Maybe you should become a woman.
They’d been discussing the five-year gap in life expectancy between men and women and that was the quote his best buddy James chose to end the debate on. It would have been easy for Henry to discard the comment off-hand but somehow he couldn’t shake the thought.
He’d turned 77 a week ago and the ailments of old age were slowly but steadily creeping up on him. Crippling arthritis, weak lungs and the need for a hearing aid were all too poignant remainders of his impending death. His wife Betsy on the other hand, also 77, didn’t seem burdened by old age at all. She hopped and skipped around their service flat in much the same way as when she was 17.
If the statistics were true she wouldn’t be in her grave for at least another six years, while Henry’s time would be up in less than 12 months. So if women do indeed outlive men, it made sense to have a sex change, especially in life’s stoppage time.
You’d make one ugly bird, Betsy at first quipped. But as Henry told her that he was being serious, her face grew pale. And Henry wanted desperately to persuade her because without her approval he’d never go through with it. So persuade her he did, by arguing that he and Betsy would have five years of borrowed time with each other. In the end, she – reluctantly – caved in. The doctors took some convincing as well, but it was nothing a handful of cash couldn’t solve.
Betsy died in her sleep at age 83, as foretold. A mere week later Henrietta too shuffled off her mortal coil. For both the past five years had been the most fulfilling of their lives.
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