ing dong. The doorbell rang; I knew who it was before even opening the door. I had heard her as she shuffled up our driveway on her dilapadated walker, creaking metallically with each slow step. I smelt her, too. Through the door. From yards away I smelt her. Like mold and medication. I opened the door, putting on my cheerful face. The smell was overpowering, I nearly gagged. This was the old lady who lived across the street from my parent's house when I was young. The epitome of old age, the soul of all senior citizen stereotypes. She sagged. Not in any particular place, she just sagged in general. Her skin hung loose and pale on her brittle body, bent over, hunched down, straining against her own weight. Thickly lidded eyes with no eyelashes took in a world that must have only appeared as a dim collection of blurry shapes and indiscernible clouds of movement.
'Hello, Pat,' she said. That's not my name. Her voice was wheezy and quiet, aging badly just like the rest of her antique corpus. She rested heavily on her ancient walker, clinging to the threadbare clothes she wore. Clothes that may have been in style when 'Flower' was a popular name for a child. She gazed at me with those sunken eyes, irises obscured by cataracts. I gazed back with my own dull, brown eyes. Ghastly white face covered in liverspots like so many faded tattoos, topped off with thinning, white hair. Ears and nose disproportionately large. They never stop growing. Ears and noses, that is. She had forgotten our names again, I thought to myself. What followed was an oft repeated ritual.
I reminded her of my name. Politely. Not her fault. Age happens to everyone. She mumbled something incoherent, so I nodded my head and smiled. Her speech was often difficult to comprehend. Maybe she used words I did not yet know. Maybe she had simply lost control of her saliva dripping lips.
'I, uh...' she began, her ever present cellular phone clutched in one gnarled hand. 'I forgot what I came for.' That was a new one, usually she was able to tell us that she had forgotten our phone number before she left. 'Nevermind.' Arduously she began manuevering her walker and her tired body around to make the long trek back to her gloomy house. I visited her house once. My parents made me. Builds character they said. No, it just scared the shit out of me: It was dark. All the windows had been covered in thick curtains. Blackout curtains, like the kind they used in 'the War' to protect against maurading enemy bombers. What once was shag carpeting covered the floor. It had been tramped and trod upon so much over the years that it lay limp, its original color impossible to discern under all the caked in dirt. There she sat, in her living room, in an old wooden chair, illuminated by the blue-grey glow of the television. Just sitting. Just waiting. Just sad. Perhaps she sat there all day, waiting and wanting for something to happen. But nothing ever did. You can tell by looking in her eyes. There was nothing in those eyes. Just fatigue. And perhaps a little frustration. But mostly just fatigue now.
She had almost turned a quarter of the way around when she looked down at the cell phone she held so tightly and something clicked in her decrepit mind. She remembered. 'Oh, I seem to have lost,' maybe she meant forgot, 'your telephone number.' She handed me a yellowed piece of paper and a broken pencil. 'Could you please write it down?' I wrote the number on the dried up parchment with alacrity and handed it back to her. Looking at it for a moment she frowned. 'Could you write your name on top, too, please?' Maybe that was why she did not look our number up in the phone book. We're listed. I wrote my full name on the paper above the number.
Taking the note, the old woman turned to go. I knew she would be back, probably before the week was out to repeat again what we had just done. As she neared the courtyard gate, she called out, 'thanks, Pat.' That's not my name. Then she left. I closed the door and stood a moment, listening as she creakily inched her way back home. She came by often, and each time I was shaken. Each time she came for our phone number. Just in case. In case something happens. But nothing ever did. Not that I remember, anyhow. Our family was the only one on the street she knew. I've no idea why she picked us. But I pity her. Her mind had been recalled. It was an outdated model. Now she simply waited for the repo man to come take her ailingly frail frame.
She hadn't long to wait. We moved out of that house years ago. But that wasn't the last I heard of her. After we moved, after we'd left her, they told me that she came by again. Ambling across the street, with her pencil and paper, asking for Pat. Pat doesn't live there anymore. He moved away months ago. But she forgot that. Just like the phone number. Just like everything else. And then she died. Nothing more to remember.
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