Karen Craven, over at Table for 1 really loves to send us (Sorryless and me) some crazy things to work with. Now she’s been a tad busy with her new job and all and is not posting nearly enough – yes, I am complaining – though she did finally share a few lately. Anyhow, she overheard this woman on the train the other day and this was part of the one-sided conversation she heard:
“Yes, I really like my box of macaroni.
Give me all my expired things.
I need you to get a job.”
And issued us a challenge to use this. So, being just the right amount of crazy, we accepted. Here’s my submission. Sorryless’ fantabulously wonderful answer to the prompt is here. Karen’s wonderfully fantabulous submission is here…
There’s Nothing Wrong With Me
It was a regular Friday commute as folks boarded the 6:02 train towards home. People jostled, trying to find seats or at least a pole to hang on to while others, as I, just leaned against the back doors or sides. Books were taken out as well as iPods and cell phones, earbuds firmly in place. A wall erected by those wanting to remain in their own world, not interested in their surroundings, not inviting exchanges. I, on the other hand, love to people watch, see what they are reading, guess at what is going on in their lives, create whole scenarios in my mind based on what they are reading.
The students take out their books and papers to try to catch up on homework, business-folk break out the laptops and furiously crunch numbers because the days of doing work at work are over; you are now expected to work on your own time as well to get ahead. A sad state of affairs, really. Everyone absorbed in their own microcosm.
Suddenly, a cellphone rings with an old-fashioned rotary phone ring. “Dring, Dring!” I look around to see who it belongs to and find myself eavesdropping, barely subtly, in fact. The woman is seated in the single seat facing me, is in her late seventies, maybe early eighties. She’s slight, her clothes hang on her frail body, two sizes too large and look like they’ve been rescued from a garbage bin. Her stockings have runs in them and her shoes are laced up and seem the only thing she owns that doesn’t date back twenty years. Her hands are those of a woman who has worked hard; they are overly large for her wrists with knobby knuckles and jagged nails that haven’t ever seen a manicure. Not that she would ever waste money on such a thing. Between her legs are a trio of bags, filled with who knows what. Her purse rests on her lap.
She digs into her purse and pulls out an old Blackberry. “Hallo? … “Oh hi, Doris. … Yeah, I’m on the train now. Should be home by seven-ish.”
“What do you mean, you’re at my house? Why are you at my house? Who let you in?”
“Right I forgot you had the key. Still, I don’t care, nothing is yours to touch. Those are my things. I don’t care what the neighbours say. What smell? I don’t need you to clean out my stuff.”
“Yes, I know I have lots of cans of beans and boxes of macaroni. They were on special. And yes, I do need them all. Yes, I really like my box of macaroni.”
What do you mean I don’t even like the stuff? Of course I do! What do you care, anyway? It’s none of your business. And no, they don’t go bad. Don’t you dare throw any of them out. You wait until I get there. And stay out of my fridge!”
The older woman closed her eyes, a mixture confusion and frustration lining her face. I couldn’t help but wonder what was really at hand. There was a feeling that this was not the first time this type of exchange had taken place.
“Just give me all my expired things…they’re still good. Expiration dates are a bunch of hogwash,” she almost whispered.
Voice raised: “No, it’s not true. Best Before does not mean no good after!” … “What, three years old? It’s friggen boxed macaroni, Doris! How bad can dried macaroni with powdered fluorescent cheese get? The expiry date is obligatory by the government. Just stop, already. Don’t even think of throwing anything out.”
She pulled the phone away from her ear and held it on her purse. I could hear her daughter’s voice raised in anger, “You are confused, Mother. I’m worried about you living on you own. You need to leave your apartment and move into a home for the elderly. I have already found the perfect place for you. Mother? Mother? Can you hear me?”
I couldn’t help but feel for the poor woman and, at the same time, for the daughter. Experience had taught me that early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s meant there were very lucid moments but also very confused ones. I imagined the old woman had become a hoarder of sorts and the daughter had a helluva job ahead of her.
The woman put the phone back to her ear. “Yes, I hear you. No, I don’t need to move into a home. I visit people there, I don’t live there! There is nothing wrong with me! I need you to get a job. You obviously have too much time on your hands to find yourself rummaging through my personal belongings. Get out of my house!”
She threw her phone into her handbag, rearranged the ones at her feet, patted her hair in that comforting manner women do, and placed her now trembling hands upon her purse. She stared straight ahead, a mutinous expression on her face.
We arrived at the next station and a large bulk of people disembark. The seat kitty-corner to the old woman becomes free so I make my way there.
“Good evening, Ma’am. Mind if I sit here?”
She smiled, “Oh hallo. No, no, please do. Do you need more room? Are my bags in your way?”
“No, not at all and thank you. I’m fine and have lots of room. How are you? Are you okay?”
“Why yes, I’m fine. There is nothing wrong with me. Why do you ask?”
“You seemed a tad upset with your phone call just now. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop…”
She looked at me with confusion, “What phone call?”