Betsy Wexler and Buzz Kuhns

Buzz Kuhns
“Married For Life”
Inspiration piece
The Exhibit
By Elizabeth (Betsy) Wexler


When I happened upon them, looking into each other’s eyes, I thought: I bet they’ve been together forever.
As it turns out, I was wrong.  But also….right.
I met them at an art opening. They were looking at a painting, then turned to look at each other.  The gaze wasn’t one of puppy love; there was something deep and abiding about it.  I was standing some distance away, there to look at paintings, but far more captivated by them. I took a few steps, moving slowly toward them. I felt like I did when I was hiking and saw a deer and wanted to see how close I could get before it took off.  I guess I wanted to see how close I could get without interrupting their moment.
What I failed to think about was that I always kept going until the deer took off.
So I must not have been aware of the gawking expression on my face as I shuffled towards them, entranced by the energy of their connection. Luckily for me, this didn’t seem to bother them.
They broke their gaze with each other, and she turned towards me, she with a bright shining smile on her face. It lit up her little part of the room, like the strategically placed lights lit up each piece in the exhibit.  A moment later, he turned towards me as well. His expression was considerably less warm and exuberant.
“Hello,” the woman said. “Aren’t these paintings lovely?”
“Lovely,” I repeated, nodding and smiling, relieved they hadn’t gone running, or that she hadn’t begun hitting me over the head with her purse in the manner of an angry woman in a cartoon.
“Do you know the artist?” the man asked me.
“No,” I replied. “Not personally, at least. He’s a friend of a friend, and this is the first exhibit of his I’ve been to.”
She continued to smile at me, with what appeared to be no effort.  He looked around; at paintings, down at his shoes, at his watch.  We seemed to be at the end of small talk.  But something in me had to know what their story was. It was like I couldn’t help myself.
“How long have you two been together?” I blurted out, tossing all social politeness into the wind. I was immediately mortified.
There was no need to be. As I felt the heat of the flush crawl up my neck, the old woman chuckled and looked at her partner. “When do we count from?” she asked him.
He shrugged. “Either one,” he said. He looked bored, not interested at all in my line of questioning.  His phrasing validated my intrigue; now I wanted to know even more.
“We met in high school,” said she. “I won’t tell you how many years ago that was.” She added a wink to her smile when she said that. “Then we went our separate ways, and our paths crossed for a little while. We both still lived here, until my husband was transferred to the west coast, where I lived for more than fifty years. The last time I saw him before two years ago May was in 1961, if you can believe it.”
I felt tongue-tied, so I just nodded.  Sure, I believed it.
The man seemed to come to life then, as he piped up to add to the story.  “I tried to find her a few times after my wife died,” he offered.  “And by ‘tried to find her’ I mean asked my grandkids to look on the Internet. I don’t know how to use that darn thing. I don’t even know what it is. Or where it is.”  His crotchetiness was actually kind of charming; maybe it was because of the subject matter.  “But that was trying to guess where she might live, and look up her name. Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack!”
Even though I knew the happy ending, I was dying of curiosity. “So how did you find her?”

“Didn’t,” he replied. “She found me. Or rather, she found my son. She, unlike me, can use this Internet thing.”
“Where?” I asked, almost breathless. “How?”
“What’s that thing called again?” he asked her, in what I now assumed to be his baseline cranky tone.
She giggled. “Oh, honey!” she said, with exaggerated exasperation. “It’s Facebook. I’ve told you that dozens of times.”
“Facebook?!” I blurted out, incredulous.  “Really?”
“Yes, really,” she responded, her beautific smile never breaking, nor ever seeming any less genuine.  “You think this old dog can’t learn new Internet tricks, eh? I guess I’m lucky he’s a ‘senior’ and has a son with the same name. Also, he moved away when we were younger as well, but came back pretty quickly, unlike me. So it wasn’t a stretch to find him here.”
She turned her head quickly as someone called out to her from across the gallery. “Darling,” she said to him, taking his hand, “Stella appears ready to go. So delightful to meet you!” she said to me as they walked away, hands intertwined.
I watched them wind their way through the people, her hand inside his, as they found their way to Stella.


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