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Things Sam Never Said
Christopher Woods

When Sam was alive, he and Dolores dined out often in fine restaurants, but usually in silence. Dolores has told me this much. It seems that they had little to talk about. She tells me how she might comment on the vegetables, the quality of the service, all to no avail. Sam, busy with whatever he was eating or thinking, rarely answered her. He might nod, or, as was often the case when Sam drank red wine, simply nod out.

I never met Sam. Now that he has been dead for two years, I like to think that Dolores tells me everything she told him. But with me, there is a difference. We talk a great deal. I listen. I provide the other half of the conversation. For this, Dolores is thankful, I know.

Yes, the escargot could do with more garlic. No, I'm certain this Bordeaux is drier than the one we drank last week. And of course, I'm willing to try that new sushi bar that just opened.

Dolores never cared for Charles when I lived with him. She did not disapprove of two men living together in that way, and she was quite emphatic about that. Rather, it was that particular union, Charles and myself, which bothered her greatly. So she seemed pleased the evening I told her I was leaving Charles. I announced this news in a drunken state, over carne asada in a Mexican cantina. Her eyes sparkled.

That Charles had actually left me, and for a younger man, did not matter to Dolores. She was, quite simply, both glad and relieved that he was gone. She did not pry for details. After all, the news itself was the heart of the matter. The news, and that I would be living alone for the first time since my own relationship with Dolores had begun.

She made sure that I had little time by myself. She wasn't going to give me the chance to ruminate. She increased the tempo of our social life. Oh, I was aware that we were moving quite beyond the client-companion relationship. But this was fine with me. I had nowhere else to go, at least for the moment. So I allowed it to happen. We were constantly at parties, gallery openings, at charity functions for this and that. And, more and more, we were dining out. The latter, I soon realized, was for Dolores a form of spiritual rejuvenation.

What Dolores and I have in common is something dictated by an unwritten contract. It goes undiscussed. The money, believe me, is relatively unimportant. To Dolores, money means nothing. For me, it is nice enough to pay my rent, buy new clothes and have plenty of spending cash. I drive Sam's old Seville. If Dolores finds some kind of continuity in all this, she has not said so. Still, the expensive watch I wear never missed a beat from the time it was slipped from Sam's wrist to my own.

I am not without responsibilities, mind you. Dolores depends on me, perhaps more than she did on Sam. I keep track of things, remind her of appointments with attorneys, analysts, doctors, furriers and beauticians. I buy the concert tickets and pick up her dry cleaning. I shop for her, I think because she believes my taste is better than her own. I begin each morning with a list of errands, and I am lucky if by late afternoon I have crossed every item through.

Just before he left, Charles told me I was only another of Dolores' possessions. I believe this was simply vindictiveness on his part. It's not as though I receive payment for my every duty to her. And frankly, I don't know what I would do if I didn't have Dolores to organize my life. Many people, in all kinds of relationships receive much less, I know.

Later, when Dolores dies, a hefty settlement is to come my way. I know what the doctor has told her, but she refuses to discuss it. When she showed me her will, I looked away. But I am not a complete fool, no matter what Charles said. I know that Dolores will take care of me, even after she is gone. It encourages me to do what I can for her, while I still can.

Keeping busy this way is good. Time I spend with Dolores is time I would otherwise spend looking for another version of Charles. That in itself is nebulous, and probably a dead end, I know.

Several nights ago, in an Italian cafe, Dolores said she wanted an after-dinner drink. Dolores never eats desserts. So she opted for Sambucca, but was unsure if she had drunk it before. Naturally, I keep track of these matters. I reminded her that she had first drunk Sambucca last year, in a salon de te in the Zona Rosa, in Mexico City.

It is in this way that I feel we are closer than blood relatives. In fact, Dolores and I had fled to Mexico because she prefers to spend holidays with me than with her own family. So when I reminded her of the Sambucca, I also reminded her how she had found the notion of floating coffee beans quite quaint. There, at that table in the Zona Rosa, she had asked me to make a mental note, in the event the matter should arise again. So it is like I have a file cabinet in my head for such matters. It is in this way that I have become indispensable for her. I know her life as well as she does. Perhaps better, as I am often called on to correct her faulty memory. In turn, Dolores knows me very well. She is always aware if I am seeing someone, or if I have found another version of Charles. She doesn't even need to ask. She can smell another man on my skin like cologne.

Probably it is the smells of these other men that precipitate our frequent trips. Dolores knows how a Concorde flight or a two-week cruise can break any emotional hold someone might have on me. Given my penchant for rough men, she can almost anticipate my various bruising seasons. Without a word or a wand, Dolores makes these men, as well as my fascination for them, suddenly disappear. And although I might feel a tinge of momentary regret, I also know that, in the long run, it is better this way.

All this because Dolores knows I cannot sustain any kind of relationship. I have been consistent in my failures. Delicately, then, she reminds me of fiascoes large and small. Kindly, she overlooks my brief trysts with bellboys and stewards. It is as though she allows me these fleeting moments, much as she does my scuba lessons. And it is not lost on me that, were I not traveling with Dolores, I would never have met these men, however briefly.

We stay so very busy. It seems there is never enough time to do everything we plan. We discuss all things, worldly and not. Dolores says it is a shame that someone like me should be in such short supply in this world. Of course, I quickly return the compliment. After all, I am cared for. I am safe. Without Dolores, I would be somewhere else, being someone else. I don't like to imagine those possibilities.

And it truly is amazing. For being forty-odd years apart, Dolores and I are remarkably alike. She says that she believes we were siblings in another life. I rather like the idea of this. How else can I possibly explain this thing between us? How else to describe the wonderful silence that fills the room as we sit on her loveseat, sipping our brandy?

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