There she suddenly was, in the dentist’s waiting room, just the two of them.
He understated his joy as he’d always had to when they met.
“Nice to see you again. Been months.”
“Years,” she corrected.
“You’re looking nice,” he said, understating her eyes and mouth, as he’d always had to.
When he saw she wasn’t wearing her wedding ring he approached his face to hers, as he’d never dared to.
“There’s something I always wanted to tell you,” he said, on the point of finally breaking free of understatement.
But the neighbor’s phone jangled behind his wall and dispelled the two of them, she back into nothing, he close to nothing in his solitary bed with his aching tooth.
He shut his eyes against the morning light and tried to return to her. Of course he couldn’t, disbarred by awareness that they were separated by something vaster than the Atlantic, even more definitive than all those decades (decades, not years, as she’d said).
His own phone jangled: the dentist: miraculously, a slot was open that morning.
By the time he showered and dressed and finally located his social security card, the miraculous encounter with the dead woman had evaporated from his mind.
Soon he sat in the crowded waiting room among strangers, confident in the power of Novocain to end that circumscribed ache.