I wish I could say that being a hermit was a grand adventure. I really wish I could, but it wasn’t all that great. Even with the company of my dog Chunk, I craved companionship. In the cold of winter, when it’s so cold that it settles in your bones, you need a person who wants to talk to you.
On those cold, frostbitten nights, when shadows are longest, I held my wife’s picture and cried myself to sleep. Chunk would snuggle up to me and lay his head on my lap. The memories of our life together cut into my mind. Outside my cabin the wind howled, in my soul the same howl resounded through my psyche.
And for all the howling, Death never came for me.
I let out a heavy sigh and took the corncob pipe from my mouth. Tiny cuts were on the lip of the pipe. I had fell into a deep remembrance, and the stress of my memories made me gnaw on it. I put it aside.
“It does me no good to remember this if I don’t write it down. Do better, Fred.”
My computer is an old HP that I’ve worked hard to maintain. It is loaded with musings from one part of my life or another. The only thing I’ve never written about is how much I loved my wife, or why I loved her so.
I don’t know if my heart can take the beating.
We met on a cloudless Wednesday night. You know how it is, you don’t expect to find true love at a taco shop on the weekend, much less during the week. I was at the back of the line, impatiently waiting for someone to take my order so I could return to my cabin.
I wasn’t alone. It seemed like half the town decided to descend up the small taco shop at the same time. People jostled for position, like NASCAR racers at Talladega. More than once some dad nudged their kid and nodded my way.
Everyone seemed to get a kick out of my plight. I represented a world that no longer existed. A world where nothing was perfect, but people held themselves to a higher standard. A world where patriotism was not a catchphrase, where kindness had value, and where it was okay to hold a dissenting opinion.
I was a man out of time.
Down the line came an older woman. She was about my age. I was 48 at the time, she was a couple of years older than me. Her hair was black, not a strand of gray showed anywhere.
“Hi. What can I get you?”
“Um, I’ll take six soft tacos.”
She raised her eyebrows and smiled at me. I shuffled from one foot to the other and avoided her gaze.
“Is that it?”
“I’m Patty,” she said as she stuck out her hand. I gripped it. She had the softest hands I ever felt. They weren’t clammy the way that some people’s hands are. Her hand was soft but firm.
“Um, I’m Fred.”
“You like soft tacos, do you Fred?”
“They’re okay,” I said quietly. “They’re for my dog.”
Patty smiled, and my heart raced. I let go of her hand, she had never tried to remove it from mine. No jewelry was on her fingers. “There’s no way this lady is single,” I thought to myself. “Besides, I’ve been without a woman for so long, I wouldn’t know what to do with one.”
I left that day with six tacos and a warm feeling in my heart. At my cabin, I told Chunk about Patty. He stared at me with those big amber eyes as if ordering me to go get Patty from the taco shop. I didn’t.
As a matter of fact, I never went back to the shop. One evening, I heard a knock at my door. Patty stood on my porch, a bag of soft tacos in hand.
“So, this is where you hide at.”
She smiled that beautiful smile. I invited her in and made a fresh pot of coffee. Her presence in my house made it feel like home, and all she did was show up.
Love blossomed between us. I like to think it had something to do with the soft tacos. She would stay to the wee hours of the morning and fall asleep on my couch. I would watch her sleep.
For the first time in my life, I felt as if I knew what love was. It wasn’t the ‘made in Hollywood pipe dream,’ it was enjoying the company of a person who gave you hope. Love was a cup of coffee with someone who enjoyed being with you. It was long walks and short talks, quiet afternoons in a dim bookstore, or plundering the local Goodwill.
I did it all with her, and I am a better man for it.