Disguised as a drop of sweat in a sea of fog, an old woman struggles to get her groceries back home. Something as trivial as this has now become a great ordeal. Damn the fog! She thought. What is there in the world for an old lady like me? She meant.
Strangers pass her by. They watch their step. Everyone avoids her. They think they do not want to bother her. She feels they do not want to touch her. Just a few more steps to the bus stop, she hopes.
A cold breeze clears away some of the fog. It gently strokes the old lady's face. She closes her eyes and remembers her youth. The breeze still feels the same against her skin. Come on, wind! What is talk but breeze?! Talk to me! Have you forgotten me or have you not? Who feels cold? Is it me or you?
The bus stop gets closer, but the groceries get heavier. A friendly face lends a hand. She does not accept it. Proud old lady, people think. Maybe she is just shy, a young mind wonders.
The groceries are heavy, but she can manage it. She reckons that is all she is good for now. However, no one offers any relief for the unbearable weight of desolation.
She slowly gets into the bus. Everyone slides around her. She feels like a shark swimming among small fish. Thump! A head, swallowed by its cell phone, bumps into the old gal. “I'm sorry” is not heard. That was the only human contact she had all day — she sighs.
On her ride back home she looks up the sky, but there are no stars. Have I outlived you too, my friends? She recalls once when she was on a desert beach with a boyfriend from college. They watched the night sky and made up names for the constellations. It seems so silly now. What were the names? She forgets. It doesn't matter, I suppose.
The bus stops just across her townhouse. It takes a bit over half an hour to get back from the supermarket. Her neighborhood is very quiet, as the old lady herself. Her home has a neat little garden in the back. Well maintained by Mr. Fernando, her gardener.
She goes up three steps to the door. She sets her groceries on the ground and, shaking, she opens up her door. Hanging on the wall to her left are the pictures of her three granddaughters. On the coffee table in the living room one can see the picture of a handsome man in his fifties. It is her late husband.
She limps to the kitchen. There are a lot of pictures on her fridge door. They are hold up by magnets she bought during her travels. Those are photos of her daughters, her friends, and her former husband. Photos from the glorious past of a now colorless lady. She looks at them with longing and sorrow.
The phone rings bells of hope in the living room. She makes her way through the furniture. Who is this? She gently bumps into the sofa. Is it her daughter, Fran? On her hurry, she drops her glasses. Could it be her granddaughter? Remember: Anabel is three. She stands by the phone while she catches up her breath. Who could be calling me at this hour? The phone rings once more. Has something happened? She touches the blurry black blob that is her phone. She finds the handle. “Hello —” answers the old lady.
It is an agent selling life insurance. The old woman blabbers about Anabel, her beautiful three-year-old granddaughter. A young agent is too kind to hang up. She patiently listens to the old lady while thinking: oh mercy…
Life Insurance Agent
Her ear was still red and swollen from the senseless mumbling when her boss came to her desk. We are not an old folks' home, he told her. She did pretend to care: “I'm sorry, sir. I felt bad for her. This will not happen again!”
He told her she was too good for her own sake. Time is money, but money is better, he quoted. Meanwhile, she convinced herself she would never hang up on an old lady for a joke of a job like this.
All she did was wait. Patience only gets you half the way — and that was precisely where she was.
As soon as the clock ticked eighteen hours she swiftly left her desk. She had a friend to meet at a nearby pub. At the same time, a colleague brought her a smile. However, when he got to her desk he found only the smell of her perfume. Did Mary already leave? He asked around. Heads nodded in all directions.
Later at the pub, Mary waited outside for her friend. She quickly looked at her cellphone the results of yesterday's football match. Her quick smirk was caught by the eyes of a woman passing by. She looked back. They never shared a word.
The friend appeared from behind a picket fence covered with roses. His shirt matched the flower color precisely. It looked like a ghost formed from the spirit of nature. That was what she liked about him. However, looking down to her own feet, she realised he was not made of the same tarmac as her.
She greeted him with a challenge: “two-oh”. He quickly replied she should only try to make fun of him when she had at least a champions league title. “You should have called up your trophies to play, mate.” She responded. He dismissed her with a laugh.
The pub was crowded. She looked for a table while he got the first round. She found a tiny table by the wall. Almost in the corner.
He came by and asked whom was she hiding from in that corner. She smiled and she thought: “Everyone. No one.”
Mary told her friend about the old lady incident. He was amazed. He had some work remarks to share as well. Between smiles, dirty jokes and trivia she felt really light. “This may be the beer or myself, but I feel this lightness is what it is all about.”
The last round came, though it still felt like the first. Too bad we have to work tomorrow, he moaned; otherwise, we could go somewhere else. “Maybe too bad, maybe too good. Food is much tastier when we stop before being full,” she replied.
On the way back she thought of all the people she works with and all her friends. What are they doing right now? One more day has passed. Am I any closer to anything at all?