He said she should come back for the meat loaf. So, when the senior dining menu was published, Daisy searched for meat loaf day. There it was, April 13th. That’s when she’d go back to the senior center to see him again.
She didn’t catch his name. Maybe Brian or Brad, something with a B, but she caught his look. He was tall, thin but not too thin, not skinny, and he wore khaki pants with a belt and a button shirt, a businessman’s shirt, which she liked a lot because her husband had worn shirts like those. They still hung in his closet, stiff from the cleaners, waiting to be loaded up in the trunk of the car to be taken to Goodwill. She’d thought about doing that – having it be part of her grief process like the counselor suggested – but the shirts seemed too heavy to lift, too bulky, too likely to get tangled up in a big knot of hangers so she just let them hang
It occurred to Daisy that she could go back to the senior center anytime and Brian, let’s call him Brian for the time being, might be there. But she didn’t want it to seem like she was stalking him. Probably every other widow at the center, and there had to be dozens of them, had their eye on him. Senior centers are notorious fly traps for single men, well, she thought he was single, there hadn’t been a woman with him when they had the meat loaf conversation but then he was pouring coffee, volunteering, she guessed. Daisy had a hunch Brian wouldn’t start talking about meat loaf with a strange woman unless he was unattached. That was nonsense and she knew it but that’s what she decided to think for the time being.
She decided to go alone to the senior center on meat loaf day. Her mother always told her that if you want a boy to talk to you, then don’t stand around with all your girlfriends. Daisy paid her $3 voluntary contribution and took her ticket to a seat at a table in the far corner, hoping no one would sit next to her. Soon, the dining hall volunteer brought her a tray. There it was, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a pear for dessert. But no sign of Brian. Instead, another man was pouring coffee and offering water. Daisy said yes to both, kicking herself for a weird meat loaf dream becoming part of her life the past two weeks.
“Hey there! I told you to come back for the meat loaf and you did!” Brian pulled out the chair across the table from her and sat down. He held his meal ticket in his hand and within seconds, the volunteer appeared. “Hope you don’t mind that I plopped myself down here. Everybody pretty much eats with everybody here. That okay with you?”
“Yes, yes. Of course, I like having the company.” Daisy tried to stab a green bean, but her fork fell out of her hand and clattered to the floor.
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll get you another fork.” Brian, if that was his actual name, was on his feet in a second, taking long strides to the window to the kitchen where he retrieved a clean fork, bringing it back to Daisy like a piece of chocolate cake. With a flourish, he said, “Here you go! Bon appetit or Happy Meat Loaf as we say!”
From that moment until they’d each finished their not very ripe pears, Brian asked Daisy questions. Did she come to the senior center often? What activities did she like? Did her friends come with her? What did she do before she retired? Did she like tai chi? Did she speak a foreign language? Was she interested in birdwatching?
Daisy reveled in this questioning. It felt warm and golden, caressing even. She hadn’t had this kind of attention in a long time. When she answered Brian’s questions, yes, that turned out to be his name, she felt interesting, that she had suddenly become an interesting person. The last two years had been a drought, empty rooms filled at first with friends’ kind invitations to lunch, and then vast stretches of time with no one, nothing, except Jordy, her son in California, calling every Tuesday to check in.
To be continued