He sat facing
the naked, scrawny,
redheaded woman.
A plexiglass window
divided them.
He inserted tokens
at regular intervals
so the shade
wouldn't drop down.
He found himself
infatuated with her
or at least
obsessed with her
and visited
her booth
several times
before stalking her,
secretly following her
when she left work
and made her way
to her shabby Hell's Kitchen
apartment building.
It somehow gratified him
to imagine
this homely woman
was his wife.
A wife
who only spoke to him
when he paid her
to sit opposite him
in a peep booth.
A wife
who did not know
she was being stalked.
He wished
he could visit
her apartment
when she wasn't there,
but had to imagine it,
He imagined
she had a small black and white TV
with rabbit ears
which only got
3 analogue stations
- - no cable,
and that she slept on
fine Egyptian cotton sheets
with thread counts in the thousands.
And that she had
cute little nephews and nieces
in New Jersey
that she doted on
and often visited.
None of her
Jersey relatives
knew what she did
for a living.
They thought
she was a technician
in a blood testing lab
- -a job she had quit
years ago.

Some part of him
she lived
an entirely different life
from the wife life
he imagined for her.

But her real life
meant nothing to him
and was unimaginable
and was probably wrapped around
addiction to an opiate.

In time,
he found himself
yearning for a divorce.
This, he realized,
he could arrange
without his fantasy wife's
knowledge or permission.
But what about alimony?
Wasn't a settlement in order,
even if she
made more than he?
He decided a dollar
was the proper token,
stuffed one
in an envelope
with no return address
and no note,
and mailed it
to her
Hell's Kitchen apartment.

He felt well quit of her
and never returned
to her booth
and stopped stalking her.
He rarely thought of her,
but when he did,
it made him sad
to think of the children
they never had- -
"They would have been
quite ugly,
and possibly stupid
and lazy,
but lovable, "
- -and the trips
to Europe
and the Caribbean
they never took.

When he thought of her
at all,
he called her Wanda,
his third wife,
and the best
of his three marriages,
the first two
having been
all too real.

by Doug Lane

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