Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewidowed

I don’t know what possessed me, but ten days after the love of my life died, I joined an internet dating site. A cup of coffee with a nice, bearded fellow might make me feel not exactly better, but less awful. My dead husband hasn’t even crossed my line of vision during unconscious hours. Until an ex-boyfriend popped up right before I woke this morning, I hadn’t dreamed at all.

“Why you?” I asked him, in the dream. “Why not Josef?” He shrugged. Maybe a date with some bland stranger would spark a dream about Josef, who would smile and laugh with me at the sight of the date spilling a few drops of coffee. Josef would nod, understand me wishing the guy were him.

Join dating sites in haste and repent at leisure: they will never let you go. Click on the “unsubscribe” button, and some many-headed hydra, inhaling a key word, snorts out smoke, fire, three more sites. Their patrons write: “Hello, dear!” or “I’m ready to meet my especial woman,” or “I am glad to meet you! Very important is the first impression of the person.” Exactly. We’ve never met. The candidates don’t want to meet me. They just want to know whether I like breakfast in bed.

None mention—before slavering over horizontal gymnastics— going to a museum or on a walk or out for coffee. One of the faces looked just right: friendly, sober, middle-aged. I almost clicked on the button that lets you add a person as a contact. Cautious, I thought I’d first open the link he’d posted as a Christmas greeting: a singer stroking her thighs as she caroled, apparently while undergoing an orgasm.

Nobody says what I’d like to hear: “I’m a middle-aged, bookish guy who enjoys theater and ballet. Would you like to meet for a cappuccino in a very public place, like maybe Edeka, from which either of us can escape on any excuse, blending into the norm of buying bell peppers, coffee and recycled toilet paper?”

I’d be fine with a widower—the only type who’d understand that if my dead spouse miraculously reappeared, I’d be out the door like a shot, even if I’d promised this new, other man the world. A man who loved his wife dearly, who will always miss her, who wouldn’t want to marry again because he knows marriage is for children and property, but who likes company—that’s the kind of guy who might not repel me.

Since clicking the “unsubscribe” button never works, I’ve tried typing into the self-description box, “I’ve asked the site to unsubscribe me. Please unsubscribe me.”

The advantage of having so foolishly rushed back into what I thought might be the possibility of dinner for more than one is that I’m kept busier deleting this whole new category of spam. Keeping busy is the thing to do when you’ve just lost your best friend, your heart, your everything.

Plus, they’re lining up around the block to meet a 62-year-old postmenopausal lady with metastatic breast cancer. That’s in check, though, my doctors optimistic, my miracle pills doing the trick. I imagine myself hooting after a fleeing scaredy-cat. “I’m good for, probably, at least another five or ten years!”

It’s not the sort of thing you mention on your first coffee date. Or your second glass of red wine date. Or the stroll along the crowded public street date, or the date in the café where you can say you’re heading for the Ladies room but exit smoothly from the kitchen. The only one who understood and loved me even more was my husband. Who still declines to stroll through my dreams, even to make a cameo appearance, who still doesn’t reply when I talk to him, who didn’t even show up for my birthday. When I realized he wouldn’t, I nearly fainted in Edeka, near the zucchini. I finger my rings, only they’re not on my hand—just indentations on my skin where they used to sit.

Melissa Knox's book is Divorcing Mom (Cynren, 2019). Recent work has appeared in Lunch, The Citron Review, and West Texas Literary Review. She writes a blog, The Critical Mom. https://melissaknox.com