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Is He Still With The Ex?

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"Herb is great. He's divorced. Successful and a successful lawyer," India Berman assures me on the phone. "So go. It's time for romance."

"Divorced men are on the lookout for younger women," I say. ''Widowed men want you to sleep in their dead wife's bed."

"So go. He's a great date," India insists.

Anyway, I ponder if dating is harder as a widow or a divorcee?

Friday evening, Herb arrives. He's one of those men who is ageless -- fit, with short-cropped silver hair, suspicious hazel eyes. He looks like Tony Bennett. We get into his silver Mercedes that smells like new leather and from the radio Frank Sinatra sings "My Funny Valentine." Through the side mirror, I notice Herb checking me out. He wears a cool black pin stripe suit, his blown out hair puffed up.

"India says you're -- sixty four?" he says after a while, changing lanes.

"Actually, I just turned seventy. India lied."

"Most women lie about their age," he says with an irritated sigh. "How long have you been widowed?"

"I'm divorced," I reply.

"India said that you're a widow," he peevishly says.

"India lied again. Guess she thinks that widowed sounds better than divorced."

"Did you divorce him?" he asks in an imperious tone.

"No, he left. It was years ago."

"My ex wanted the divorce," he says, sighing.

Then he gets all sad sack. For sure he's one of those I-love-my-ex-wife- men, I think. So I change the subject and ask questions about his career. He's a prosecutor," he informs me.

"I don't believe in incarceration," I say. "Poor kids thrown in the pen for drug charges and given life and turn into hardened criminal. Awful."

"What do you want!" he shouts, jerking the car to a stop in front of the restaurant. "You want them running the streets and robbing and raping? You sound like a god damn hippie!"

A waiter leads us down steep stairs, past photographs of movie stars and famous politicians, to a booth. Maybe a drink will loosen up his sudden solemnity, I think. We order martinis and immediately, the martini relaxes me and I order a second one.

We make small talk -- how many years divorced, kids, the good snow for ski season, political gossip, stuff like that. Then he pops vitamin pills.

"Doc can't believe what good health I'm in," he says, as if to no one, rapping his knuckles on the top of the table. "I look in the mirror and I say, Herb. You're a young buck. To hell with Viagra. It's Viagra Falls for me."

"The raviolis are great," I say, trying not to stuff my face.

"My ex-wife and I eat here often."

"So you and your ex are friends?" I ask.

He shrugs.

"My ex-wife would only have sex with me on Tuesday nights, the night before her hair extensions were changed."

"What does she do?" I ask, after a grim silence.

"Lives off me. And plays golf." He pauses. "She's young--"

He shows me a picture of her. She's blonde with hair extensions, fake boobs and an injected face.

"She looks like one of the housewives of Orange County," I say, thinking he's a bad boy boomer.

"I prefer dating widows," he continues, on his fourth martini." They have money and aren't so needy. Divorced older women want my money."

"Well, in this society, the only way some newly divorced or widowed women sixty plus can make money is to inherit or fall in Safeway," I say.

He glances at his watch. "I have an early morning tennis game. So I should get going."

"Sure. Uh huh." I ponder if he was widowed would he be different? More open for a relationship, or just the garden-variety jerk?

After dinner, we walk towards his car. He carries his left over swordfish in a styraphone box. The moon forms a dim light in the sky. He has to get up early. He has a tennis game at six.

In the car, he pops in three TUM tablets. He drives into the night.

Barbara Rose Brooker is a native San Franciscan. Her latest novel, The Viagra Diaries, will be re-published by Simon & Schuster next year. HBO is making a television series of The Viagra Diaries with Goldie Hawn. Brooker's new novel, Love, Sometimes, will also be published the end of next year.