My paper cup of iced decaf is cold in my hand, so I shift from staring at the young couple to finding a seat in the cafe. I lower my tote bag to the empty chair next to me, extract my cellphone, and check email messages. But soon enough, I return my gaze to the couple. They are chatting while still deep in the hug.
This is what I miss, from my marriage, from my husband. The toe-to-toe enveloping, the hug. I wonder, does she get to inhale the scent of a freshly-laundered shirt, as I did when I closed in on Tommy? Does her boyfriend’s shirt smell of Target’s lemon-scented detergent? Tommy’s did.
Although my husband was decades older than the lad in my vision, his frame and strong body were similar. When I met Tommy, on the street where we both lived, my first thought was, "not my body type." He was about 5'9", tall enough for a shrimp like me, but had no fat, no rolls plumping his belly. "Nothing to hang onto," I complained to my friend after a few early dates.
The short, tubby, white-haired, Santa Claus-type, sans the red suit, was what I was going for after a divorce from my first husband, who at 6’ and skinny towered over me. I didn’t need Dr. Freud to diagnose that my predilection for rotund was based on my father, the parent who called me his princess.
Before I met Tommy, I found a boyfriend during that Bermuda Triangle period of my life -- between divorce and remarriage -- that perfectly fit my body-type requirements. He was short and fat, had grey hair, and even smoked round the clock like dear, departed dad. While the cigarettes, fast and careless driving, unhealthy eating, and intense friendships with other women, should’ve sounded alarms, I was too smitten to think clearly.
Fortunately, my father's doppelganger settled on another gal that he fancied more than me. I lamented for a bit, but eventually realized I was fortunate in dodging a lifestyle that likely would’ve had me growing infirm and fat.
When nonsmoker, tip-top shaped Tommy came into my life, I quickly tossed out my previous preferred body type and came to love the one I married. Of course, my husband’s other prized features helped to dump doughy. Tommy was low maintenance, helpful around the house, had interests that matched mine, and most importantly, thought I walked on water.
Not long after my sighting of the hugging couple, I told my daughter, “I’m not ready to date, and I can’t imagine sharing my new life with anyone, but I miss spooning. It’s a bedtime perk I pine for.”
“Try a pillow,” she said. “Get a king-sized one, place it vertical in Tommy’s spot, and cuddle up.”
In the bedding department of Macy’s, I had my choice: down-feather combinations, foam, polyester fiberfill, memory foam and latex. Prices varied. When the salesperson was out of sight, I lifted each pillow and hugged it to my body. Like the children’s fable, one was too soft, another too hard, and one -- although not perfect -- would do.
Along with my pillow selection, I bought a set of king-sized pillow cases. I washed the pair in Target’s lemon-scented laundry detergent, then slipped one over my husband’s proxy.
At night, as I clasped the pillow to my body, I knew my arrangement would be a poor second to the real thing. The body type turned out to be flawed, too cushy where it should’ve been muscled, too short where it should’ve been a few heads taller. But the freshly laundered pillow case conjured a fragrance that improved my tableau.
With my imagination urging me on, I whispered to the pillow, “love you, Tommy.” This was my half of a duet we played out each night. In my head, the one now deep into my polyester fiberfill, I could hear his response: “Love you, too!”
The pillow, which soon morphed into my perfect body type, and I, grew drowsy, then we both surrendered to sleep.