Her mother once called her home a “museum” because it was immaculate and timely ornamented with her expensive fascinations. Even her bedroom’s crown molding was painted to match her designer duvet.
She lived alone. And she loved it. She had a great neighbor who checked on her constantly. Such attention wasn’t annoying, it was comforting and very helpful. He brought coolers when the power went out, tarped her roof in the driving rain, and best of all, helped her exercise the patio.
Outside, they shared stories, delightful bottles of wine, always from the same vineyard, and he unceasingly arrived with his adorable black lab by his side. Never on a leash, this dog wasn’t leaving her neighbor’s side. In the cold, she provided blankets to keep him warm.
On her patio, they would talk for hours – sometimes gunshots would come from the nearby city, but they were always safe. Safe in her museum with a curator she couldn’t imagine losing.
Then he left. In one night, he was gone. His house remained the same but he and his precious puppy were nowhere to be found. She figured they must have gone on one of their hunting trips, but days and weeks went by and he never returned.
Missing her companion’s late-night talks and his amazing taste in wine, she rambled around her museum, lost. Nights usually spent relaxing turned into nights spent working, something she probably should have done before, but now, she felt no other option.
Knowing the local liquor store owner knew the man by name, she sought a bottle from the vineyard they always shared. Oddly, the store owner didn’t know the winery and offered her what he guaranteed was the man’s favorite. Knowing it was not, she purchased it anyway.
It was October, getting harsh enough when red wine in insulated glasses was necessary to keep it from getting cold. It was odd, she thought, that she had never been in the man’s house. He had been in hers a great deal, to offer help on this or that, or tell her the color of a newly painted wall was, “interesting and certainly reflected her personality.”
But they never shared wine inside, only on the patio and only on the weekday evenings. She assumed he had a social life or family obligations like she, but apparently, she was wrong. After he left, never did a person come to the door, other than the police after she filed a missing person’s report. She never saw anyone enter or exit the house before he left and after, it was only the bank representatives and the auctioneer’s team that went to his door.
Driving home, she saw the usual panhandlers holding signs reading “will work for food” or “disabled and homeless”, but this time, when the light turned red, she noticed one of the regulars held a sign that read, “need wine.” The panhandler quickly approached her car as she smiled and held out the bottle she purchased only minutes before.
Seeing the man on the street corner smacked her back into reality forcing her to remember that trying to recreate the past will always waste the present.