by Nina Rubinstein Alonso
Claire’s desk is next to her sleep sofa in the living room, everything jammed together, as Miguel needed the bed room when he got sick. Then he died and she was too numb to change anything.
At Emily’s potluck, a man with glasses heard she’s a widow and asks ‘how’s it going?’ She not talking feelings with some stranger, but mentions a broken cabinet hinge, smoke alarm batteries.
“Easy fix,” Harry says, and arrives with tools Saturday, fixes the hinge, changes batteris, then says, “Notice you have a back room, wonder if I could stay a few days as I’m between jobs.”
“A few days,” she says, hard to refuse after he helped her, though that was Miguel’s room. A month passes and Harry’s still here, complaining about migraine s as if she’s supposed to care.
She can’t find the classical art book Miguel gave her, but Harry claims he’s never seen it. He starts a job with a data company, seems surprised she expects her loan to be repaid, “I thought it was a gift.”
“A loan, until you found work.”
That job’s quickly lost, can’t pay her back as he’s job-hunting. Suspicious, she checks his room, under his bed, no art book, maybe sold it? What else has he taken?
One morning before work, doing her usual exercises, she feels a pang of depression. She pictures Miguel sitting at the table, aches that he’s not there, touches her cup to hear the physical clink of spoon on pottery. Miguel, her love, died young, cancer, and the table’s empty, nothing but her cup and the Sunday paper she hasn’t opened though it’s Tuesday.
She hears about a man attacked in the park by robbers, hospitalized, wishes it was Harry. Sunday a woodsy fragrance floats from his room, his thin hair’s tweaked by brown dye, and he’s out late. At lunch, her friend Emily says, “I saw Harry at a restaurant Sunday with a red-headed older woman.” “Nasty leech, need to get rid of him.”
“Didn’t know how things were, hesitated to mention it.”
“He fixed a cabinet hinge, changed alarm batteries, asked to stay a few days, now won’t leave.”
“Sorry you met him at our potluck.”
Weeks pass, Emily reporting more Harry sightings.
Claire calls a lawyer, considers a court order to get rid of him, locks up her valuables, but Friday there’s a note taped to the refrigerator asking her to forward his mail to a post office box, his clothes, tv and computer gone. She checks to see what else may be missing, cleans the back room, gets the locks changed, needing to feel safe, but it’s like watching dry fields after long drought, waiting for rain.