I paused to cast a subtle glance at my facade to check if something looked awry for the public eye. I quickly looked at my zip whose little ring sat snug beneath my belt, safeguarding the intimate part of my fabric. I searched for any prints that my doting dog might have left. The upper part of my cardigan was well buttoned, obstructing a full view of the cleavage of my bosom. I knew I was without a husband and a child, a threat to the custodians of the family hearth. The inquisitive eyes of the passers-by continued to devour my attire. What have I done this time in my censorious town that persecutes and passes its verdict before the defendant learns of the societal charges leveled against her? The contents of gossip, if I happened to be its pivot, never worried my mind, but I felt uncomfortable with notoriety especially that I kept to myself all the time and had never contributed to the backbiting on which their assemblies thrived. I continued to maintain my calm but could not control the flutter of my agitated heart, whose accelerated heartbeats had become a chart of the tempo of the malicious tongues that wagged day and night. For the first time in my life, I wished I had access to their petty lives to see what it was in my harmless existence that aggravated their minds. While preoccupied with a thousand possibilities for diverting attention to the bull’s eye, i.e., my humble person, a whisper caught my ear, which intimated the current obsession with a fifty-nine-year-old.
“She must be opting for early retirement to be reunited with that elderly guy, a retired actor who wears a skirt. She keeps on mentioning his name without a single blush,” said one woman.
The two women simultaneously nodded their heads with certitude at the veracity of their source of news, some student who was misunderstood by those to whom he reported my respect for a Scottish celebrity.
I could not suppress a grin at the ignorance that had prevailed in idle lives. In the absence of a real lover, no wonder people looked for a fictive candidate that could justify the poison that dribbled from their mouths. I approached the two women who were taken aback by my audacious advance and whispered:
“The distance that separated me from that respectable man while he was alive is greater than the one that his demise, years ago, had brought about.”
I turned my back without viewing the shock that my statement hurled down their throats. I knew that for the remainder of my life every word I uttered would be twisted by those who never read a book or found anything interesting to fill the void of their barren existence.