You know how we tend to confide in our hairdresser or bartender? As a cashier down to the A&P, folks tend to confide in me, too, even if they don’t always know they’re doin’ it. ‘Cause checkin’ out a person’s groceries is more intimate than you image. You know who’s drinkin’ a little too much, who has a Doritos habit and who’s addicted to the National Inquirer. You see the same folks once a week, minimum, and you can kind of sense whether they’re feelin’ their oats or not.
So I’m workin’ register 3 per usual, cashin’ out Roberta “Bobbie” Robbins, makin’ conversation, like you do. “How’s that cute little dog of yours? Blah, blah. And the kids? Your youngest getting ready for college? I can’t believe it. Blah, blah. And your wonderful husband? How’s Chuck doin’?”
“Good,” Bobbie replies, “I guess.” That didn’t sound do good to me. “He’s travelin’ so much with his job, it’s like we’re two ships passin’ in the night.”
Time passes, and Bobbie and Chuck’s youngest is off to college. Bobbie’s buying fewer groceries, as you’d expect. Then, one day, I see Chuck in the store, pickin’ up a few things. That kind of brought me up short. He never comes into the A&P. Too busy. He went through the express lane, so I couldn’t chat him up. But the next time I see Bobbie, I mention it. “Chuck was in last week. Didn’t get a chance to say hi. How’s he doin’?”
Bobbie looks out at the parking lot. “I wouldn’t know, Ida,” she sighs. “We, uh, separated a few weeks ago.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, Bobbie. How you holdin’ up, dear?”
“As good as can be expected, I guess. It wasn’t any big dramatic thing, Ida. What with the kids and Chuck’s job, we just kind of drifted apart, I guess.”
Hard to know what to say to that. “Oh, Bobbie, my heart goes out to you.” That’s all I could come up with.
Maybe six or seven months pass. I see Chuck and Bobbie down to the A&P, shoppin’ separately. Neither of ‘em looked too happy, but Bobbie at least, seemed to be makin’ an effort.
“Bobbie, don’t you look nice. I love that shade of lipstick on you.”
“Thanks, Ida. I got talked into goin’ to one of them speed datin’ things in Bangor tonight, if you can believe it.”
“Good for you! You’ll have to tell me how you make out, next time I see you.”
“Geez, I’m wicked nervous, but what do I have to lose? Wish me luck.”
“Nah, you don’t need it. You look fabulous!”
The next time I see her, Bobbie’s a little less perky. “How was the speed datin’?” I ask.
“Gruelin’! The only thing it had goin’ for it was that you didn’t have to spend alot of time with each guy. What an odd assortment of geezers, geeks and God, what was he thinking, wearin’ that tie? Let me tell you, datin’ is not for the faint of heart! Wasn’t a total loss, though. I had a drink with a couple of the other gals after, and we really hit it off. Goin’ to a dance together next week.” Bobbie sighs, “I’m beginning to wish I was a lesbian.”
“Listen, Bobbie, my niece Caitlin has some lesbian friends, and from what she tells me, that’s no picnic, either.”
“Grass is always greener.”
More time passes, and one day I see Bobbie and Chuck in the A&P together, gigglin’ in the wine aisle. Well, knock me over with a feather! I’m too busy to do more than wave as Chuck and Bobbie stroll out arm in arm, all a twitter.
But the next time Bobbie’s into the A&P she comes to my register to cash out, lookin’ happy as pie.
“Bobbie,” I say, “I don’t have to ask how you’re doing. I can see it on your face.”
“Yup, Ida, Chuck and me are back together.”
“Well, I saw the two you two last week, lookin’ like a couple of love birds.”
“It’s like we’re teenagers again, Ida.”
“What happened, if you don’t mind my askin’?”
“Not at all. Well, we started out talkin’ on the phone. You know, coordinatin’ things for when the kids come home. Then, sometimes, Chuck would call, and we’d just talk on and on ‘bout nothin’ in particular. We’d meet down to the Busy Bee every now and then for breakfast. And hey, I’m goin’ to Bangor to see a movie, you want to come? Before we knew it, it’s like we were datin’ again. And it was good. Heck, it was great. We started really talkin’ to each other like we hadn’t in years. Sometimes, he’d sleep over.”
“I know! So one thing led to another, and we agreed that at our age, sure, we could potentially meet someone else and still have a good twenty, twenty-five years with ‘em. But that would be a gamble. We might not find the right person. But if we put some of that same time, energy and money into our relationship, we might end up with something really wonderful. It was great once. Why not again?”
“Plus, you have the kids, and all that shared history.”
“Right. The kids are over the moon ‘bout it.”
“Chuck’s still away alot on business, but we’re workin’ on that. I’m goin’ with him every now and then. And he’s tryin’ to hammer out a deal where he can step down to about half as many trips. The big difference is, when he’s home, he’s home. He’s not in the den catchin’ up on work or doin’ deals into the night. And we talk and text alot when he’s away. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much better than it was.”
“Plus, now that the kids are gone, I’m gettin’ more used to havin’ the house to myself. When me and Chuck were separated, I signed up for an art class down to the Community Center, and I’m still doin’ that. I realized I used to love paintin’ and doin’ artsy stuff. I’d totally lost track of it.”
“Good for you, Bobbie! You’re an inspiration!”
Bobbie puts her hand on mine. “Thanks, Ida, for your support. The whole separation thing was hard, wicked hard. But if that’s what it took to get to us where we are now, it was worth every minute!”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
May 26: Book Reading Finding Your Inner Moose, Old Town Public Library, 11:00 a.m., Old Town, ME
May 26: Book Reading Finding Your Inner Moose, Pittsfield Public Library, 6:00 p.m., Pittsfield, ME
June 10: The Moose in Me, The Moose in You!, Thomas Memorial Library, 6:30 p.m., Cape Elizabeth, ME