The Lunch Date
Written by: Frank Cormier
“Please have a seat, Mr. O’Brien,” the receptionist cordially said. “I’ll let Ms. Walsh know you are here.”
Mr. O’Brien took his customary seat adjacent to the tinted glass double entrance doors and placed the brown paper bag he had carried in on the solid oak coffee table, being careful to place a magazine under it first so that it wouldn’t mar the wood finish. How many times had his wife forgotten her lunch this month, he silently wondered? He had forgotten how many times he had made her lunch over the past forty plus years of their marriage. “I guess we all forget things,” he said to no one as he sat in the large foyer alone. “I can’t recall the receptionist’s name, so I can’t really blame Mary for forgetting her lunch. She hasn’t been the same since the cancer treatments.”
He removed a pad and pen from his tweed sport coat and wrote himself a note to ask the doctor if chemotherapy had an adverse effect on a person’s memory. As he went to return the pad, it slipped from his fingers and dropped to the floor and fell open on a different page. He slowly picked up the pad, a single tear rolling down his left cheek, and read the handwritten note aloud: “To My Darling Husband, You are my rock, my everything. I will love you always. XO Love, Mary”
His thoughts were interrupted by a whaling ambulance passing by the front entrance of the building on the busy city street. He watched intensely until the ambulance disappeared around the corner. The sight and sound of the ambulance registering deep in his subconscious but not yielding the reasons why he was fixated by it.
He reached over and grabbed the lunch bag, placing it on his lap and opened it to check that he packed the things she liked: ham and Swiss cheese on rye with spicy brown mustard, plain Greek yogurt, apple slices, and a single Hershey’s Kiss.
“Mary has such a sweet tooth,” he said cheerfully to the opened bag, “thankfully her diabetes isn’t all that bad that a single piece of chocolate can hurt her.”
He rolled the bag closed and looked around the foyer, then checked his wrist watch growing concerned that the receptionist hadn’t come back with Mary. It’s not like her to be so late, he silently said.
“I’ll get her a new watch for her birthday,” he said aloud to one of the ferns guarding the interior of the entrance doors, “it’s in two days.” He reached for his pen and pad and wrote himself a reminder.
The front doors opened and a nurse dressed in scrubs walked in and took a seat next to him.
“Hi, Mr. O’Brien,” she pleasantly said. “How are you today?”
He had a bewildered look as he tried to figure out who this person was and why she knew him?
“I’m fine,” he said, and then asked, “Do I know you, and where is Mary?”
“Yes, sir,” she kindly offered. “I’m nurse Walsh. The visiting caregiver assigned to check up on you. Mary is no longer here.”
“What do you mean not here?” he asked a bit short tempered.
“Mr. O’Brien, your wife died a little over a month ago. She doesn’t work here anymore.”
“Died?” he asked, bewildered once more.
“Yes, sir,” she said, and then asked, “Is that the lunch I made for you this morning?”
“No!” he screamed at her. “I made this for my wife! Now where is she!?”
Ms. Walsh reached over and gently held his hand. He didn’t fight her, searching her eyes looking for a clue or any sign that she might betray the whereabouts of his wife.
The receptionist had returned to her desk and watched in silence as Ms. Walsh, with one arm draped over Mr. O’Brien’s shoulder and the other one still holding his hand, led him through the doors, exiting the building, the same humane and caring way she had already done several times this month, and the brown paper bag left behind each time, until their next lunch date.
Copyright (C) 2016 by Frank Cormier. All rights reserved.