On Wednesdays, we go to town. Wednesdays are senior citizen day. Beforehand, we write out a shopping list and ruminate on the things we will need. All through the week, in passing, at the breakfast table, before she takes her daily nap, my Grandmother dictates the things she wants to accomplish. We need a new light fixture for the kitchen. A mattress for the spare room. Bins to collect rainwater in for the wild deer. I am the gatekeeper of her memory. If I think a plan might end up getting her hurt, might overextend her or be a waste of time, I let it waft away. Every week we forget to buy canning supplies, forget to buy sugar, jars, pectin. The thought of my Grandmother, weak and nearly blind, operating a large canning pot full of boiling water rolls around in my head at night. I can’t tell her what to do, I can’t argue with her about these things. My resistance is passive.
I’ve been here for two months. I was planning to move to a large city, to get a job and a boyfriend and go see shows on the weekend and be young. And then my Grandmother was found on the cold, hard floor of her bedroom. She had a fall, broke her wrist and her cheekbone. For weeks after, middle-aged women would approach me in stores, stand very close, and whisper.
“Did she have a fall?” They’d ask.
I’d nod and they’d say “Oh, the poor dear.” Like they were trying not to see their own future. Moving through these spaces, I am invisible. I am my Grandmother’s auxiliary, I provide information and push carts. I am performing my duties.
Last week, after hours of shopping, my patience was so thin it squeaked with every revolution. I was like a machine moments before it breaks down. I was like a demolition. She sat behind me, bringing up things we might have forgotten. I was slipping easily into sarcasm. She was mute in the face of that sarcasm. I was sad in the face of her silence. We were both unhappy. She was unhappy that I was being short with her, and I was unhappy because I am the only one left, and these are her last years of life, and I don’t want to ruin them by not being the person she deserves.
When you outlive everyone that might have been considerate, you get me. And I’m imperfect.
I loaded items onto the belt. I wrote the check. She stood up, shaky, to sign it. I loaded the items in to the cart, pulled them off the revolving bag station and fluffed out the next bag. I was a cashier and understand the tiny slivers of time that this saves. I told her to meet me at the Grocery entrance, and pushed the cart out the door.
From one side of the horizon to the other, I saw a stripe of color against the denim sky. It had been raining all day. The buildings off into the distance had been splashed lemon, as the sun shown on them from wherever it was hiding. I was standing in front of the largest, fullest rainbow I had ever seen. I marveled as other people streamed past, unimpressed.
I find myself in this position quite often.
I tracked across the slick parking lot, gazing skyward. As I handed my cart off the man at the corral, we had a moment of recognition.
“You usually don’t seem them this full.” He said.
I pointed to the technicolor arc.
“It is so defined at the edges. And so big.”
Driving home, I spent tiny, precious moments staring at the large billow to my right, before snapping my eyes back to the road. There were coral pinks and rosy, saturated pockets held up by a rind of hot orange. Turning onto the road out of town, I fixed my eyes on the muted strip between the clouds and the tree line. There was a gradient to the blue-gray swath, only detectable by looking just above it.
As we drove back home, the sun sank down below the sawtoothed horizon, and the whole world was lit from below.