As the cute young lady behind the counter handed us our lunches, Jack noticed she was wearing a badge with her name on it.
“You know,” he said, “your name, Sarah, spelled backwards reads ‘Haras’ – like ‘harass’. Almost like an invitation.”
“You’re not the first one to tell me that,” Sarah responded.
“And if you take one ‘a’ away, it spells ‘rash’. And if you add an ‘a’ it spells Sahara. How about that?”
“Nobody ever told me that,” Sarah admitted.
Taking advantage of his tactical edge, Jack said “Do you ever date older men?”
“Yes,” said Sarah, “my boyfriend, he’s three years older than I am”
“Damn!’ said Jack.
“Go find yourself a nice old lady,” advised Sarah, “there are always lots of them around in the mall.”
We went to find a table instead.
Jack and I have been having these lunches for almost a decade now. I’ve noticed that Jack has begun either to lose some interest in women, or not to tell me about his latest affairs. I thought I’d clear up my uncertainty.
“A propos of nice ladies – old or young,” I said, “I haven’t heard you talk of any lady friends for quite some time. Any problems?”
“I hate to admit it,” said Jack, “but I’m not the man I used to be. That exchange with Sarah was just for show. The dating part, I mean.”
“Jack,” I said, “you’re, what? five years younger than I am, and you’re telling me you’ve come to the end of the line?”
“No, not quite,” said Jack, “but the flames don’t reach as high; in fact, sometimes the embers barely glow. Sometimes it seems hardly worth the effort.”
“Are you alright, Jack?” I asked.
“’All good things come to an end’”, quoted Jack. “I mean I’ve had a good run at it, maybe it’s time to hang up my amatory hat.”
That wasn’t the Jack I know. This wasn’t the Jack who’d reveled in love and all its attendant delights, and suffered many of its miseries.
“Maybe it’s just a phase,” I said to comfort him. “Maybe you’re just low on vitamins or essential minerals.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Jack.
Which was fine with me. We ate in silence.
“Read any good books lately?” Jack asked.
I said that I was going through my complete collection or Ross Macdonald’s detective books for the umpteenth time, and that I could read them every few years or so, without remembering whodunit.
I said I noticed that quite a few times the men Lew Archer spoke to would refer to “the wife”. “Me and the wife did this or that…” Not “me and my wife”, or better yet “My wife and I…”
“Seems to me that ‘Me and a wife’ is better than ‘Me and my wife’ That sounds pretty possessive.
What did you want them to say,” asked Jack, “Me and a wife?” That would sound adulterous, wouldn’t it? What do you say?”
I said “maybe we should learn to walk around the problem, something like “the lady whose husband I am”
That’s not only cumbersome, but it’s still implies ownership, this time you’re hers.”
I said in light of his comments, I’d have to think it over, and get back to him.
And I will. Maybe after I finish reading Macdonald.
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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