We’ve just come out of the small corner grocery store where we bought luscious red grapes and dark roast coffee from Ethiopia. Three young men are gathered at the corner of an old brick building, laughing and shoving each other as young men do and speaking in an African language that plays like a melody. If I understood the words, perhaps it would not be so lovely but this way, it’s like birdsong. I can’t remember when it was that I learned birds are not singing, but yelling obscenities at each other over territorial disputes. My reverie continues as I pass the three-story purple house with the chandelier on the veranda. I’m not far from home now.
I can see them up ahead. A few of the patients from the long-term care facility at the Miseracordia hospital have been trotted out into the sunshine while the staff hovers over them, some dutifully, some engagingly, and some indifferently. A wheelchair is parked under a tree, holding a man in his middle years slumped forward over his blanket. His eyes are open but they appear not to see. His attendant is nearby, staring into the bark of a tree. I can’t help but think how well matched they appear to be, although I find myself hoping the man in the chair is running though the spring sunshine somewhere else in his mind. It occurs to me that we, as humans, are all about reciprocity. Otherwise, someone would be sitting with him and reading aloud. And then there are the ladies, seated around the patio like garden gnomes and being fed chocolate ice cream carefully scooped into child size cones. One lady in particular was positively twinkling while taking in the sights and sounds of my companion. No phone, no pool, no pets. I ain’t got no cigarettes… Roger Miller recedes into the background as we pass.
“Did you notice you were being admired?” I ask him.
“Yes. I’ve always seemed to attract old ladies.” He gestures toward the house on the corner that had recently sold. “I do hope the new owners enjoy landscaping. It would be a shame to see these beautiful gardens disappear.”
Apparently, he is already holding the shovel I’ve handed him.
“Yes, it certainly would be.”