After 10 years of solitude, Carlotta had all but given up on the ability to imagine life with a man once more. This time of absence was her own doing, though it was largely the fault of the menopause; which was now nearing its end. The curse had turned into a bitter coming of age story. As her words shot out of her mouth, laced with turpentine just at the tips of the letters, that would leave a mark on anyone she had an opinion about. And these days this was just about anyone. Her pheromones would emit a scent, that was not enticing any more than if she had been a rotting corpse left out on a table to dry. One by one her friends had walked away, too tired of the dark energy that stood near her, even though they too were in the crisis of aging.
Each woman can only tolerate their own pain and each man is looking for one who is not yet touched; if he is lucky. She saw herself as a hag, up in a tree in an apple orchard, throwing barely ripe fruit down; on people who came near her. She tried to explain to people what was going on; to no avail. How could anyone understand a personal crisis which is designed for the individual? While they all know that the Grim Reaper, with his sickle, can come to call any day, and this is expected, most try not to think about it until the time comes; and then it is too late. When the old woman begins to emerge, it is like looking out your window one day and noticing the neighbor has installed a new walkway, that he had been working on for weeks and you had ignored. One day Carlotta had looked in the mirror and wondered who had suddenly appeared before her.
Like those widows walks, that dot the California coastline, on their lovely old mansions of yesteryear, Carlotta felt a kinship with the women who would have stood there. Day after day, waiting for their men to come home. With their abdomens tight and their eyes wide, hands on their forehead as if in a salute, searching the waters for their husbands ship to finally come in. Doing diligence to a love they couldn’t even remember; if they had had. Would she ever feel the touch of a sturdy hand, grabbing her waist, drawing her close after a long day at the office? Or the scent of aftershave in the bath, that lingered on as a permanent fixture tethered to the wall? A man had now taken on a different meaning for her. No longer did she dream of starched white dresses and veils, that would be pulled back to reveal a virgin primed for the big day. Gone was the hope of having children to raise with strict guidance but a lot of love. She had no fantasy that she might bring back a time long gone but that she would meet a friend and a lover who met her head on; with respect and generosity, passion and principles. A man who would welcome her spirit and embrace her strong wit with pride.
Just then, as the decade passed, a torrent of rain had come from out of nowhere. Drowning the streets with racing waters, struggling to find an outlet where they would feel comfortable, settling in a home where they were meant to be. It lasted for even 10 long days and then on the eleventh a strange man appeared in town; someone of European descent, who was not expected in these parts. He had heard about the town from a friend back home. A friend who had urged him to expand his business. Assuring him, that he had the good sense and capital, to make a success with a product that was sorely needed here. As the roads were nearly impassable, he became lost and confused and found his way to a home sticking out of the ground high on a hill, so that it was impervious to the waters. It was dark but the lights, over the door, fashioned to look like candles, beckoned him forward and he had no choice but to stop and ask for help.
As their eyes met, there in the foyer, at an odd angle since the lantern hung low. It was enough to cause him to glance down at her over the light, whereupon he had the sense that he was coming home. Carlotta peered up at him, realizing that the weight of her age had disappeared, and a smile pursed on her lips; that she had forgotten how much she missed. They stood there, neither saying a word, just staring at each other as the conversation of souls began to ensue. None of them knew or cared how much time had passed but suddenly he came from around the light to properly introduce himself. Carlotta nodded, then led him into the room to be seated and she served him some tea.
The neighbors had never seen Carlotta with another man, as she had moved into the house alone. Soon they could not remember her without one. They too, would forget the week that had rained for 10 days. It was the lawns that had become green and lush again, and the flowers awoke with brighter colors than before. The man set up his business and became richer than he could imagine; now that he was happy and settled and had no financial worries ever again. And when the time came for the Grim Reaper to hang his sickle over their door, they duly came forward arm and arm; following him into the night.
Something I wrote after reading “100 Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I wrote this story originally on July 13, 2017.