The woman now living with him was not his wife, though she did look and sound and act a lot like his wife. They’d been married for forty-seven years. Then she disappeared. One day: gone. He made flyers, stacks of brightly colored paper that proclaimed “WOMAN MISSING! WOMAN MISSING! WOMAN MISSING!”, sent them in a large Manila envelope to her hometown but heard nothing back. Then this other woman appeared. Was there. In his house. Saying his name. Folding his socks. He told this to the doctor.
The doctor then asked, “How long has she—this woman—been living with you?”
“Oh, couple weeks I guess, more or less.”
“And she’s not your wife?”
“No. I know my wife. She’s similar. Remarkably similar. But there are differences. Subtle differences. Stuff only I’d know. Textures.”
“Have you… talked to this other woman about this?”
“Sure, we talk. Not the way I talked with my wife. But we talk.”
“And… she’s okay with you knowing that she’s not your wife?”
“And you? You’re okay with her… being there, in the house, living with you… but not being your wife?”
“I’m okay with it. Doesn’t seem like there’s much of a choice in the matter, though. She’s there, I’m there. Must say, really, she’s a pretty good cook. Boils down to I guess I’m used to living with someone. You get set in your ways. I’m old. I know that. I lose skin every day. Memories. Things are falling away, away from me fast. She’s okay, though, the other woman. Her perfume takes me places.”
The doctor tapped his pen and made some more scribbles in his chart, and the man living with the woman who was not wife waited for him to ask the next question, and as he waited he thought of the other woman waiting in the waiting room, wondering if she was still there or if she’d left too. If it had happened once it could happen twice. The exam room smelled of cleaners and chemicals yet seemed unclean. He was seventy-eight, or maybe even seventy-nine already, and this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.