.
She married her high school sweetheart. They met when they were only thirteen years old and it was love at first sight. She knew in her heart that he was the one for her.
They went to all the proms and homecomings together and although they were not among the “popular crowd” they didn’t care. They only had eyes for each other.
After they graduated, they went to the courthouse and got married. He had gotten her a simple brass band because that was all he could afford but promised a diamond would come later. She didn’t care. That ring to her, was as good as any diamond.
He got a job at Pennys’ and although he was just a stock-boy, he aspired to one day be a manager. They were both perfectly content for her to be a homemaker.
They scrimped and saved and with a little help from their parents, were able to buy a little house. It was surrounded by the proverbial white picket fence and she spent her weekends planting flowers, while he mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedges.
They were completely devoted to each other and were looking forward to having a long life together. They had a strong bond, formed in youth when everything had a sort of innocence and people had honor.
They could only afford one car and she kept it. It was an old “four on the floor” Mercury station wagon, passed down from his parents. Not long after they got married, the battery died. He had to wait until he got paid to buy another one so every morning for two weeks, he would push it so that she could pop the clutch and get it started. They looked at it as an adventure and not a difficulty.
For those two weeks, she took him to work every morning and he would get a ride home from someone every afternoon. Having the car allowed her to do the grocery shopping and run errands.
Many nights, their dinner was a can of tomato soup and crackers. She would light a candle and they would eat while looking into each others’ eyes. Someday he promised, they would be eating caviar.
Every year on their anniversary, they would go to what they called “their restaurant” and sit in the same booth. The first couple of years, they had to order the cheapest thing on the menu but at least it wasn’t tomato soup.
They would smile at each other, hold hands across the table, laugh and talk about the future. They imagined how many children they would have, what they would be and what they would be named.
They talked about growing old together and teased each other about going deaf and getting smelly. They talked about wrinkles and white hair and made each other promise that no matter how bad things might get sometimes, they would always love each other. They vowed to “leave together” so that the other one wouldn’t be left alone.
Four years had gone by and although they still didn’t have any children, their love was as strong as ever. It was their anniversary and she got a call from him, telling her to go ahead to the restaurant and he would meet her there. He had gotten tied up at work and would catch a ride.
She had anxiously waited all day and now it was time for her to get ready. She still got butterflies in her stomach when she thought of him. She would still blush when he gently touched her cheek.
She styled her hair, put on her makeup and her picked out her best dress. It was homemade but she thought it looked just as good as any “store-bought” one.
There were never extravagant presents but none were needed. Each others’ company had always been enough.
She got to the restaurant and sat down in their booth. She waited for what seemed like hours. When he still hadn’t arrived, her patience began to wane and she was trying not to get angry. He really wasn’t one to be late so the anger was quickly being replaced with worry. When the restaurant was getting ready to close, she started to panic.
She drove by the store but it was dark. She went home but he wasn’t there. She called their families and friends. None of them had talked to him or knew where he was. She was trying to be strong but she was terrified.
Every possible scenario was invading her thoughts. Had he left her? Was there another woman? Had something horrible happened to him? Was he lying helpless in a ditch somewhere?
A massive search began. The detectives found a card in his locker at work but nothing tangible was ever discovered that would lead to any clues. It was kept for evidence. After three weeks, the search ended and he became just another picture in a folder, labeled “unsolved.”
The card was returned to her and her parents begged her to open it. She wouldn’t. When they asked her why, she said “because if I don’t open it, there will always be another card.”
She retreated to her house. She stopped talking to her family and friends. She stopped speaking to her neighbors. She didn’t answer the telephone. She didn’t answer the doorbell. She just laid on her sofa in the same bathrobe she had put on three weeks earlier.
Sometimes she would put on one of his shirts and sleep on his side of the bed. Her neighbors could hear her almost wailing at night. They could see her through the windows, walking in a zombie-like state, holding what they assumed was his picture. She became a recluse.
About a year later, the neighbors saw her getting into her car. They were glad that she was finally getting out of the house.
It was their anniversary and she was going to their restaurant. She walked in and sat down in their booth. She drank water and just sat there, waiting, hoping that he would walk in.
This went on for forty years.
The neighborhood was now run down and most of the original homeowners had long since moved away. The restaurant finally closed and was replaced by a bar/pool hall. She started going to the bar now and then and eventually decided to have a drink. She would only have one and then walked home. It wasn’t long until she was going to the bar every night.
Over the years, one drink turned into two and two turned into three and three turned into four. Everybody at the bar knew her and some knew her story but mostly, they just left her alone and quietly whispered behind her back. She rarely talked to anybody but would spend hours talking to herself. Some thought she was talking to him.
She knew all the regulars and paid them no attention but every time a new man came into the bar, you could see her studying his face, looking for some semblance of recognition. She was still hoping that someday, he might find his way there and walk in.
She’s an old woman now and it’s difficult to tell if the lines in her face have been etched by overwhelming despair or unreleased rage. The thinning, silver strands betray the shock of thick, chestnut colored hair of her youth. Even with her lifeless eyes and frail, almost skeletal body, it is clear that she was once a beautiful woman. The grief assassin had attacked and left her mortally wounded but had unmercifully left no set time for “the big sleep.”
She will continue to come to the bar until it closes down or it becomes too difficult for her to walk the two blocks. She will continue to drink and wait. She will continue to look and hope.
She will eventually die and be forgotten. She will be buried in some nondescript, unattended cemetery, becoming just another name on a hand-written piece of paper that will disintegrate after the first hard rain.
No one will visit her grave or bring flowers. No one will mourn her. No one will ever know about her hopes and dreams or disappointments and sorrows.
No one will ever know that for ten years, she stopped by the local pawn shop once a week…and tried to sell her memories.