Copyright is held by the author.
EACH TIME she sees Hank in the recreation room, Alice feels her stomach itch. Little butterflies start to frolic around inside her. She hasn’t felt like this for over six decades. Had she ever been in love with Barry? She cannot remember. He’s been dead for 15 years now. They’d been very good friends, yes, but lovers?
And now she doesn’t walk in the hallways of the home for the elderly anymore, no, she floats. All her fellow inmates, who stumble behind their walkers, afraid to fall, give her a nasty look as she overtakes them nonchalantly, sliding almost, smiling, murmuring a happy tune that seems to have come to her out of nowhere.
Hank! Why him? He is a nice man, sure, but falling in love at this age? There’s no future in it, Alice concludes and tries to direct her attention to other, mundane things. Knitting. What if she would make him a nice shawl? No! Forget it, Alice! she reproaches herself.
But her feelings intensify. She can’t avoid seeing him in the recreation room, playing cards with his friends, laughing. And when they pass each other in the hallway, another thing that’s unavoidable, he always gives her that sweet smile of his. Is it possible that he also . . . ? No, Alice, no! Don’t go there.
She no longer sleeps at night, Hank’s face appearing before her mind’s eye like a ghost. A pretty ghost. A friendly one. Oh my God, Alice thinks, desperate now. What can I do? Telling Hank? No, that’s impossible. He might laugh her in the face. She would be made a fool of. Still, she has to find a way to express her feelings, or she will suffocate.
Alice decides to confide in her best friend.
“Betsy,” she starts, “I have to tell you something delicate. It needs to remain a secret, though. Can I trust you?”
Betsy promises to keep quiet but is so excited about her friend’s sensational secret (love between the elderly!) that she cannot help herself and has to share it with someone. Carmen swears to keep her mouth shut but is too flabbergasted. Alice, with Hank? So she tells Joyce. And Joyce tells Susan, who tells Fred. Fred talks to Simon, dear Simon who always is a bit confused. And Simon tells Hank.
“What are you saying? Alice, in love with ME?” Hank’s face turns red. He has been secretly observing Alice for a while now but considers his feelings to be an old man’s foolishness. It will pass, he thinks. He is too shy to confront her, anyway. She might laugh him in the face. His friends would make a fool of him. He wouldn’t dare to enter the recreation room again. Ever. No more card games. No more fun. Better not to risk it. And then, there’s no future in it anyway. Forget it, Hank! he reproaches himself.
But now everything has changed. Alice in love with him, who would have thought? What to do now? Hank lies awake all night, Alice’s face appearing before him like a dear ghost’s. Oh my God, Hank thinks, how can I let her know? In the end, he finds a solution that makes him laugh out loud.
First thing next morning, Hank goes to see Simon.
“Simon,” he says. “Can you keep a secret?”