“I thought you said you’d never get married again.” It is my deceased husband Tommy who startles me awake.
“Where did you get the idea I’m getting married,” I say. His voice, which started in a dream, shifted me from prone to upright in bed.
“I saw you at the health club. Heard your conversation with your trainer, Kim. You were asking her to introduce you to some guy.”
“I thought you hated the East Bank Club,” I said, referring to the posh fitness place I tried to get Tommy to join. “What were you doing there?”
“Keeping an eye on you,” he said.
“Look,” I said. “I’m still wearing my wedding ring and I have no intention of ever taking it off.” I raised my left hand to the ceiling, assuming the image could break through the stucco and reach my complaining husband.
As I waited for his response, I thought back to the day more than 14 years ago when he and I walked across Ashland Avenue to Service Merchandise where we purchased our $25 gold bands. After our wedding in Las Vegas, where we placed them on each other’s finger under the guidance of an ecumenical minister and 16 guests, I never took the ring off.
“Listen, Tommy,” I said. “I don’t ever want to marry again. You are my last husband. But, would you mind if I started to date? It’s been nearly a year, and I’m beginning to feel the need for a male companion. I miss the ‘what did you do today’ conversations and a guy on my arm.”
There was silence from my celestial spouse. Although in the last years of his life I had become accustomed to his aphasia, in our imaginary conversations, I had returned him to full voice. That’s why this pause bothered me. Was he angry and retreating from our beloved dialogues, or was he contemplating my question?
“You change your mind so much,” he said, ignoring my excuse.
“I won’t debate that,” I said. I counted on my easy agreement to let me off the hook.
“I heard you tell your daughters and your friends you were glad you rented a small apartment because there’d be no room for anyone else in it. Did you mean that?”
“True,” I said. “But, I’m talking about dating someone, not having them move in with me.”
“Well, it was hard for me to hear you asking your trainer to play cupid,” Tommy said. “You can understand that.”
“Of course I do, honey,” I said. “But, I’m spending too many nights at home; me and TV. When you were alive, and we watched shows together, that was one thing. But, I’ve continued our tradition in spades. Now, with Apple TV and Netflix, I’m more tied to the set than ever.”
“What’s wrong with that?” he asked.
I smiled as I recalled our evenings on our two couches. Each of us stretched out, watching our favorite shows night after night.
“No, honey, you’re right,” I said. “I loved every minute of our marriage. And I know I’ll never find another guy who wants to sit home and watch TV with me.”
“Well, it seems like you’re trying hard to replace me,” he said. “I also heard you asking your two lawyer friends to keep an eye out for a single man your age.”
Now I was rankled. Tommy disdained my health club in favor of his plain YMCA. Oh, he liked the golf center all right, and he enjoyed running its track on winter days. But when I posited joint membership, he turned up his nose. Now, it appears I can’t get him away from the place.
“Okay, you’re right,” I said. “I did ask Jimmy and John to keep me in mind. I’ve known both of them for years and they’re my same age. I thought they’d be good matchmakers.”
“They’re both Jewish, aren’t they? Is that what you’re looking for? Finished with Gentiles are you?”
“No, no, honey,” I said. “I didn’t specify a religion. In fact, I wouldn’t mind someone who’s not Jewish. You and I were in-tune, despite our different faiths.”
Another pause from above, had I convinced Tommy of my innocent need for a companion, and not a husband? Had he retreated to his heavenly home, contented he would never be replaced?
Then came that voice that I can still hear clearly. “Listen, sweetheart, I’m really just teasing you. It makes me happy to hear you’re thinking about dating. That means you haven’t soured on men; that my part in your life has you seeking another me.”
“Never another you,” I said.