So, today I did something mildly social. I went to the Taste of Des Moines. It is like Taste of Chicago only smaller, much smaller and not as cool. My husband and I used to work one of the concessions there years ago when we belonged to a local Jaycee chapter.
I went with my friend, Vicki. Going anywhere with Vick guarantees that I will pay at least partial attention to my surroundings because she pays close attention and it rubs off. We ran into people I had not seen since the wake. Before that I had not seen any of these people in two years or more. Most since before Will got sick.
I am acutely aware of people’s discomfort when they run across me these days. I am not sure if they feel guilty for the lack of interaction and support for me or Will, or if it is because they expect me to dissolve into a puddle should they inadvertently mention Will, or because they believe that I should be head to toe in black taffetta with my face veiled.
I take a perverse pleasure in knowing I make them uneasy and I shouldn’t. They were never more than friendly acquaintances. No different than the friendships you develop with people you work with. They don’t last past the job or the situation. Occassionally you get lucky. Like with Vicki. Or my friend Meg, who I met through my first middle school teaching position, and her family who are nearly indistinguishable from my own family now for all intent and purposes.
But that doesn’t happen often. Usually, when circumstances change – new jobs, new neighborhoods, new social circles, the old ones fade into people you used to know. The one good thing about today was that no one tried to hug me, and I no longer feel any antipathy towards these people. They are just people. Frail. Imperfect. I wanted to run myself when the reality of Will’s illness hit, so I can hardly blame a bunch of intimate strangers for hightailing it to emotional high ground.
What did bother me though were all the couples I saw. I see couples. Everywhere and I miss being one of them. While statistically the majority of people in my age group may be uncoupled, nothing will ever convince me that it is a preferable state of being. Being widowed is not the same as being a “spinster”, now there is a word fraught with even worse connotations than the one I find myself saddled with, but it is not any less undesirable. And I can’t say that I am worried that I will never meet anyone or marry again. It will happen. But in the meantime, I am alone and I don’t like it. Got me daydreaming about Tractor Man again. Pleasant, but intangible. Still in all, not a bad day’s work.