Friday, November 9, 2012

“These old rags will never do.”  Geneva pushes back the numerous “dusters” and house dresses she has accumulated over the years.  Grocery.  That’s all she’s bought for herself.  Of course, there isn’t much income to purchase clothing.  Still, if she’d have skipped buying a house dress or two, she could’ve managed to buy a new dress over a couple of months, even if only from the clothing barn or community center.  But then, why should she?  She’d never actually expected to get a phone call from Quincy asking her out.  Yet he’d called only moments ago explaining that she’d left a bag of cat food at the Cornerstore Market last week.  He’d suggested they meet for coffee this afternoon so he could return it to her.  A Friday morning date.

 Geneva pulls out an old floral print dress and presses it against her body while looking in the mirror.  As she studies her appearance, her eyes rest on the reflection of a photograph of herself from over thirty years ago framed on her dresser.  She takes one hand and caresses her face.  The years have been bitterly kind.  For a moment time flashes to the last date she can remember.  The silly feelings she had hoping to become Mrs. Wellman on that day so many years ago, only to be told that there was already a Mrs. Wellman.  The pain from that experience seemingly etched in her forehead and around her eyes. 

“Oh, this is so silly, PomPom.  This isn’t a date.  I’m just picking up my bag.”  She hangs the dress over the mirror and turns toward PomPom nestled in the center of her bed. “This silly old ninny left your bag of food at the grocers.”  She pets PomPom’s head and begins unwrapping the clothing from her body.  After a few moments, she’s changed and ready to go.  Her hair is pinned in a neat chignon.  She smooths the sides down once more before tying the scarf neatly over her crown and putting on her coat. 

“I shouldn’t be gone long, PomPom,” she calls out as she shuts her door and makes way toward the stairs.  No chance in hoping that the elevator has been fixed.  It’s been broken so long that she’d be afraid to ride it if it were.  Her knees question if Quincy is worth the effort with every stair she takes.  But it isn’t for Quincy she tells herself.  PomPom has to have his food.

It’s a good thing that the coffeehouse is nearby.  Geneva has never been inside.  She’s only passed by a time or two.  This seems a popular spot.  Lots of people buzzing in and out.  She marvels at them, mostly young and middle aged adults.  People huddled together chatting.  Some sound so serious.  Some laughing.  Quincy stands and waves his cane in the crowd.  He’s seated in the back near a window.  Geneva nods and makes her way through the crowd.

“I hope this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience for you.”  Quincy props himself on his cane and pulls out her chair.

“No, I should be thanking you,” Geneva laughs as she takes her seat and nods in appreciation.  “I’ve only passed by this place going this place or the other.  Never been inside.  It’s really nice.”

“It’s usually not so busy this time of the day.  The morning crowds rush in for coffee.  The afternoons are usually mellow.”  Quincy takes his seat and rests his cane on the back of his chair.  “Oh, before I forget…” he pulls a bag from the seat adjacent to his. “This is yours.”  He extends the bag to Geneva.  “Didn’t know you had a cat.  I can usually tell a cat person from a couple of feet away,” he laughs.

Geneva takes the bag and gives a nervous smile. 

“How long have you had your cat?” Quincy inquires.

“I, eh… I’ve-“

“Your coffee, sir.”  The waitress interrupts, placing coffee and condiments on the table.  Quincy gives her a nod and smile as she leaves.

“I hope you don’t mind.  I took the liberty of ordering for you.  It’s only black coffee.  Decaf.  Medium roast.” 

“That’s just fine, Quincy.  Thank you.”  Geneva and Quincy begin personalizing their coffee with sweeteners and creams.  Geneva takes half and half.  She notices a box in the chair that Quincy pulled the bag from.

“A package?” she motions toward the chair.

Quincy is puzzled at first, until he realizes she’s pointing at the box.  “Oh, yes.  I’m sending a care package to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. ”

“That’s very thoughtful of you Quincy.  I’m sure that’ll be much appreciated.  Did you have family there?”

“No, I just always try to do something to help when I can.”  Quincy sips his coffee.  “That’s just right.  Nothing like a nice cup of coffee in good company.”

Geneva smiles as she tests the temperature of hers that’s now cooled slightly from the cold half and half that’s been added.  There’s a sudden noise that startles them both from a table not too far from theirs.  Some patron emotionally charged over the re-election of President Obama to the point that he has lost his ability to communicate his feelings without all those unnecessary sound effects.

“Guess there are some still unsettled about the election,” Quincy scoffs. 

“Well, can’t please everybody,”  Geneva laughs.  Quincy joins her in laughter. 

The two of them sit for about an hour or so, reacquainting themselves.  Geneva learns that Quincy has been married only once.  A widower for only about five years now.  He has two grown sons that are also making careers as servicemen.  Geneva sits and listens to his stories with not much to share about her own. 

“I’d better get to the post office and get this mailed off if I want it included in today’s shipment,”  Quincy announces, preparing the get up with the assistance of his cane.  “Would you be interested in a walk to the post office?  It’s just right around the corner.”

“No, I’ve got to get back,” Geneva lies, not wanting to seem too available.  She also prepares to rise from the table.  Quincy quickly reaches to pull her chair out.  She smiles at him displaying such qualities of a gentleman, wondering how long that could possibly last.  As she picks up her bag and stands, she extends her hand to shake.  “PomPom thanks you,” she says while holding up the bag of cat food.

Sparked by the mention of her cat, Quincy inquires again.  “You know, this is really the strangest thing.  I’ve been deathly allergic to cats all my life.  Can’t stand to be within a few feet of anyone that owns one.  But…my allergies aren’t the least bit bothered by you.”

Geneva gives a nervous smile. 

The waitress comes to clean the table.  “Is there something else I can get you?”

“No,” Geneva nods.  “We’re leaving.”  She looks toward Quincy.  “Thank you again.”  Geneva begins to make her way toward the door, turning back to wave at Quincy.

Quincy nods and picks up the box from the other chair, never taking his eyes off of her.  “I’ll call again.  Another cup of coffee on another day?”  He asks.

Geneva turns and gives and affirmative nod.  “I wouldn’t mind that at all.”  She waves once more as she exits the coffeehouse.

The stroll back to Millford Estates is one of the most pleasant Geneva has had in quite some time.  Her knees don’t ache quite as bad.  Perhaps the small amount of exercise has helped, if only a short walk to the coffeehouse.  As she climbs the steep stone stairs to the entrance she takes in a deep breath and smiles.  Then she opens the heavy, intricately carved mahogany door and carefully makes her way over the threshold.  Some tenants are gathered near the mailboxes just to the left of the entrance.  Guess now’s as good a time as any to check for her new AARP card.  And maybe her new benefits statement arrived.  She slowly moves around the people near the mailboxes, reflecting on the wonderful time she’s had.  While fumbling with her keys she notices that the conversation from those gathered about sounds upsetting. 

“How can they just do this without telling us anything beforehand?” One questions with disappointment.

“It seems like we should get a vote or some say so about what happens to us!” another angrily protests.

“I just moved here a few months ago.  Look like if they knew about this they wouldn’t have accepted new tenants,” sputters someone else.

“Thank God.  I wonder if they’re going to give us some relocation assistance,” sighs another.

Geneva reaches inside her mailbox and pulls out a neatly folded piece of paper addressed to her and taped together.  She gently separates and unfolds the paper, squinting to try and read the typing that is already in large, bold print.

Dear Tenant,

Millford Estates will no longer be available as residential property effective immediately.  You are being asked to vacate within three months of this date.  Your understanding and cooperation is greatly appreciated as we continue to grow and expand in effort to remain a thriving city.       

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