Epilogue: The Smell of a Woman

In bed beside his sleeping wife, an older man muses on his past lovers.

An excerpt:

He had first become aware of the smell of a woman at rest when he was seventeen and Laura brought him into her bed. He had thought of it as Laura's smell but eventually, with Debra and Sharona and his first wife and Beth and the others, he had come to realize that it was the natural smell of a human female. Sharon and Judy and Fiona and Faith would have had the same smell if they had ever been in bed with him. He wondered about Monnie. She had been eleven; would she have smelled the same? Probably not, he thought, but it would have developed as she matured.

He had been thinking about all of them recently. He had searched for them on the internet. Almost all of them were dead now, including his first and third wives.

Monnie had died of breast cancer at fifty-eight, so those tiny buds she showed him had grown to kill her. Sharon had died "unexpectedly" at only forty-four. Judy had died at forty-six of a cerebral hemorrhage. Ironically, Fiona, the oldest of all, had outlived all three of them; she had died just a few years before at nearly ninety.

Only Sharona, Beth, Karen, and his second wife were still alive. Sharona was still touring, still performing, at the age of seventy-six. Beth had married right after graduating from college and was widowed at sixty-four, after being married for forty-two years; she had four children and eleven grandchildren. Karen had left the area abruptly with her mother, who had remarried and moved to Florida. He had lost track of his one remaining ex-wife, who seemed to have been traveling randomly since their divorce.

Sally and Faith had died early in the year, within a few days of each other. Cancer killed Sally just before her seventieth birthday while Faith died of no specified cause two weeks before her eighty-second birthday.

Faith's death hit him hardest of all. He hadn't seen her in almost sixty-five years, so he remembered her as an eighteen-year-old who had just graduated from high school. He remembered her, too, when she was fourteen, the Snow Princess who swirled into his life on the wings of the wind, sparkling with snow.

Half dozing, he saw them as a chorus, briefly all naked, then all clothed in flowing robes. But what could they be singing? A song title popped into his head: "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," and he choked off the reflexive laughter at his jocular subconscious.

Buy Love, Sex, and Other Calamities as a paperback or Kindle e-book.