THERE isn’t much to say about love that hasn’t been said in uncountable ways throughout human history. For some, it is a lifetime voyage, for others, a brief road trip. But for the Goetz’s, well . . . Today is their wedding anniversary. 57 years. A love affair that began on a crowded subway car in lower Manhattan when a herd of commuters squeezed in at Church Street. Murray Goetz removed his new Fedora, possessively clutching it to his chest. Sadly, as the crush of bodies swelled with each stop, the cherished hat morphed into a frisbee. On the bright side, it served to mitigate the embarrassment of two strangers pressing against each other. Never at a loss for a quip, Murray smiled at the pretty young woman—who was trying desperately for nonchalance at the rather intimate juxtaposition of their bodies—and said,
“I suppose I will have to marry you, now that we are virtually one.”
She gave him a coy smile. He knew then—after regaining control of his quaking knees—that he had prophesied. Her name, Sylvia, danced around in Murray’s head to the tune of “Hello, Mary Lou.” He could not stop smiling. They discussed a host of topics throughout the long ride uptown, the car becoming less and less packed as their conversation became more and more intimate. They squabbled—playfully—over their divergent political views; namely, the Viet Nam war and the boy-president. Goetz thought the war was a mistake and Kennedy was a lech. Sylvia, of course, adored Kennedy and while opposing all war, believed speaking out against Viet Nam disrespected all those who had given their lives. This continued until he got off at Herald Square, but not before giving her a peck on the cheek and fair warning: “I will have to marry you as it’s clear it will take a lifetime to convince you that you’re wrong about Kennedy.” He narrowly escaped being wedged between the closing doors. Mr. and Mrs. Goetz retired years ago. How many, she cannot remember. She had been a window dresser at Macy’s, where her husband managed the men’s department. She loved her work, but so long as she has her Murray, she does not miss it . . . although the smiles and waves, and sometimes even the suggestive leers as she dressed and undressed the mannequins, made her days enjoyable. She had lots of stories to tell Murray at dinner each night. And he was the most attentive listener, gazing into her eyes and always rebounding with a string of humorous comments. He’s not so quick these days, she thinks. Time, in its unmerciful march onward pays no mind to the heart’s desire to linger, and one day you wake up suddenly old and another day closer to infirmity—or worse. As she has done every day of their marriage, Mrs. Goetz kisses her husband on the top of his head knowing she will not see his face until he’s gotten through the entire New York Times, which, over the years, he’s had to bring closer and closer to his eyes as his vision worsened. His routine has never changed: headlines first, then sports, then financials. He saves the obituaries and editorial page for last. She knows he will have a surprise for her after he’s read his paper. He never forgets their anniversary.
“How about scrambled eggs today, darling?” she asks. “Oh, wait. I think I made scrambled yesterday. Poached. I’ll make poached today. You love poached—with my special mustard sauce. Yes, poached it is.” As she makes her way to the cabinet where she keeps the poacher, the doorbell rings. “Come in Georgie,” she calls out, placing the poacher on the stove then waddling to the door.
“Morning, Mrs. Goetz.”
“Good morning, Georgie,” she says, stretching her neck to look over Georgie’s shoulder. “Where’s your father?”
“Um,” Georgie hesitates, “he won’t be coming today, Mrs. Goetz.”
“I see. Mr. Goetz will be disappointed. Oh, well. Come, sit and have some breakfast.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Goetz, but I . . . ”
“You look especially handsome today, Georgie. You don’t usually wear your uniform when you come to visit.”
“Well, Mrs. Goetz,” he clears his throat. “This is really not a social visit.”
“Our Ruthie would have loved you, Georgie,” she says, chattering away. “Kind and handsome. I wish you could have known her. Would you like some coffee?” Mrs. Goetz is in a talkative mood, as always, but a bit more skittery than usual. Her memory is seriously declining. Georgie figures a few extra minutes will not make a difference. He sits at the small, square table, and centers his eyes on the far wall with its collage of photographs; a lifetime in stills.
“Yes,” she says as she serves him coffee, “Ruthie would have loved you. And you her. She lives in Seattle now, you know. I think. Or is it Savannah? I get the S’s confused,” she chortles. “Mr. Goetz and I don’t see her very often. Tell me, Georgie, do you have a girl?”
Georgie pours some cream into his cup and takes a sip. “Yes, I do. Actually, I have a wife and two boys, Mrs. Goetz. Don’t you remember? Jason and George III?”
“Little Georgie. And Jason. Of course,” she says, unconvincingly. “So, when do you think your father will be here? Mr. Goetz is almost done with the editorials. He will have lots to bicker with George, Sr. about.”
Georgie shifts uncomfortably in his chair. “Mrs. Goetz,” he says quietly, “Papa passed away two years ago, only months before Mr. Goe . . . ” He stops and downs the rest of his coffee, not sure of what to say next. He decides on, “Mr. Goetz said the eulogy because I was too nervous. Remember?”
Sylvia Goetz stares blankly at Georgie for a moment. “Did you say scrambled or poached, dear?”
Georgie pushes away from the table and stands. “Thank you for the coffee, Mrs. Goetz. I really don’t have time for breakfast. Maybe next week.” Georgie extends his hand across the table to retrieve the newspaper.
“No! No, Georgie. Mr. Goetz is not done with his reading yet.” “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Goetz, but I have to take him back to the store now. They’re redressing the windows today.”
*Published in Avalon Review, 2022
Copyright: R.S. Raniere 2022 - Copying and re-distribution of this piece are prohibited without the express consent of the author.