Shopping for a Boyfriend
She wanted a boyfriend, to boast about it to her mother, to shut her up once and for all.
By Robert Israel
She wanted a boyfriend, to boast about it to her mother, to shut her up once and for all. Her mother had a boyfriend, her brother was married and her father was remarried. She lived alone with her cat. She was the only one without someone. Her mother was incessantly badgering her about it.
Faced with a summer break and no boyfriend, she booked passage with her mother to Italy, a mother-daughter trip, a chance to get away from a boyfriendless life.
They arrived in Florence cranky from the long trip. They checked into the hotel and found a church where they spent time admiring the frescos. They stopped at an outdoor café and her mother ordered an espresso, and she ordered a bottle of water sans fiz.
She looked around her and noticed a man with dark wavy hair splayed across his head in ringlets, and he sported a gold earring and an open-necked shirt with a gold chain around his neck and a gold pinky ring. The woman beside him, a fashionista, was wearing a cotton dress and sandals that looked like they had been worn during Etruscan times with the leather straps laced up her feet and she sat with her feet dangling, wriggling her toes as if she were toe-painting on an invisible canvas.
Suddenly, apropos of nothing, the man leaned over and kissed the woman on the lips, a long, languid, sweet kiss. She must’ve made a sigh because her mother stared at her while glancing at the couple who were now locked together tasting of each other’s tongues.
“Well, at least she’s loved,” her mother said.
And it all came back, her mother’s tiresome badgering, she felt the heat rise up from her neck and form in molten pools around her cheeks and under her eyes and the spittle in her mouth got stuck in her throat when she tried to swallow, she wanted to spit at her mother the way a cornered cat might spit and sneer and expose its claws.
Her mother rose up out of her seat quickly, paid the bill and announced that they’d now head off shopping. They stopped at stores and an outdoor market and several hours later they trundled back to their hotel with their packages and sacks of trinkets and foodstuffs. Soon they collapsed onto adjoining beds. In the morning, neither of them mentioned the incident again.
When she returned home a week later she commenced her search. She took out an ad describing her attributes on a website where she had also posted her pixelated photo.
She received several responses, some from men who forwarded photographs of schlongs, so she blocked them from her in-box. The men she ended up dating weren’t much better, whelps who at first seemed to improve after nurturance but later who proved to be unworthy of the affection she gave freely that they could not – or chose not to -- return.
Finally she selected from all these responses a particularly mangy mutt of a man who, while not dynamic, at least had table manners. When her mother called – and her mother always called on Sunday – he was there at her dining room table, politely nibbling on a serving of chicken wings which he ate carefully with a knife and a fork.
“I won’t be able to talk long,” she told her mother hurriedly. “John is here. We’re just finishing supper. Yes, John. No, you haven’t met him. He’s my boyfriend.”
John, hearing this appellation, wiped the corners of his mouth, folded his napkin and rubbed his tired eyes. He made sure he brought his plate to the sink before he retired to the couch.
She hung up the phone. She washed and stacked the dinnerware. She watched, beaming, as he pulled his knees up to his chest and rocked himself to sleep.