COVID-19 AND FALLING IN LOVE

Herschell Ostripeller looked at the blank wall and felt like writing the number one eighty two on it. One eighty two represented the number of days Herschell had officially been in home isolation.

During his quarantine he had read eight books and had watched more Netflix and Amazon Prime than he would ever admit. There was a couple of shows he really enjoyed, and others he couldn’t figure out. ‘’Monkey King, Watchmen, The Umbrella Academy’’ were all kind of out there. Someday he would do research to try and find out from an academic point of view, if they had any value other than taking up time.

Work had been good and steady. Herschell was fortunate as his line of work didn’t require a normal office set up. He had all the equipment he needed in his basement. He was in the business of transferring home movies and videos to Flash Drives and DVDs. He loved restoring old movies and pictures for people, it gave him a real thrill. He had been busy almost everyday and more old films, photos, and slides were still coming. He prided himself on providing quality work and giving people back their memories.

The way Herschell ran his business was everyone left their boxes with their old films and videos on his doorstep. He brought them into the furnace room in his basement and let them sit there for two weeks before he started working on them. He quarantined the films, videos, and photos because of the pandemic.

One evening Herschell was working on a movie featuring a couple’s wedding in 1950, when the unthinkable happened, it ripped. Herschell was able to edit it back together, but he had to tell the owner.

The next morning he called Lilly Roth to tell her what had happened. She took the news very well and didn’t seem bothered by it at all ‘’Oh, Herschell, Thanks for telling me, but the movie was hanging around for years. It was in a cupboard in the basement. I should have moved much quicker in regards to transferring it. You know my Parents were married for fifty seven years, I didn’t get past six, it will always be the greatest regret of my life. How many years have you been married?’’

Herschell gulped when he answered. ‘’I uh, never had the good fortune to get married. There was all kinds of reasons, but the truth is there’s days that I’m sorry that I didn’t take the plunge, I was always worried about money. I wish I would have had kids.’’ After Herschell shared that information he was sorry. It was ultra personal and it had just slipped out. There was an uncomfortable pause.

‘’Um, I know this could be a bit forward on my part, but Herschell if you’re available tonight, why don’t we FaceTime each other and talk. We can pour a glass of wine and have a date. What do you think?’’

The first thought Herschell had was elation and then fear. He was on an audio call, what if she saw him and wasn’t impressed. On the other hand it was a first meeting, and if things didn’t go well, it would be no harm, no foul.

That night at precisely eight thirty his phone started ringing indicating a Face Time call. Herschell was apprehensive. He sat in four different locations before finding a spot he was comfortable in and he slowly answered.

He had thought Lilly was attractive before, he now thought she was gorgeous. She was sitting on the edge of her bed, holding a glass and smiling at him. ‘’This is nice, just you and I. Herschell where’s your drink? I have a glass of wine here and I don’t like to drink alone.’’

Herschell jumped up and ran to his kitchen, all the while talking to Lilly ‘’I uh, don’t drink a lot. I have about five beers in a year, and not much hard liquor. Sometimes at Kiddish in the Synagogue on Saturday Mornings, I’ll have a shot of scotch, but I’m not a big drinker at all.’’

The truth was Herschell was feeling desparate, what could he drink. He opened up his fridge and pulled out a bottle of Manischewtiz wine, and poured himself half a glass into a red solo plastic cup.

There was laughter coming from Lilly. ‘’That’s so cute Hershey. Do you know how you make Manischewitz wine?’’ Herschell replied ‘’Adding lots of sugar to fermenting grapes?’’ The laughter from Lilly was even more uproarious. ‘’No, you squeeze him by the balls.’’ Herschell laughed, but he didn’t quite get it.

He recovered and sat back down at his favourite spot and sipped his wine, thinking it was probably the first time that he had ever drank Manischewitz outside of a Friday night Shabbat dinner.

‘’So Hershey, I want to know more about you. I find what you do fascinating. Oh and are you seeing anybody? I should have asked that question right away, I don’t want to mow somebody else’s lawn.’’

‘’Well, since Covid-19 hit, the only people I see are in old movies and photos. I haven’t dated for a while.’’ Lilly took a swig of her drink and smiled ‘’Good, so tell me more about yourself. You’re good looking, why haven’t you ever married, I’m intrigued. Whoops, I should have also asked you that question, which side of the plate do you hit from.’’

It took Herschell a couple of seconds to decipher her question. ‘’I uh, hit from the right side of the plate. I hold the bat in my left hand, so I can get better contact when I hit the ball. I haven’t played in a long time, but I was never a switch hitter.’’

Lilly stood up and took a wine bottle from the night stand beside her bed and poured some more wine. ‘’Well, in today’s world you just don’t know. Marty Srealim was married to my friend Joannie. They had two kids and two Grandkids and then one day he told her preferred the company of men, and he wanted a divorce. They had been married almost twenty years. Shortly after the divorce he moved in a with a guy and they’ve been an item ever since. Who would have believed it? You would think Joannie would’ve known, but she said it was a complete surprise. What do you think about that Hershey?’’

Herschell looked at Lilly’s animated face and he wanted to tell her he loved her. He had two conversations with her his entire life, and he felt like he was in love.

‘’I never understood that kind of thing. I have always loved the beauty of women. I’ve admired them. I’m kind of an introvert, but when I see a beautiful woman it just raises my spirits.’’ Lilly smiled ‘’Is that all it raises?’’ There was a pregnant pause, and then they both started laughing.

‘’Do you want to know about my life Hershey?’’ Hershey was intrigued. ‘’Absolutely, you know I love talking with you, it’s so easy.’’ Lilly beamed. ‘’That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Anyways I grew up in a very loving home. My parents adored each other and they showered my Brother, Sister and me with more love than you could ever imagine. They were special people. I adored them both and they adored us. My Dad had a motto ‘’Family First.’’ When I was twenty two I met Joel Zembow and thought I could have the same kind of relationship my parents had. I tried so hard. We had two kids but Joel was a guy who could never see happiness in anything. He had been brought up in a family completely opposite in their ways to mine. He was for lack of a better term a downer. You know the old cliche that ‘’Complainers are Drainers’’ well that fit Joel perfectly. He couldn’t find happiness anywhere with anything. Finally when my kids were old enough I told him that I thought we would both be better off ending our marriage. He was miserable but agreed and we split. He was a Doctor so I was given a hefty settlement and I began a new life. Joel was remarried less than a year later. He seems happier now, and I’m glad for him.’’

Herschell was finishing his Manischewitz while listening intently. ‘’Anyways, I dated a bunch of different men, but I just couldn’t find the right one. Then I met Howard Lieter. He was wonderful. We spent a lot of time together and things were moving towards the marital finish line. We were walking on the beach in Florida one morning and he had a heart attack. He recovered but for some reason our relationship just wasn’t the same, so we mutually decided to split up. That was two years ago, and I’ve been on my own since. I have to confide something in you Hershey, and I know this is the first time we’re talking, but I miss the intimacy. I need that cuddle and hugs that help get you through the day.’’

Herschell was at a loss, the last relationship he had was with Mindy Bernstein. She had said after six months that she really liked him but she found him boring. It was sad, because Mindy was a great girl and Herschell enjoyed her company. He had wished her all the happiness in the world and he was genuine. He wanted Mindy to have a great life, he just would have preferred that she would’ve had it with him.

Lilly was looking at him through the phone. ‘’You okay?’’ Herschell smiled and told her the Mindy story. ‘’You know Hershey people are only boring when they aren’t pushed to do new and exciting things. I found that people will open up and try new things if they’re with the right person. You know two wet matches can’t make a fire.’’

The conversation had been wonderful and Herschell told Lilly that he didn’t remember when he felt so relaxed and enjoyed talking so much. ‘’Hershey, I have a ton of lingerie that I bought when I was dating Howard, I am now going to save it for you.’’ Herschell felt his privates moving involuntarily.

‘’Since we are in Home Isolation, we are going to talk every night, and I will put on different lingerie. Eventually we’ll break out of this crazy quarantine, than you can tell me which pieces you liked the best. I have a Condo in Florida, and we’’ll go there for a couple of weeks and really get to know each other. I will wear some of the lingerie you like. Hershey, I have decided, you and I are going to be together. What do you think?’’

Before Herschell could answer, Lilly let her hair down and it fell around her shoulders. He was mesmerized. ‘’The Manischewitz was good, the conversation was excellent, and you’re beautiful. I’m in.’’

‘’Okay, Hershey, I’m going to let you go now, but we have a date tomorrow night at nine thirty. Get some good wine, cause we’re going to get deeper in our conversation. Hershey, I knew when you called about caring about the movie about my parent’s wedding that you were a good guy. Now I know that we were meant to be together. Hold on to your hat Herschell Ostrepeller, your entire life is going to change for the better. That Mindy Bernstein didn’t know what she was talking about. Good Night.’’

Herschell wanted to kiss the screen, but instead said ‘’Till tomorrow night.’’ They both hung up at the same time and Herschell felt elated. A surge of happiness ran through him like never before. He couldn’t wait to see Lilly again. He had found true happiness in one night, was it really possible?

He was energized and decided to do some work, so he grabbed an old Wedding movie to do a transfer and he knew that marriage was now a feasible option on his life schedule. How crazy was that? As the movie was playing Herschell sat back and thought about something his loving Mother had always told him. ‘’Sometimes the Best things in life come to those who wait.’ She had been right, in one night his life had become a whole lot more interesting and enjoyable. He had found his happiness.

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.