Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Bridge (07/31/08)
TITLE: Mrs. Weaver Eliminates the F Word
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I nod. Arlene is being patient. This place is beautiful, just like the last eight she’s shown me.
I’m not ready. I don’t want to sell my house and buy this or any other condo. I don’t want to talk with my children, either. They’re in college, never been married, but now they’ve read a few books and they’re full of expertise. Psycho-babble irritates me.
“This condo association has a huge activities center,” says Arlene, pressing the key into the lock box. She plies me with this because for years I’ve talked about various activities that would be fun to try as soon as the kids are grown. She must not remember Ted was an integral part of those dreams. We were just waiting for the right time. That thought is so profoundly depressing that it’s several minutes before I realize we aren’t going out to the car.
“I told you—the activities center.” I stop. She links her arm in mine and drags me down the carpeted corridor.
“This isn’t how it was supposed to be,” I say. “It isn’t fair—” I sneak a quick glance to see if she’s caught me.
“Stop using the f word,” she says, pushing me through a set of glass double doors. She has every right to say that. She never found Mr. Right. She never had children, although she’s been a great “Aunt Arlene” to mine, and her fibro makes movement on some days unbearable. I should feel ashamed to complain, but my inhibitions are nowhere in sight.
“I’m too young to be a widow,” I continue. Arlene squeezes my bicep. We have come into a large quiet room. Card tables with four people each are arranged in a grid pattern. The woman with her back to us, keeping time, reminds me of someone. Her graying, silvery hair is twisted at the nape of her neck. The Tartan plaid skirt falls to mid calf above her sensible loafers. She turns as if she feels my eyes frisking her.
“It’s your mother!” I blurt under my breath to Arlene.
“I know—I grew up with her, remember?”
“You want me to live in the same complex as your mother?” Mrs. Weaver is striding toward us, her arms already open toward Arlene—or me—it’s hard to tell. She encircles us both.
“What a surprise,” she says in a low voice.
“Just showed Lana one of the units.”
“I didn’t realize this is where you had moved to, Mrs. Weaver—and you've already organized cards.”
“Bridge. But Lana, we’ve lived here over a year and a half.”
She excuses herself because it’s almost time for East and West to move.
“I can’t believe you tried to put me into a retirement community.”
“It’s a social community—for people who aren’t satisfied living as their own little island—isolated.” I check the hair of the bridge players, mostly gray or balding, but there are some darker heads.
“Come on,” says Arlene, reaching up, putting her arm around my shoulder. “Haven’t you always wanted to try bridge, or golf, or skydiving? I always have.” Her skydive? With fibro? She must be joking.
“How can you be so callous? You know all that was wrapped up with Ted.” She removes her arm from me, but I feel the comfort of the phantom appendage. It’s been there since the day Ted died which seems like only a few weeks ago.
“It’s been over two years; I thought you might be ready,” she says.
A possibility slides into my brain: maybe Arlene isn’t joking; maybe she really wants to skydive.
Mrs. Weaver has just set the next game into play and is returning to us. “Have you ever played bridge?” she asks me.
“No—but I’ve thought about it.” I look over at my friend and try to convey my newly acquired enlightenment.
“We play Duplicate Bridge here. I was tired of people complaining everyone else had been dealt better cards. In Duplicate Bridge everyone plays the same hands. It’s what you do with them that makes you a winner. It eliminates the f word.”
Arlene may have problems, but God blessed her with a wise mother. No psycho-babble there.
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