“Aussie, I have to leave you for the evening.”

“Where are you going?”

“I have a date.”

“A what?”

“A date, Aussie.”

“What’s that?”

“A date is when I meet a man and we spend a little time together.”

“A man? But you had a man! You had Bernie!”

“That’s true, Auss, but in case you haven’t noticed, he hasn’t been around much lately.”

“So you want to meet a new man? How many men do you need in your life?”

“A couple.”

“Together or one at a time?”

“Aussie, don’t be cheeky. You know how a good friend of mine refers to you now? Cheeks.”

“Because I have a cute butt?”

“I’m talking about one man, Aussie. November will be three years since Bernie died. For most of that time, at least till Lori and Henry joined us, it was just you and me.”

“Poor girl, was that too much suffering for you?”

“No, Auss, you’re good company, for a dog. I miss someone to talk to—”

“You talk to me lots. And I talk back!”

“But you don’t listen, Aussie. I mean, listen deeply. And I miss being part of a couple.”

“You were a couple—with Bernie. How could you even think of being a couple with anybody else? I’m ashamed of you.”

“Aussie, I can’t feel guilty about not wanting to wake up alone in the morning. About talking to somebody over a cup of Italian coffee.”

“What do you want to talk about that you can’t talk over with me?”

“My internal life.”

“Oh, that.”

“You know, feelings, ideas, insights, questions.”

“Boring! With Bernie you traveled. You did things, you built things!”

“We had a great time, but Aussie, things change. There’s death and there’s rebirth. I want to find new meaning for my life, a new way of being in the world, a new way of caring—and also being cared for.”

“You’ll never find anybody like Bernie.”

“I’m not looking for anybody like Bernie, one Bernie is enough for one lifetime. But endings can be new beginnings.”

“You can have your new beginning alone, or just with me.”

“I’ve thought about that, Aussie. To tell you the truth, I have no idea if I can have a new beginning with someone else. Living like this for almost three years, I’ve learned to appreciate the freedom and independence. It takes a lot of effort to be with someone. But I miss having fun. I miss laughter and sharing.”

“You have fun, laughter, and sharing with me, and look what a pain in the neck I am. Besides, what’s everybody going to say?”

Good luck, I hope. I don’t recall jumping into the flames when we put Bernie’s body into the crematorium.”

“You know what you are? You’re greedy. You’re 71, time to relax, time to stop, but not you. You always want more in your life. More! More! More!”

“There’s some truth in what you say, Auss. But it’s not just more and more, I try to be more discerning about what I want in my life. For example, do I really want to live with a dog forever?”

“Are you kidding me? I’m the best thing you got! You’ll never meet a man like me: Funny, loves water, loves to run, lots of chutzpa and in-your-face bullshit, never sleeps in your bed—the perfect companion!”

“Don’t forget cheeky, Auss.”

“Yes, got a cute butt, too.”

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