Busy doing nothing but picking lint off the blanket across her knees. She had tried calling her niece earlier, but, like the last twenty times she had called, her niece didn't pick up. The phone
just rang and didn’t kick over to voice mail. It was so damned odd.
Her life had become pretty small. Occasional calls to her niece, less occasional calls to her son, and quick exchanges with other carriers made up her social interactions. She delivered bundles of newspapers to stores in the area. The only job she could find at her age.
She had tried searching for over a year. She’d quickly gotten used to walking in and seeing the glances at the sagging neck, the beginning of jowls and the gray hair. After only six interviews over that year, she had given up. She had started the delivery route over two and a half years ago. She was fine with it; it would do.
She had moved all her things out of storage soon after starting the route. The boxes, accommodated along walls and filling the corners of rooms, created a good base for a hoarder’s paradise. She was always so tired after lifting, throwing bundles and driving, that organizing, cleaning and letting go of memories was beyond her physical or emotional capability. She, continually, ached all over.
Her days were wake up at midnight, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, pick up and deliver the bundles, come home, shower, smoke cigarettes, then sleep to start the cycle again upon awakening. She tried to ignore her feeling a bit lost, a bit depressed, a bit dead inside.
He entered the apartment. The front door opened only so far and the air was stuffy. The cats were gone. The local humane society had two new residents. The litter boxes were there, full and odorous. He walked into the hallway. It was filled with furniture, boxes and a solid layer of dust. There was a table loaded with two bird cages and various planting pots. Next to that was an old desk, worn boxes piled three high and two across. He walked into the living room from the entry hallway to the only visual rest, a small bookcase filled with books, two deep on some shelves. Although filled, there was order to the bookcase, unlike the rest of the apartment.
As he stepped into the room further, he stopped. His eyes and mind became overwhelmed. Every corner had boxes, things piled on top of boxes, papers on top of things, boxes on tables, things under tables. There were narrow areas where she could walk from the well worn spot on the sofa, to the alarm clock near the window across the room and to the kitchen on the opposite side.
He wandered through the apartment. He wondered how she had let it get so bad. He wondered how he had let his life become something that he didn’t share with her. How had he let her life become something she didn’t share with him. He walked through and wondered.
Tears came to his eyes as he remembered how funny she could be. The bittersweetness of each tear also captured the days that would become weeks of almost catatonic depression for her. They captured the pain, the fear and the walking on eggshells that had been his younger years with her. She worked but it had taken everything out of her and she would come home to sit, smoke cigarettes and sit. She would barely speak. When she did, it was usually yelling and criticism followed up with apologies. It was tragically pathetic for the both of them.
He breathed deeply of the dusty, stale smoke air, lost in his memories, and stared at the depression on the couch. It looked almost as if she’d just gotten up and walked into the kitchen.
There was that draft again. There had been these odd drafts going through the apartment, lately. Ignoring the chill, she walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. She stared at the hard edged chunk of cheese, the half-eaten apple, the floppy carrots in the vegetable bin, swung the fridge door closed and went to sit again.
She wondered if this would be the way she would spend the rest of her life. Quietly, barely speaking to anyone, working the route to eventually retire. She guessed that would be alright. It had been her life for almost three years, now. Made sense to continue.
As she sat, she wondered why everything seemed so quiet over the last few days. She lived near a farm and would hear the trucks go by on the narrow road, throughout the day. She hadn’t heard the trucks in over a week. She rarely looked out her windows but when she did, the road was always empty.
He looked around one more time and saw the fridge was open. He didn’t remember it being opened when he arrived. He opened it further to find desiccated cheese, a shriveled apple and wrinkled carrots. He firmly shut the fridge door. He decided he would not go through all the boxes, papers, things. He had no time to deal with all of it. He had two days before he had to fly back for meetings that couldn’t be rescheduled. He decided it was all going to the dump.
He had finalized all the arrangements: junk removers would be in to clear out all of the boxes, the accumulation of a life, and a cleaning service had been hired to remove the odors. In two weeks, he would fly back for her funeral.
©2018 E. Rodriguez y Nogueras