Aunt Emily’s Marital Status
Aunt Emily never got married. Said she never wanted to get married. And even if she did, she told me one afternoon sitting under the tree in her backyard. The only man she’d ever even consider marrying married somebody else. She told me this, grey whisps of hair moving around her face like little ghost fingers, caressing the high cheek bones.
“I know he fancied me ,” she said. That’s the word she used. “But then he stopped coming around. For no reason at all.”
I said why didn’t she ask him. “Oh no”, she said, her eyes getting bigger. “Women didn’t do that kind of thing back then.”
And anyway, she confessed, at that time she was kind of interested in the guy that did deliveries for the drug store down the street. “I know he liked me too”, she said.
“How”? I asked her, blowing on the hot tea in my cup.
“Well”, the grey blue eyes looked straight into mine. “Whenever he drove past my house”, she whispered the secret, “he always looked right over here. I’m sure he was trying to get a glimpse of me. He never married either. Lives a few blocks away now. I see him every now and then”.
“Why don’t you invite him for dinner or a coffee or something”, I told her. “Show him you’re interested.”
“ Oh no”, her eyes fluttered, the lids blinking up and down, crinkled at the corners from a small smile on her lips. “I could never do that. What would he think? It’s up to the man to make the first move. And heaven knows I’ve waited a lot of years for that”.
“But Aunt Emily, what if he’s just shy and can’t do it. It’s okay now a days to make the first move you know.“
“Oh, I know dear”. She got up off the chair and walked toward the flower bed. “But it’s much too late for that. Besides, my life is very full you know. I don’t really have room for a man”. She bent down and pulled at a tiny weed that managed to survive her last round in the garden.
“But Aunt Em, there’s always room for love. And besides, there’s no such thing as full, except in measuring cups and gas tanks”.
“And there’s no such thing as empty”, she turned and looked at me, her eyes challenging mine. “Except in daydreams and idle hands”.
A cool wind started to blow,making us get up and move back into the wood frame house she grew up in. I’ll get the cups, I told her. You go ahead inside. Her cup had blown over in the wind, spilling the brown liquid on the pink crocheted doily. She made them by the dozens for church sales and welcome gifts. Hours and hours of delicate work.
That was so many years ago. We never talked about it again. Each time I saw her, the lines on her face were deeper, like pencil etchings on a pale grey canvas. And each time I saw her, all I could think of was what could have been. Aunt Emily died at the age of 86. At her funeral, they talked about her generous spirit, her gentle manner.
After she died, I roamed through the empty house, and collected the doilies. There’s no such thing as empty, she told me, sensing my observance of her life. No, I said to the memory of our talk together. But you can fill empty with more than these. I gathered them into a bag for the thrift shop and closed the door behind me. The tree in the back yard moved to a puff of wind that pushed against my hair.
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