Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 83

could sit next to Joe and put a comforting arm across his back. She had discovered that this tiny gesture could open the floodgates of true-life confessions from men who sought her counsel. She curled the fingers of her other hand inside his and the two of them sat in a silence interrupted only by Joe’s intermittent whimpers. While waiting for Joe to ready himself to speak, Nina noticed a small empty space near the kitchen entrance that screamed for a plant stand or a pile of dirty towels or perhaps a dog bed or two for a pet she didn’t have. How had she missed that spot? She shifted in her seat and struggled to rein in her attention.

‘I never learned how to do anything for myself,’ Joe said finally. ‘First, my mother did for me. God bless her, she didn’t want any of her kids to work until they had to. She even did my homework. Then I married and went from one woman taking care of me to another.’

Nina nodded, interspersing Joe’s words with ‘I see’ and ‘Mmm-hmm.’ She could hardly imagine someone else doing things for her, listening to her when things went wrong, like when she’d been let go last month from her job and came home to a lonely apartment. Nina had always fended for herself. Years after her father had left the struggling family, Nina decided to contact him. She wrote a letter filled with curse words and accusations then threw the letter away instead of mailing it. She had felt better for writing it and figured his desertion was a good thing, although unlike the packed rooms in her apartment, he’d left an empty space a plant stand or trash bag couldn't fill. But, Nina figured, the past was a concrete structure; the present a work in progress. It was the present that needed attention.