The daytime nurse reminds me that tonight is the all-male choir program in the dining room. Do I want to wear something special for the occasion?
I show her my comfy gym outfit. I have chair yoga at ten and a Scrabble rematch with Mr. García after lunch. Any singing Romeo who spots me in the audience tonight and is hot for my phone number can just take me the way I am dressed, walker and all.
The evening nurse works our wing because we are ambulatory. We can bathe ourselves and change our own diapers. He’s afraid to touch us, afraid we are contagious. In a way he is right. Everyone ages; everyone dies.
When it is time for the evening program, I shuffle back to the dining room on my own. A creature of habit, I head for the one spot where I sit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is my lucky chair. This is where I beat Mr. García at Scrabble for the fifth time earlier in the day. I lean my walker against it before I make my rounds.
“Hola, Gloria.” In her late sixties, my friend once danced with Patrick Swayze in the movie Dirty Dancing, but now she is confined to a wheelchair. She lost her left foot to diabetes two years ago and is scheduled for vascular surgery on her right calf next week.
“Que tal, Ricardo.” Our resident playboy is in his nineties and silenced by a stroke, yet his wheelchair is surrounded by a covey of elderly women in walkers and wheelchairs, all vying for his attention. He waves at me with his good hand, but I just keep on walking.
I wave at the Colonel but he only has eyes for his wife. He scoots his chair closer to her wheelchair and takes her hand. He lives in my wing and she lives at the other end of the complex. Once her Alzheimer’s got so bad he could not take care of her any longer, he moved her here. He followed soon after to be close to her.
She doesn’t understand his gesture and looks at his hand. Her memories of him have slowly dissolved into the corners of her mind, but from the way he looks at her his haven’t faded in sixty-five years. I think of my husband and make my way back to my seat.
The choir files in and I notice the male nurse standing by the door. He scans the room and I do too. He frowns. He sees remnants, the one facet that exists of us now. He would be surprised to know the full fabric we conceal under these remnants. When we were his age we lived full, loud lives. We danced and loved and laughed. We have stories to tell.
He sees me looking at him and I frown. I feel sorry for him.