I am driving home after breakfast with the other retirees at the Lions Club in Broad Ripple, driving up Westfield Boulevard on a nice May morning. The White River meanders not far from the street on my right, and the Monon rails-to-trails thing runs along the crest of a berm to my left, basically an old, single-track rail bed that was paved over for this purpose. It’s a nice, sunny spring day and all the girls are out in their short shorts riding their bicycles or skating on their inline skates. I am returning to my home in Carmel after eating scrambled eggs and toast and fruit cup at the retirees’ meeting.
But there’s this guy who’s honking at me. This is on Westfield Boulevard, like I say, a very residential street with lots of kids and bicyclists and Moms with prams, just like in the old days. How fast does he want me to go? “Fuck you,” I say, but under my breath. I’m not one of these people who actually yells at strangers or make faces behind tempered glass windshields. But I am offended. Well, this guy comes right up on my ass and honks again and of course he gives me the finger. Then he swerves and passes me on the right. He does this just before the big T-intersection at 75th street where people are making a lot of turns off of 75th Street onto Westfield and there are more bicyclists, too, but he runs the yellow light anyway. I stop for the stop light and wait and soon the light turns green, but then the car coming from the other direction, southbound on Westfield, doesn’t move. I proceed with caution because I don’t know what the other driver is thinking. Then another asshole comes up behind me and stands on his horn, and he swerves around me and yells something out his window. Well, this is just stupid. I continue on to 86th Street, by the Walgreens where it’s a little more commercial, and I wait for that light to go green. I am waiting back of the pedestrian crosswalk. I do not block pedestrian crosswalks, even when there are no pedestrians. A cop car is across 86th facing in the opposite direction of me. The cop starts pointing at my car.
Holy moly. I’ve got my left-turn signal on. I must have had it on since I turned onto Westfield from Broad Ripple Avenue, just south of the canal. I look at the cop after the light turns green and we both go straight. I can see him talking to his partner, a striking woman with short hair and a sharply defined jaw and chin, dressed in a dark blue uniform just like him and she is really sharp, not butch at all, and then they look at me and they’re smirking. I am the object of derision, I realize.
It wasn’t always like this. Once, I drove Pontiac Catalina hardtops with my arm always out the window, not generic cars with air conditioning, three-point safety belts, and I was the one with the smile on his face. I was young and virile, or at least as good as anyone else, someone who was doing all right, with a good job and a future. This was before everybody went to college, and I had gone to college. I don’t know when I became someone who stands at a urinal for 20 seconds after he’s finished peeing waiting for the last drops to fall off, someone who lambasts his bank because he thinks there’s an error in his statement when there isn’t any. Someone who drives along blithely with the left-turn signal blinking because he just doesn’t notice. I don’t know when I became this, but maybe it was after Angelina died. We were married for 38 years, not bad by today’s standards. Not a record, but maybe good for a commendation.
Angelina and I met at work. We were both in our 20s. She was slim with light almond skin and an oval face and straight brown hair, and I was a young Van Johnson with auburn hair and red cheeks. We both worked at the Department for Metropolitan Development, which is like the zoning board. I was the supervisor of new building permits, commercial section; I had studied public administration with a minor in civil engineering at Indiana University. I wore a jacket and tie and always shiny leather shoes in those days. A regular tie, not a bow tie, because I wasn’t preppy, even though I was kind of preppy. Angelina was having trouble reviewing some permit applications and I said not to worry, the ordinances really were confusing, and I offered to help her, but she needed this stuff on her boss’s desk the next morning so we turned off the lights in the office and took a box of records to her apartment. “We can order pizza,” she said in a very cheery voice, as if that was the most special thing to do. I liked that – it seemed so modest, humble, honest.
So we have everything spread out on the kitchen table and most of the applications and variances are pretty straightforward, I don’t see why people should even have to ask for permission, and we’re really knocking down the pile when suddenly Angelina looks up and asks would I like a glass of wine? She wasn’t being cheery, either. She was looking long, hard and expectantly into my eyes, taking a risk because I could look into her mind right there and then and tell what she was thinking. It wasn’t a fantasy, I just knew what she was thinking. And we hadn’t even flirted at work before. I told her sure, I’d love that. I would love to have a glass of wine, I told her. We had wine and giggled and really enjoyed our frozen, thin crust pizza, almost burned to a crisp at the edges. “Have you had girls before?” she asked me at one point. It hadn’t been a subject of our conversation but, like I said, I knew what she was thinking. “I don’t mind. But I’ve never been with boys,” she continued. I got hard almost immediately, not that we had sex then and there. I didn’t look to do it with nice girls, and Angelina was a nice girl. She gave me another longing look; she looked into my eyes with that “Look into my eyes” command that some girls can master. We were married within six months, which was fast enough, and then we had sex.
I had had women before I married Angelina. I was not a stud but there were opportunities. Not like it is today, maybe, or even the way it was 20 years ago. Then, back then, when I was young, it was more like you still wondered if books about the "50 Greatest Pickup Lines" and all that Hugh Hefner bachelor pad stuff really was true. You weren’t sure, you figured it was all bullshit, but you wondered. Some girls put out? Wow. That’s how it was for me in high school and college.
I slept with two girls before Angelina, both in college. I know – college almost doesn’t count. In college you wanted to get laid just so you could say you weren’t a virgin. But girls wanted to get laid because it was another country. I didn’t know that before I went to college. College was where they could do it. Then they’d go back home after they graduated. People still went back home after college in those days.
I met Rachel, the first girl I ever slept with, at a dance in Bloomington, but it was hardly a conquest. I can admit that now. Short, big hips, kind of kinky hair. But she swiveled those hips like in a breeze and, when I saw she wasn’t dancing with anyone, I asked her if she wanted to dance with me. I weighed about 140 pounds in those days. And I’m almost 6-feet tall. She pressed her hips so close to me I knew right away we were going to do it. I closed my eyes, and I was thinking, Jesus, I’m going to get laid tonight. I had a hard-on and she just rubbed her thigh against it and pressed her breasts against my chest and breathed her hot breath heavily on my neck. We went to her dorm room and she looked coquettishly at her roommate, who was a beautiful, tall, lean red-head, very smart-looking from the East, and the other girl just sighed and got up off her bed and grabbed a couple of things before leaving. But she gave Rachel a look as she left, a knowing look with an arch to one of her eyebrows, none of which I understood at first, but of course it meant what it meant, namely that Rachel brought back boys to fuck all the time. Well, Jesus Christ, I knew this wasn’t about love, I just wanted to get laid. But I hadn’t thought before then that this is what a lot of girls wanted, too. I really had never thought of it before.
“I’m on the pill,” Rachel said.
“You’re in heat,” I said.
The other girl was someone I worked with in the library. She was a classic librarian. Take off the eyeglasses, let her long brown locks of hair fall from that ridiculous bun, and she was not bad. She started hinting at things in the fall of our junior year, when we both worked mornings and there wasn’t much traffic. What did I think of premarital sex? Isn’t the double standard awful? “What do you think about when you masturbate?” This was after Rachel. We went to my apartment when we finally did it. Carolyn – that was her name, kind of went with the job description and the glasses and hair in a bun – turned away from me as she undressed. I patted her bum and stroked the back of her thigh when she undressed that far, but she pulled away and asked me if I was naked yet. She finally turned around and she had a huge bush and I had a huge erection. We both looked down at each other and laughed spontaneously, which made everything easier.
Only now do I realize I never dated either girl. We just had sex, and that was it. Good sex, I mean. I came, and I could tell they had orgasms, too, all the groaning and the collapse afterward.
Angelina I dated, of course. We were together 36 years. Did I say 38 years before? We were partners, lovers, best friends, just like every married guest tells Pat Sajak on “Wheel of Fortune.” She was a handsome woman, spoke like she was trained for the stage, and always kept her figure. A classy lady, in other words. I only recently could start thinking about her again without sadness, though. I don’t think about the concerts we went to, or the volunteer work she dragged me to. We did some church stuff, but we had joined the Unitarian Universalists mostly to have a community of friends who we figured were decent people, but hopefully weren’t into Jesus too, too much. Angelina always said she had been raised in the church. That’s what she said, too – “raised in the church.” I don’t know which church, meaning which denomination. It’s odd I never got that information. She grew up in a small town about 40 miles from Fort Wayne. We weren’t avowed atheists, but only once in her life, rather late, but before she was sick, did Angelina ask if I thought it could be true, that there might be a God. “We’ll find out,” I answered her with an exaggerated shrug and a comical face. It was one of the dumber things I could have said, and we didn’t discuss it further.
No, what I think about most when I think about Angelina these days is the sex. I know, it seems sacrilegious. But why not? It was much more comfortable sex than sex with the other women. Marriage was important in the old days because then you didn’t have to worry about having sex. It was secured. Plus, I enjoyed not coming so quickly after a while, I mean, when the sex started to get old. Sometimes we experimented with oral sex. I never would have done that with another woman. I didn’t like giving, but she liked receiving quite a bit, and I was happy to make her happy that way. Just like one of those articles in Cosmopolitan would instruct. Or maybe it was the Playboy Advisor.
My goals in life were pretty much achieved, I have to say. I even got involved in civic duty. Some friends encouraged me to run for the public utility commission. I had to tell them I didn’t even know you could run for something like that. It was a joke, of course. I knew all about utilities and bond issues and right of way and all that. That’s why they said I should run. But there really are too many elected officials on the loose. Can anyone in America name all the representatives who represent them in the multiple jurisdictions they live in, I mean, like for instance, name your state representative, township trustee, and school board member? I know they can’t name anyone on the public utilities commission. There are a lot more people who represent you that you never heard of than you can imagine. I ran. It was something to see lawn signs out and about with my name on it – “He has the Means to get the job done: Vote for Howard Means” – and I even enjoyed knocking on doors soliciting votes. I didn’t want to spend too much money on a campaign like this, however. I did respectably well, garnering about 45 percent of the vote. I was satisfied, but I didn’t run for anything again. It’s not like I got the bug to hold public office or anything.
I went to my 25th high school reunion. I felt like I was successful, like I could hold my own. I thought my wife was very presentable, too, which was important to me. A lot of these other girls, and not a few of the boys I went to high school with, had gotten fat. I mean really fat. The guys who became millionaires, the ones who sold books, well, good for them, but that didn’t threaten me. It’s not like I had a thing about being really successful. I just didn’t want to be a failure, and I was not a failure.
“Howard, you look great. You’ve hardly changed,” said one woman at the reunion. This was Elaine, who was in my Russian language class in high school. Her name just came to me out of the blue, she didn’t even have to introduce herself. She was not old yet, but she was older. I noticed the brown age spots across the top of her chest, and her skin was kind of rough and brown like maybe she smoked cigarettes. She was being very friendly, and she had heard about me from time to time, which made me feel like I was somebody important. It was nice. Angelina came up to us in time and took me by the arm and I introduced her to Elaine. It was nothing more than that, but I wondered if Angelina knew that Elaine clearly was interested in me and if that was why she took me by the arm. I figured she did and that made me feel good, too.
Angelina and I had a nice home on a golf course estate in Meridian Hills for many years. We didn’t join the country club, though we could have. We bicycled quite a bit, the usual his and hers Schwinn Varsity bikes. I moved up the ladder at the Department of Metropolitan Development, got a corner office and all that, and Angelina took a job as an Executive Secretary at Eli Lilly & Co., the big drug company. They had an annual Christmas Party and I met all the bosses. They seemed like nice people, but it was hard to tell. They were too polished.
Our neighbors in Meridian Hills – a doctor and his wife, a former nurse, I know it sounds like a cliché – were decent neighbors. The guy always had a big convertible in the driveway, first a Cadillac, then a Mercedes, then a true exotic. I was neither jealous nor impressed. They’d invite us over for cards once in a while, or he’d stick his neck over the fence when he was grilling and ask if we wanted to join them. After a while he would just stick his neck over and kind of pout. He didn’t have to say anything. “I’ll bring the beer,” I would say.
They had a tennis court in the back yard. Meridian Hills was not poor, but your own tennis court was still unusual. We started playing doubles tennis. The doctor and his wife had white outfits, very cute and all that, but we wore gym shorts and T-shirts. Angelina was not big-chested and she never wore a bra when we played tennis – that was one thing that surprised me, it was a little avant garde, but I never brought it up. I joked with the McIntyres – that was their name – that we could buy tennis outfits, we could afford it and all that, but the doctor said no, no, it wouldn’t be us in that case. I didn’t pick up on that right away. Sometimes at home when I was alone, or just in the easy chair in the living room reading a magazine article, I’d catch myself fantasizing about the doc’s wife, bleach blonde teased hair and big teeth and all, but very svelte. I’d imagine that I was feeling her up or even that we were doing it. I liked to undress her slowly in my mind and she never spoke in these fantasies. It was just anonymous sex. I never actually made a pass at Mrs. McIntyre, though sometimes sitting around the patio table behind their house I would start undressing her in my mind all over again even as I tried to follow the conversation. “It’s about time they added a turn lane into our subdivision, don’t you think?” Then, one day, I wondered if the doctor was fantasizing about my wife and feeling her titties in his imagination, just like I was imagining his wife in my mind. We moved away in time, to a condo, and we just didn’t keep in touch. I don’t feel guilty about my feelings for the doctor’s wife, however. I didn’t then and I don’t now. I just don’t. I don’t know why. I loved my wife.
The condo was Downtown in a budding arts district. The old Sears store had been rehabbed and a store on the ground level sold expensive, rare coffees and professional chef’s supplies. Lots of non-profits had offices on the upper floors, and a couple of trendy bars with outdoor seating had opened nearby. Art galleries and “fair trade” retailers abounded. It was all young professionals and empty nesters. I felt we fit in, that we belonged. Plus, it was a good investment. We weren’t empty nesters, though, as we never had children. Angelina and I had talked about adoption, but, eh, we could each tell that the other wasn’t that enthusiastic about adoption and the topic just kind of faded.
We made friends with the couple across the hall in our condo, in what actually was an old dairy. He was a young chemist at Lilly, but not on Angelina’s floor or even in the same wing of the Lilly campus, and she was studying piano at Butler University. But what really struck me about them then, and now, was how young they looked when we met them. That was when I knew I was old. They were each in their late 20s, if that, and all I could think was how young they were. They invited us to go out for a beer or to the Minor League baseball park with them on occasion – they weren’t being patronizing, they just seemed to enjoy our company – and we had them over for drinks and conversation quite often. Both Angelina and I had gotten into single malt Scotch whiskeys late in life. The chemist’s wife had long thighs and perfect 36 C cups, but I never, ever fantasized about having sex with her. I don’t know why. I was getting older. I mean, it would be like fucking somebody’s daughter.
After Angelina died, I moved into this house in Carmel. It’s all aging Baby Boomers who live here and a professional management company takes care of the lawns and snow removal, that kind of stuff. I don’t mind the house. It’s a three-bedroom ranch. The Realtor said I should buy a three bedroom for the resale value, plus if my knees were to go out or I lost my balance I wouldn’t have far to fall because it was a ranch. That’s what the Realtor pushed when she took me to see this place –low-maintenance stone façade, the ceramic-tiled bathrooms and high-efficiency furnace, the safe neighborhood. Safe for someone old like me, she meant. The Realtor was in her mid-30s with raven hair and not really overweight, just a bit of a double chin starting to show. She wore too much make-up, or course, and dressed in a tight business suit with a short skirt, right at her knees, and she had short heels with shaped her calves nicely, very nicely. Her suit was dark blue and she wore a silky, cream-colored blouse that showed a lot of cleavage. I saw her chest heaving as she showed me around the house and she would turn smartly to me and look me right in the eye, just pausing a little before she continued to speak, almost pouting before she’d open her mouth. I invited her to come see the house after I moved in but she didn’t come.
Well, I get home about five minutes after the cop pointed out my blinking turn signal on 86th Street. I settle into the recliner by the bay window in the living room and read a book, something by Tom Friedman, and get the mail as soon as it comes and I put Rimsky-Korsakov on my old Sansui phonograph, then I take a nap. I wake up and go pee, then I fix a late lunch. A good meal for me, since Angelina died, is a roasted chicken from Kroger, a can of corn, which I prefer to frozen corn for its syrupy sweetness, a muffin from a Jiffy muffin mix, and whole carrots which I peel fresh with a scraper. And 15-year-old Glenfiddich Scotch, which I figure is both pretty good and good enough. I had a leftover thigh and leg in the refrigerator, but I didn’t want chicken after all. I took out a Harvest Burger and put it in the microwave, but didn’t turn it on right away. I took out the large cast iron pan and spilled a little sunflower oil in it, then put that on a low flame on the stovetop.
“I’ll make a scrambled egg Harvest Burger sandwich,” I tell myself. I have Jewish rye in the bread box, I’m sure. I put some ice cubes in a tumbler and pour myself a double Scotch whisky.
The phone rings. It’s Marva. Marva, 50, has been coming on to me since I moved into this neighborhood. Will I volunteer for the annual fall pumpkin carving? Do I have any old tools, electronics or good quality used clothing I want to donate? “I’m thinking of buying a new car, Howard. Would you be willing to come with me to Don Hinds Ford?”
That was actually a superb come-on line. I did help Marva buy a Ford Mustang convertible. A week after she bought the car she came by and asked if I wanted to go for a ride with the top down. I actually was preparing to leave for a dentist’s appointment, so I couldn’t do it.
Marva is not ugly or fat. Her skin is dry, however, and I am a nut about good skin, smooth, creamy, blemish-free, or nearly so. Marva is fit, and her hair is a natural dark brown color going gray at the temples, which is fine. That doesn’t bother me. Dyed hair bothers me a lot more because that really looks old. Marva makes no attempt to color her hair. She may seem a bit like Jamie Lee Curtis, but that’s going too far. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with Marva. A lot of guys would like to fuck her, guys my age, that is. It’s me, of course, that’s the problem. I had trouble having sex with Angelina after she went through the change. I know that’s what’s bothering me.
“Hello, Marva,” I said. “How’s the ‘stang?”
The line went silent for a moment. “The what?” she asked.
“Oh, the Mustang,” I answered. “I’m just trying to be hip. What’s up?”
“I’ve got a new fundraiser going, Howard,” she said.
It struck me right then that I had no idea what Marva did for a living, or where she got her money from. “What are you selling?” I asked. She was selling raffles for a new addition to her church.
“Sure, put me down for 10 tickets,” I told her.
“I can bring them over now,” she proffered.
I had to think fast. I could have this woman right now, or I could pass. I remembered the time Angelina and I went to the state park inn at Turkey Run, which is kind of near Terre Haute. They have a nice gorge and foot bridge over it, though nothing like you see in National Geographic. We got a cabin. Angelina wanted to fuck on the bare wood floor in the cabin so we did. We could hear the crickets and stirring of leaves on the forest floor as small mammals scampered through. Maybe that was another edgy thing Angelina was into.
“No, it’s OK, Marva,” I said. “I have to run to an appointment with my insurance broker now. But I’ll stop by this evening. We’ll have a drink.”
I don’t know why I said that. I was saying no and yes at the same time, but basically I was saying yes. It just came out spontaneously, so I guess I really did want to fuck her. It was settled, then. I’m sure Marva understood my intention like I understood hers. Marva enthusiastically embraced the idea that I would stop by for a drink that evening and I let myself imagine that she would come to the door dressed in a thin, perhaps see-through chiffon housedress. That’s how I was imagining her. What was I going to do – be the 70-year-old virgin?
I got in my car and started to back out of the driveway because now I figured I really did have to go see my insurance broker, then I stopped short. I put my foot on the brake but did not take the transmission out of reverse. I looked at the passenger seat. Angelina was not there. The last time we drove anywhere together it was to the YMCA near 86th and Westfield, just south of 86th Street. They have a pool there, lots of walking, a sauna, basically everything. I’d drive down 116th Street to Rangeline Road, which is what Westfield Boulevard is called in Carmel, and turn right and then I just had to go south about three miles.
“Howard,” she said to me the last time we drove together to the YMCA at 86th Street and Westfield.
“What?” I asked.
She just smiled and said, “Howard” again, smiling like a Nun might to an errant but not malicious second-grader. “Your turn signal is still on.”
About the Author: Abe Aamidor is a former long-term reporter at The Indianapolis Star and author, co-author or Editor of five non-fiction books from Indiana University Press, Taylor & Francis and ECW Press of Toronto. This is his sixth story accepted for publication this year. Other publications have included Amoskeag: The Journal of Southern New Hampshire University; Chicago Quarterly Review; The Gettysburg Review; Garbanzo Literary Journal; The Worcester Review.