I once had a boyfriend named Fred.
Well, he wasn’t a true boyfriend, but he may have thought so.
Or imagined it, or wanted it, or…
Fred was 90 years old. When I was 41.
He had a Cadillac that he shined every weekend to perfection.
The one with the biggest fins, the heaviest doors, and the longest hood.
Hold that image: it will become important in the story.
Fred was a minute over 5 feet tall and 10 pounds under lightweight limit for boxing. I mention boxing …because it will become important in the story….
Fred was my neighbour when I was a fresh widow, in my early 40s.
Because I felt sorry for the guy when I bumped into him at the garden lounge where we lived, I took to doing the odd chore for him. Anything I can get for you, Fred, I’m oﬀ to the grocery store. You know what I mean.
Soon, he was dropping by when I was cooking for families, who were stuck in exclusive suites in cancer wings of hospitals. One of my income gigs. He liked to be useful as he bustled around. I shuddered to think of him in that Caddie he loved so much because he could barely see over the wheel. But, sure enough one day, he said he wanted to take me out for dinner because I had been so helpful to him.
I looked at him, wondering what it was I saw in those feverish little eyes, but I didn’t recognize anything I could put my finger on. I did, however, find out by this one encounter that there are three times in a woman’s life when she is luminous, radiant, and impossible to forget. When she is getting married, when she is pregnant and when she is a widow.
So, there’s Fred, eyeglasses like Coke bottles knocking on my door for that date. For some reason, I automatically assumed he only polished that Caddie because he couldn’t let it go. No family member in their right mind would allow….? Would they…? I only heard about the ‘son’ he had. I never imagined that he drove the damn thing.
“I’ll pay for the cab,” I said.
He just grinned.
“Oh, no. I’m taking you for a spin!”
“Well, Fred, I just…well…I wonder…if….”
But he was shepherding me to the big, yellow door of the biggest car I had ever seen. Of course, he opened the door for me. Or, eagerly tried to.
Thankfully, the restaurant was only nine minutes away.
Once inside the beast, and strapped in, I looked over at my driver.
He had trouble finding his keys, was sweating profusely and once the Bat Mobile was ignited; stalled the engine. Then with a grunt, he let his baby rip into a bucking jolt as we glided — bumpily — out of the townhouse parking lot.
I don’t know.
What was I thinking? It couldn’t get worse, right? Why didn’t I jump out?
After miraculously turning onto the busy highway - we were now only four blocks from the restaurant - he was peering over the wheel - squinting — when suddenly my passenger door flew open! I was agog. I tried to grab it, but it was heavier than the Great Gate of Ishtar in Babylon. We had to be going 40 mph, but dammit, if Fred didn’t speed up!~ I guess he got nervous. “Oops, I got confused!” he screeched out loud.
We were now two blocks from the safety of Scott’s Restaurant parking lot, but I wondered if we would ever get there. I do not know if the makers of the Curbside Classic l973 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 thought to test these doors for their ability to tilt the passenger side in a leering left-hand dive to the street - as it was traveling 50 mph — but I damn well wanted to ask. I held on for dear life. My dear life.
Fred lurched the car by the side of the road. He started gasping. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. ‘Let’s just go back to the apartment,” I said urgently. Oh, no, he said, we’re going to do this. Could a 90 year-old still be macho?
Once parked, we ambled in, an unlikely duo. Somehow the spirit of the date had drained old Fred. To this day I do not know if he had ‘visions’ of some kind of escapade taking place when he dropped me oﬀ back at our townhouse. But I did note, that the feverish look in his eyes when he asked me out that day, was an asymmetrical match to the burnt-out embers of his eyes when he said goodnight.
I was just glad I didn’t have to punch him in the nose - for not letting his son take away his Driver’s license fifteen-years earlier!