The man nodded his head toward the young couple,
"I was just commenting on young love. They seem to be very much in love. I doubt if they know that anyone else is in the restaurant."
Beth looked over at the couple and gave the man a weak smile. She thought to herself that it would be great if their love could remain as bright in the future as it apparently was today. She wondered to herself if all love dimmed with time. She wondered if it ever became so dim that it wasn't worth trying to relight the spark.
"My daughter and her husband were once that much in love," the old man said snapping Beth back into the present.
Beth smiled and looked down at her glass. Her table-mate was beginning to go where Beth didn't want to go. There was a period of silence as the old man began to take a sip of his coffee.
"Do you and your wife live in the city?" Beth asked to turn the conversation to a place where she would feel more comfortable.
"No, my wife passed on several years ago. I'm afraid that she worried about our daughter so much that she neglected her own needs."
"I'm sorry," Beth said, "Is your daughter alright now... I mean are she and her husband okay now?"
As soon as the words were out of her mouth she wished that she hadn't said them. Beth wished that there had been other seats open. She didn't really want company today.
"No, they've gone their separate ways. They stayed together for years leading separate lives. They both gave up on the marriage years before they called it quits. It was just little things that began to eat on them and the little things would fester until they became large issues. They both retreated into themselves and they both used alcohol as a crutch."
Beth looked around the restaurant and saw that no one was looking their way. She tried to take another sip of her drink and found that it was empty. She put the glass down.
"Sometimes a marriage just can't be saved," Beth said.
"I'm afraid that they didn't really try to save it very hard," the old man continued,
"like so many other coupes they lost the will to communicate with each other. I guess they expected each other to instinctively know what the other was thinking or needed. The alcohol gave them an excuse to avoid talking out their problems."
Beth began to think of her own marriage. She and Bruce rarely had any conversation except to gripe about something one or the other had said or some imagined slight by one of them. It suddenly hit her that she and Bruce were each living their own lives while living in the same house.
Bruce hadn't talked about his work in several years.
She never talked to Bruce about her work.
"I've never been able to figure why couples stop talking to each other," the old man said, "it just seems so natural to talk to each other and find outhow your spouse's day went. Has our world gotten so fast that we haven't the time to talk to each other anymore? How can couples forget the qualities that brought them together in the first place?
We spend so much time worrying about the small things that we forget to live."
"Did your daughter ever remarry?" Beth asked.
"No. I'm afraid that my daughter has become a bitter woman. She looks for the faults in every man that she meets and she always seems to find some flaw in the man that she feels she could never put up with. She spends her evenings watching television with a drink in her hand. I don't know whatever happened to her ex-husband. The last time I saw him was at a sales conference in Dallas. He was so drunk that he didn't even recognize me. People were going out of their way to avoid him. I've never understood why some people feel that alcohol will numb the pain that they feel."
Beth didn't say anything for a while. She knew that if she gave the old man any clue to what her marriage was like she would start crying. The old man's words were hitting her right in the gut. She and Bruce were just a short way from hating each other. She began to wonder when her marriage would end; they just couldn't go on like this. She was very unhappy and she knew that Bruce was too.
She became aware that the old man was saying something to her, "I'm sorry.My mind was beginning to wander. What did you say?"
"I said that your husband is a very lucky man. You are obviously very intelligent, you carry yourself with confidence and you're very beautiful. He's a lucky man indeed."
Tears came to Beth's eyes, "I'm afraid that he doesn't feel that way. We're just two people that are living in the same house. I don't know why we even live together anymore."
"Did you love each other once?" the man asked.
Beth nodded her head. If she had tried to talk she would have started to sob. She still loved Bruce but she couldn't stand the way they had grown apart. She wanted him around but she was uncomfortable being around him.They never discussed anything anymore.
The old man put his hand over hers. "Do you talk to each other anymore?"
Beth shook her head.
"Please try to talk to him," the old man continued, "Some men try to keep all of their troubles hidden inside of them. They seem to have to prove to the woman that they can conquer anything. I guess that it's a macho thing. Men often forget that a woman needs to talk to her mate and feel a closeness to him. Promise me that you'll try to talk to him. See if there's still a spark of love that you get reignited. I can see in your eyes that you still love him but the pain that you have caused each other is causing you both to withdraw into yourselves."
Beth stood up with tears in her eyes, "Please excuse me. I'll be back."
She hurried to the ladies room before she started sobbing. In the ladies room she stood for a long time staring into the mirror at her reflection.When the tears stopped she fixed her makeup and went back into the restaurant.
As she neared her table she saw that the chair that the old man had been sitting in was empty. The chair was pushed in as if no one had been there.
The waitress came to the table, "Are you ready to order now?"
Beth looked up at the pleasant woman standing next to her, "What happened to the man that was sitting with me?"
The waitress put her hand on Beth's shoulder, "Are you driving today? ShouldI bring you a coffee? You've been sitting here alone since you came in. How about I get you a coffee."
The waitress left and soon came back with a coffee. Beth ordered a turkeyclub sandwich. While her food was being prepared she tried to think about the old man. He was real, she knew that. Maybe others couldn't see him, but Beth knew that she and the old man had talked.
When her sandwich came she just picked at it and thought about what the old man had said. Beth and Bruce had to talk. They had too many years invested in their marriage to just let it die. They had two fine children to raise and prepare for life.
A smile came to Beth's lips.
Prepare her children for their future;
Beth and Bruce weren't doing such a great job themselves.