Vera’s death was just last December, and I am missing her on this May evening, as our forty-third anniversary approaches. I need time and space by myself, to think. A view of the Mississippi River twisting and turning sharply, as I am right now, would set the tone. A drink and something good to eat would be nice—a martini, a very good steak, a favorite after-dinner drink.
The car almost drives itself across the Wabasha Bridge to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where Vera and I often sat together at the Carousel Restaurant on the top floor, chatting like magpies, holding hands, teasingly rubbing knees under the table. She loved the twenty-two-story ride in the glassed-in elevator to the top, which I take tonight, to dine alone there for the first time in years.
From my lofty perch, I see empty barges riding high toward Minneapolis, full ones coming back, hunkered down in the water by their loads of grain. At sunset, city lights flicker on and wink flirtatiously, enticing people to come out and have fun—wherever their spirits take them.
I’m missing my partner tonight, but as I gaze down at the constant river, I realize that the feeling is different than it used to be. It’s not the desperate lonely of before; it is a tranquil lonely, a contented lonely, as if I am ready to accept that Vera is gone.
I finish a Drambuie, spellbound by the High Bridge, watching white headlights of cars coming across, red taillights going. A peace settles over me like the warm, comforting embrace of my childhood patchwork quilt. I am alone, but it’s okay. Tonight, I, too, am crossing a bridge, on a sometimes-bumpy road to my new life.
W. F. (Bill) Cento is either a glutton for punishment or a very slow learner. He came from a nice warm place in the South to a place where his automobile battery froze at least fifteen times during his first winter here in 1963. AAA threatened to revoke his membership. That should have been hint enough, but he’s still here nearly fifty years later.