Delores had more dead friends than live ones.
How unfair life is, she thought. You get close to someone and then they die. What was the point?
Was there one?
And the worst part, the saddest most baffling thing of all, was how nobody seemed to notice. A person loses someone who is, or was, their one and only, and the world keeps turning like it always had; like nothing happened. Don’t these people realize that someone is missing? A human being was here yesterday but gone today, and nobody notices? It’s right there on the obituary page! Can’t they read?
The news still comes on at its regular time, the mailman delivers mail, people go to work, come home, and everything is business as usual. The sun rises in the morning and sets at night. Birds chirp — what the hell is wrong with them? Don’t they know? And the magnolia trees! What nerve they have to fragrance the air with the same sweet smell that she and Eddie used to…
Delores slammed kitchen window shut — silencing the birds and suffocating the memory-stinging aroma of magnolia trees in bloom.
Mother Nature is one ballsy bitch, that’s for sure.
She muted and then turned off the TV. She didn’t want to hear or see the world.
Delores decided that a person could be in the world, but not of it. She had plenty of books to read; they could be her friends. Books never change, go away, or die. They all have endings of course, but then you re-read them. You know what to expect. No surprises, no suspense, none of the crap that day-to-day life shoves down your throat. Books are perfect. Books can be controlled.
Delores wasn’t feeling sorry for herself; she was simply cutting her losses. The less often you say hello, the less often you have to say goodbye. It’s like smoking cigarettes. At least a person could gauge the rate at which they died, since they were going to, anyway. If you don’t play in the street, there is less chance of being hit by a car.
No doubt about it: Delores is staying on the porch. Let the big dogs run the streets and get their hearts broken, run over by cars — or both.
Being a bartender put Delores in the line of fire every day. She was forced to interact with others, but it wasn’t like real life. She was sober and they were either drunk, or well on their way. She had the upper hand and was in control. Delores let her customers and co-workers only get so close. Her protective barrier kept them at a comfortable distance, and herself, tucked safely inside. There was quite an art to it, this sleight of hand; the illusion of casual intimacy. People thought they knew Delores. To them, she seemed to be an open and engaging woman. Yet, none of the men ever dared to ask her out on a date. Subconsciously they knew their boundaries, but did not understand, nor did they think to question why.
“Hey, Dlorz!” Jimmy slurred from the far end of the bar. “How’s come you always wear gray? You got no other colors of clothes?”
“What other colors are there?” Delores grinned and set a fresh bottle of Bud in front of him.
One evening a clingy young couple came in during Delores’ shift and sat in a quiet booth toward the back of the bar.
“Cripes,” Delores mumbled. She hated dealing with people in love. It made her want to puke. They reminded her of Eddie and what should have been.
As she mixed the gentleman’s Jack & Coke, Delores remembered last time she fixed that same drink for Eddie. In making the girl’s Cosmo, the growing lump in Delores’ throat caused her vision to blur and she over-poured. Delores saved the extra for herself.
She watched the couple from across the bar as she sipped the leftover Cosmo. Although Eddie was never far from her thoughts, the memories they’d made together blasted fresh and sharp and clean.
“Hey, Dlorz” Jimmy slurped his beer. “How come you don’t have a boyfriend? Pretty as you are…an’ stuff…”
She glanced at Jimmy. “He doesn’t live around here.”
Delores went back to watching the happy couple and wishing she was with Eddie.