Monday, March 23, 2009

A Night in the Life

On Monday nights, the Activities Coordinator has scheduled Poetry Club. This is led by a dapper and gentle resident. He always is dressed to the nines and walks slowly about with the help of a cane. He served in WWII flying bombers over Germany and came home to spend a civilized and compassionate life that is illuminated by family, his thoughtful poetry and water color paintings.

Each Monday he appears at least a half an hour early, with a manila folder containing poems of his that he has selected for the evening, a book or two of other poets, often one of Frost, and a pad of paper.

On his way past my desk, he greets me courteously and then sits in the empty Bistro area, waiting, occasionally re-arranging his little pile of documents. In the evening, the lights are flat and glint from the darkened windows, the tables look bare and cold; it is silent and still.

Every Monday night, my heart contracts with anxiety for him. What if no one shows? What if he is crushed? I then rush around, pulling in hapless residents from where ever I can find them; the half asleep H- is gathered from the front room, I find E- reclining in her darkened bedroom. B- comes rolling ponderously down the hallway in his wheelchair, I find M- wandering about, her jacket over her arm, wanting to know what this evening's program will be.

And there we are, a group. H- nods off quietly to sleep, his hands folded in his lap, sometimes startled awake by the sound of my voice and a listening look comes over his face. E- sits composedly, listening with enjoyment. M- fidgets and would leave except she knows this wouldn't be polite and by then isn't sure what she is attending, is it a religious service?

I love to watch the look of delight that passes over our house poet's worn face as he hears me read his poems aloud; it's as though he remembers them all over again. He never fails to stop by my desk and thank me for reading them. I always tell him that it's my pleasure. And then we are safe; at least until next Monday night.

The weather has changed drastically. When I walked the house dog, fat pieces of damp snow were falling straight from the slate grey sky. In the river there were several ducks paddling against the current, the fading light turned the tumbling water green, purple and blue black.

Our house dog is named Junior, though by now he can be more accurately described as senior, rather fitting, considering his home. It is my responsibility to walk him. I get paid to walk a dog, albeit with the phone at my hip in case of incoming calls.

This old fellow often follows me around, though he gets winded and must flop down halfway along, tongue lolling. He sprawls out in the most shameless manner, flat on his back, his paws up in the air, or on his belly smack in front of the main doors, where startled guests must step gingerly over him.

Today, I sorted the mail. First I make three piles, one of deliverable mail (not all residents get their mail), non deliverable mail, and general company mail. I then sort the deliverable mail into order by the building's geography, so that mail for the room I go to first is on top of the pile.

I then go on my prescribed route. Tonight my route ended in the kitchen, where I went into the cooler after frozen cookie dough. As I did so, the dietary staff came in the main door just in time to hear the eerie whoosh of the cooler door closing behind me.

When they opened the cooler door, the door to the inner recesses of the deep freeze had already closed behind me. They saw nothing but shelves of fruit and vegetables, and retreated to the stove, to question what they had heard. When I came out, unaware, they saw the door open and had spun around, hearts pounding to see what was coming out, unbidden, from the frozen dark.

"Dude, you freaked us out!" said one, as I appeared, putting her hand to her chest.

After scaring the dietary team members out of their minds, I then went on to other jobs. I made cookies; that is, I placed the frozen dough on the cookie sheet and put it in the toaster oven for seventeen minutes. I then sorted general company mail, stamping invoices and statements with a satisfying thump.

Finally, I sort the undeliverable mail and am left at last with a pile of mail for residents so long gone that no one knows who they were or what address their billable party now resides at. This is a sad and lost little pile of mail and goes into the very bottom of the floral box with the flowing script that tells me, each time I close the lid, that "Anything is Possible!" I'm not so sure this is a good thing, to be honest.

I do all this in my pair of brown suede heels with scalloped trim and tiny, off set buckles across the toe. Some of the girls at work have commented on my shoes, always a good feeling. But I also remember the girl I was, not so long ago, who lived in Birkenstocks.

This began when I found a discarded pair at a church rummage sale. I wore those shoes until the cork wore completely through. I then carefully, with a deep seated thrill, ordered a pair specially from Europe, the exact kind I wanted, not available in the local shoe store.

I wore those every single day for years and years. In the winter time, I wore Birkenstocks with heavy, woolen stocks over woolen tights. It is possible in New England to find woolen tights in adult sizes. I had three pairs, in forest green, black and brown. They were ribbed and very scratchy. But as I always wore skirts, they were absolutely necessary.

I don't remember when the transition from Birkinstocks to heels came. Probably Japan. In Japan, for the first time I felt the sheer joy of shoes. They were arranged like candy on shelves, in beautiful colors and elegant lines, and seemingly so affordable, only eight hundred yen! Why that's not even real money, or so it felt like. It's so much easier to spend money not in dollars, I have found. It's harder to take it seriously.

My other job duties this evening included playing a Bach CD, handing out an application, cheerfully greeting people, making sure candy dishes were filled and other vital operations. At the end of the day, I lock the door and switch over the phones, filled with the bemused feeling of having done absolutely nothing of importance. Except perhaps to have made our house poet glow with the delight of hearing his words come alive once again.

1 comment:

T said...

Thank you for taking us through your day. Your writing is so fresh.