He came to dinner every third Thursday. Tonight he’d brought a lovely white wine to go with the fish dish she’d emailed about on the e-vite. He sat in the car and watched her window. She was home, had been home for an hour – one hour and twelve minutes. He wasn’t expected for another forty-seven minutes and he preferred to wait at a distance and watch her slipping into her clothes.
He liked to watch her. He liked to be early and sit in his car and imagine she was getting dressed for him. He wanted to think she picked the green cotton dress and the little polka dot shoes from the closet shelf to please him. He liked to believe she dressed to attract his attention. He wanted to think she dressed for him in the matching pink bra and underwear – also polka dot, she had a theme for everything tonight. From the dinner dishes to how she dressed her lovely body. He liked the way she smoothed the green fabric over her belly and turned in front of the mirror in the flattering lamplight. She turned and smiled, he believed in anticipation of his arrival.
He knew that she didn’t. Ten people would be at her Third Thursday dinner party. Ten. There would be her, and him, and eight others. Others. Always there were others. She passed by the fluttering paper-thin curtains and he saw her check all the place settings at her gigantic table. It was a heavy wooden table that some friend of hers had made and that kept her at dinner conversation distance from him every Third Thursday.
He was too far to hear the sound, but saw her head turn, and she moved to open her door. The first dinner guests had arrived. Her oldest friends, ones that sat on the good end of the conversation sea were there and there was hugging, and kissing and laughing. He felt himself beginning to sweat, and he couldn’t even hear them yet.
Her oldest friends were the perfect example of opposites attract. A death metal guitarist, and her tax attorney husband – they immediately helped themselves to drinks. They always arrived first. There was a mathematical length of time known formula that made their early arrival make sense, makes sense and feel not at all uncomfortable.
Every Third Thursday meant nothing to them. They came whenever, or didn’t come at all. They would likely be welcome on a Monday, or even a Saturday, welcome without invitation. They didn’t have to wait in the car until at least half the guests had arrived. They did not have to avoid being in a room alone with her. They didn’t have to bring a bottle of wine, or spend an hour each week thinking of things to say to her, refining them, and editing them to make them seem casual when they came each Third Thursday.
They came and went and were comfortable. He looked at them all and held the wine in his hands, gripping it tighter and tighter, waiting for the next couple to arrive. He sat waiting and knowing, waiting and knowing he could never go up her stairs empty handed.