It was one of the best kinds of Saturday mornings in June. It wasn’t too hot outside and—for the first time in a long, long time—not too hot inside the confines of my aging body.
A month earlier I’d dropped forty bucks on a “special blend” supplement from the GNC to combat my hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog, and night sweats. When I opened the bottle I thought they’d killed something in a swamp and ground up the carcass a few weeks later to make the pills in that bottle. It smelled worse than horrible, and from the first time I took it—of only about three times total—it made me smell horrible, too. And I couldn’t have that.
So I went back to good old Actaea racemosa (otherwise known as black cohosh) to combat what I considered the true enemy of the people: menopause.
What I called the Middle Aged Mehs had overtaken me. My body would not stop betraying me. Plus, I was seeing evidence on an hourly basis that pointed to the implosion of the world. On top of all that I was developing a nagging suspicion that I would probably die alone and be eaten by my cat before anyone realized I’d disappeared.
Thus far, middle age was not shaping into the time of my life.
Out of the blue there came a pounding on my front door. I stopped breathing for a moment, unwilling to answer it, unwilling even to look in the general direction of the sound. Ignoring my better judgment, I made a snap decision to run on tiptoes through the short entry hall of my little Hobbit House to lay an ear against the wood of the door.
I heard a loud, furious whisper on the other side. “I know you’re there,” it said. “Just let me in this one time and I won’t ever bother you again.”
That was not good to hear, and more so because I couldn’t tell if the voice was one I knew or not. “Who’s there?” I whispered.
“Me,” the voice whispered.
“Tell me who you are. And stop whispering,” I whispered.
Another whisper: “Open the door and I will.”
“You’ll what? Tell me who you are, or stop whispering?” I asked, my voice still low.
Without pausing the voice said, “You’ll have to choose. I can’t do both. But I can break off both your arms and beat you to death with them if you don’t open this goddamn door to let me come in there and look at you!”
“Oh, Precious Lamb! Thank God it’s you!” I said in a normal tone of voice that also included the sound of my smile.
I opened the door but forgot I’d put a chain up to block any unwanted entries. Staring through the wide crack between the door and the door frame was Citizen Jim, who I love more than anything in the world.
“Shut up with the love and let me in!” he shouted.
Once inside, he fell backward into a chair in my living room.
“Well?” he said.
“What?” I asked. But I knew.
“What was that all crap about when I knocked on the door?” he asked, jerking a thumb in the direction of the front hall.
I shriveled up a little inside thinking about telling him the truth. “I don’t really want to talk about it,” I said.
“That’s bullshit! You mean you don’t want to talk to me about it,” he said. “But I already know, so you might as well spill your beans so we can get on with it.”
“Spill what beans? Get on with what?”
“You need to hurry up and tell me about your horrible failure to launch back into the arena of lady love so we can get busy filling out the paperwork to put you in that convent north of Birmingham,” he said.
How could he already know about what I was never going to tell him? I stared at him, trying to will an answer to this question from out of the air between us.
“All right, you don’t have to tell me,” he said.
I let a huge sigh escape me. “Good,” I said.
“I guess I should have said you don’t need to tell me. Because the Shark called me after that David Sedaris book signing earlier this week and told me everything you told her.”
Gah! The Shark! Why was Citizen Meredith always sharking around like that? I hung my head, my hands pressed against each cheek to give myself “fish lips.”
“She told you everything, huh?” I said, eyes still downcast.
“Yes, she told me everything,” he said. “Except who it was. She said it was someone you both had known a long time but she wouldn’t give me a name.”
That made me feel a little better.
Citizen Jim reached over to the bookcase beside him and pulled free a book. He held it above his head, ready to throw it at any provocation. “But you’re going to give me a name, right?”
I didn’t think so. “I don’t think so,” I said.
“It was the Sheriff, wasn’t it?” he said, using the nickname he’d given my friend Vicki more than twenty years before. He knew that we’d reconnected recently after falling out of touch for a long time.
That made me laugh! “Not even close!” I said.
“Was it Boots Black? Wait! It was Melinda, wasn’t it?”
“No, and no,” I said, kind of wondering myself what the former Cute Fed-Ex Delivery Girl and my First Serious Girlfriend were up to these days. “Just forget about it.”
“Was it a guy?” he asked, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
That made me want to throw up! “Of course not!”
He threw the book at me, and I ducked.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I said.
The book slid across the floor under my bed. This sucked, because I knew if I bent over too far or clambered all the way onto the floor to retrieve it, I might not be able to get back into an upright position for hours. (More bad news about getting older.)
(Also? In a Hobbit House like mine the bed isn’t as out of place in the living room as you might imagine.)
“Look, I gave you your chance to be up front with me so that I wouldn’t have to throw anything at you,” he said.
He had a point, but I still wasn’t going to tell him what he wanted to know. I wanted to put it all behind me. It had been a weird experience, one I hoped never to repeat but one that might play out again in some variation or another before I got back into the swing of dating.
“Thank you for being so concerned about my love life,” I said.
Well. “Love life” was an interesting thing to call it, since it had zero to do with love and since I might rather be dead than have any more clumsy experiences with women who should have been more skilled at sex so far into what Citizen Jim would call the “Lesbolympics.”
“I don’t give a shit about your love life—I just know that convent up in Cullman is closer to where I live than this godforsaken town,” said Citizen Jim. “And I also know the next time I pound on your door unexpectedly, you’d better just answer it! None of this skulking around trying to decide whether to open it, all right?”
That might be doable as long as there wasn’t any more unexpected pounding on my door late at night by someone who claimed she was “worried” because I wasn’t responding to her texts following an evening that will go down in infamy as far as my personal history is concerned.
She obviously wasn’t very “worried” that I might write about it later.