One recent, pleasant evening, I was sitting on my front porch reading the Atlantic. The Atlantic used to be known as Atlantic Monthly, but has recently gone “bi.” Most think of the Atlantic as a high quality, thoughtful magazine composed of great writing, good articles and stories sprinkled with elitism and demonstrating a disdain for the less than Eastern educated, fly over bimbos. However, I find it is both interesting and stimulating even if some might consider me one of those bimbos.

I was engrossed in an article about Winston Churchill, my favorite hero of the twentieth century.  Churchill had a propensity for carrying large sums of debt despite his fame and considerable holdings. His taste in cigars, scotch whiskey, suits, and gourmet food was quite legendary. He also had a fetish for wearing pink, silk underwear. It is also known that Churchill fathered five boys, so…

As I was contemplating this unusual facet of the Churchill personality, I was startled by a voice near me saying, “Evening, Mike. Doing some reading?” Taken aback, I looked up and saw my neighbor Bob standing there, out for an evening stroll. I was about to tell him “hi,” but before I could even return his greeting he found a chair and sat down.

Before I could tell him about Churchill’s underwear he began to tell me about his recent trip in his new twenty-five-year-old RV. To understand Bob you had to know that his wife died a year or so before. I doubt that they were ever too much in love. Bob always seemed perturbed with her and didn’t give her much time. He certainly didn’t show much remorse when she passed–no burial, no service, just cremation and “what’s next.”

Bob is one of the tightest men I have ever known, exceeding my own father’s ability to hold on to a buck. Bob had taken to buying old RVs, fixing them up, taking one trip in them and then selling the RV for a tidy profit. He once bought a light fixture from me for five dollars. He rewired it, shined it up and sold it for a hundred dollars at a garage sale. That was Bob.

When his wife Loraine was alive she was his only company. Now, he just puts his moistened finger in the air to check the wind’s direction and off he goes. He drove until he was tired of not talking and then came home. After his trips of three days to three weeks he always came by to tell me about his adventure.

Bob also likes to cruise. He is one to always eat on the top level with the screaming kids so he could be sure to eat for free and not have to tip. He regularly invites Jan, my wife, and me to accompany him. Recently, he has taken to asking me if he could take Jan on a cruise or an RV trip without me. He said, “There would be no sex.” He just wanted the company and enjoyed visiting with Jan. I explained that I wasn’t sure about it and that he would have to take it up with her. Yes, Jan turned him down.

Finally, as I was becoming eager to get back to the pink underwear, Bob brought up the subject of live theatre. We agreed that there were some good productions for a town of Kerrville’s size. I asked him what he liked about theatre. His response was, “the intermission.” He said he liked to go out to the lobby, mix with the people and get close to all of the activity…maybe find a couple people to talk to. That comment struck a chord with me and got me to thinking about Bob’s situation.

After more banter, we said good-bye and Bob left. He wanted to finish his walk before dark. I watched him walk away. A sense of compassion and sorrow swept over me. I could just imagine Bob in a crowd of people at a theatre, a searching, pensive look in his eyes, a smile on his face that wasn’t quite happy, looking around and hoping someone would reach out to him and engage in a conversation.

 This “lonely” stuff can be a tough business. 

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