Our first real disagreement erupted at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning in late May. Aubrey and I hardly knew each other at the time. We had spent a total of three weekends together since we met in early March—the first on a blissful fishing trip in the Ozarks, the other two trading visits between his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and mine in Memphis. We had both been married before: he, a recent widower; I, married twice, a divorcee and a widow. He was retired. I was the owner of a contemporary art gallery in Memphis and a partner in a gallery on 57th Street in New York City. We'd been introduced by his cousin from Baltimore, a lifelong friend of mine. The attraction was instantaneous, so much so that we spent those six days together in pure enjoyment of our late-in-life pleasures and commonalities, believing that each of us had found perfection in the other. Without warning, during our second cup of coffee after breakfast, we began having a stupid argument.
"You're really a stubborn broad," Aubrey said in response to my refusal to spend the remainder of the morning with him.
"What do you mean?" I asked, shocked by his insulting bluntness. "I told you I had to go to the gallery on Saturday morning. I have an appointment with an artist. You knew that."
"You told me you might have an appointment on Saturday morning, but if I flew down to Memphis for the weekend, you'd change it."
"I did not say that," I said, stiffening my spine and feeling my heart begin to race. "Obviously you didn't listen to me, and now you're calling me a liar."
"You see," he said with a grin. He had a wide smile that generally dispelled the seriousness of any discussion, but he continued to make his point. "You're a stubborn broad. It's your way or the highway."
"Well, what about you?" I felt sickened by waves of prior marital arguments surging up through layers of memory. I'd thought Aubrey would be different. "Aren't you the one being stubborn?"
Aubrey sat back in his chair. "Maybe I'm not the right man for you," he said, half making a statement, half asking a question.
"Maybe you're not!" I crossed my arms, feeling defiant, but in the next second I regretted the whole ridiculous discussion. What were we talking about? I thought I had met the man of my dreams, and we were about to throw the whole thing out the window over an absurd argument. Closing my eyes, I suddenly saw a mental picture of "the list." It had been in the back of my closet for five years. What would Aubrey think of the list?
"I have an idea," I said. I left the kitchen, and several minutes later I came back with the list in my hand. I held the small sheaf of papers out to him. "Read this, and you decide if you are the right man for me." I turned on my heel and marched down the hallway to my room, as if following stage directions.