Irene’s birthday was around the corner and George was worried. He knew women took birthdays seriously as a marker of devotion from their husbands and families, but this year was proving tough. He knew he’d better start considering his options, but he was so conflicted.
“Are you looking forward to your birthday Irene?” George asked her one late afternoon as she was coming in from the garage.
“Why,” she said, closing the car door with a smack. He raised his eyebrows. What the devil could be wrong with asking about her upcoming birthday? She was turning 60 in two weeks and George had been obsessed with planning the ultimate party for Irene.
“George, I have so many other things to think about tonight, like those doctor’s appointments next week. For heaven’s sake, if my cholesterol numbers are up even two points Dr. Martin will start talking again about me taking a statin or whatever-the-hell they call those horrible drugs.”
George was surprised, because he really thought she liked her birthdays, and he had been cooking up the ultimate birthday surprise for Irene in hopes it would turn their marriage around. Well, that might be asking too much, but if money and cleverness could buy some happiness in the marriage he figured it was a fine investment.
He had considered lacy lingerie, but when he walked into Victoria’s Secret at the mall the sales girls’ advances had unnerved him. He would have chosen a black or hot-pink nighty, even knowing Irene preferred beige, but the racks of all the lacy stuff were towards the back and he could not bring himself to take more than a few steps towards the interior. Mandy, one of Irene’s lady friends’ daughters, the one that had played softball with his daughter eons ago, had spotted him. He acknowledged her, spun on his heels and almost ran out of the store. He wondered if she would think he was buying a gift for his lover, which in fact he had the week prior. But she wouldn’t know that he realized, after he had walked down the mall into more conservative Macy’s as a refuge.
Hell, he had worries too. Fourth quarter estimated taxes were due in a week and he didn’t have the money. Irene had asked him very specifically about the due date and whether he had set the money aside this time, and he had lied. “Of course I have,” he told Irene, while squirming in his chair, crossing and uncrossing his feet which he believed were not in her direct line of sight. Another stress to add to the list of marriage behaviors gone wrong.
And then there was that secret appointment he had with the urologist, who seemed to believe he had a nodule which might be prostate cancer. That had scared him enough to call Lucy, his gal-pal, and beg off their weekly rendezvous. He knew Irene was going to need to know the doctor’s suspicions, but all he could think about was how big a fuss she would make over him, how she would immediately begin researching surgical techniques and operating settings and the most highly recommended doctors within a 150 mile radius. Oh, he did not want that. First things first he thought.
Maybe he should call Lucy and ask her advice on the lingerie for Irene? Heck, he could buy two sets of whatever, one for each of them. One less detail to keep straight, one less detail to stumble over the next time his mind waffled between remembering which woman had received which special gift from him.
“George, help me get these groceries out of the car will you?” said Irene. “We can talk about my birthday after dinner.”
“Sure thing Irene,” said George. Sure thing.