Thursday, August 7, 2014

neighbors

She came out toes up. Thin, white. Pale, frail. Still.

She wore an oxygen mask and was covered with a sheet. She didn't move. The ambulance guys loaded her up. Family got into cars. Police hovered. They all drove away.

That was 10 days ago. His car was gone most days, home at night. Then one night I got up for a glass of cold water and looked outside. His car was gone.

In the morning his car was back and after that it stayed in the driveway. Blinds closed, no movement. Their black cat snoozed in the bay window.

Then the son started to come, every day around noon. To feed the cat I guess. Tuesday morning, trash day, there was a sagging black bag of trash at the end of the drive.

Where were they? I read the obituaries every day. I imagined she was dead and he was staying with one of the kids, grieving. They were planning the funeral and writing the obit. He was drinking too much and playing golf with his son-in-law.

Today the son came and rushed around in and out of the house. He'd stop for a moment by the car door, then rush around some more. I wondered if they would sell the house, and I'd get new neighbors. Friendly ones. A man who wouldn't make lewd remarks. A woman who wouldn't pull up freshly planted flowers every week.

Then the son came back, and brought her. She was alive! She wore sandals, bright yellow capri pants, and a white button-down blouse. She got out of the car jauntily, went to the mailbox at the street, and then skipped back to the house. She was alive and walking! She started up the steps and it was like she hit a patch of ice. Except it's August, no ice. Her feet slid to the left and her head went right and smacked down onto the driveway.

Her son helped her up and she walked into the house herself, son two steps behind, arms full of mail. "Put your arm around her!" I thought.

He came dashing outside a few moments later, and scrubbed a fallen birdbath with a rag. Then he ran to the backyard with a watering can. He came back and filled the birdbath, then went back into the house.

They opened blinds and windows, and turned on lights. She was home.

They drove off 10 minutes later, for groceries, I thought. Back in half an hour. But where was the husband? Still golfing and drinking? Moved in with a floozy? Hospitalized with a heart attack?

They never came back. The blinds stayed open.

Did she fall again? She fell in the deli section and an ambulance took her to the ER. She just got out of a skilled unit, recovering from a minor stroke, and had another one in the car. He's still there, recovering from a heart attack. She'll go back, with worsening syncope and more small strokes; they'll share a room. He's gone to Barbados with the bartender from the Elks. Or the volunteer clerk from the hospital gift shop, a high school sweetheart. She hit her head on a watermelon in the grocery store and didn't make it. They're all at camp. I glance out the window and worry.

The cat is alone. 

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