Author’s note: This story idea came to me while I was running and thinking about what senior citizens in residence must be going through during the COVID-19 lockdown. There are a lot of different ways that different residence managers are handling the situation but my mind wandered to what someone who is not as mobile and needs a friend might be going through. The characters in this story are entirely fictional.
Judy didn’t much like the look of her reflection in the mirror. She wanted to punch it. Did mirrors lie? If so, this mirror had some explaining to do – why be like that? Judy poked around below her eyes – saggy. She pulled back on the skin on her cheeks and when she let go her skin drooped even lower – could she be turning into a St. Bernard? She wiggled her hips and swore the jelly in her butt continued jiggling long after she’d stopped moving. She picked up her Harry Josh anti-tangling brush and started brushing her short ivory hair, looking for signs of the blond that had once made men take two, sometimes three, shoulder checks – now the only men that complimented her were being paid to change her bed sheets (God bless Luke with the kind heart, easy smile and buns of steal).
Her brilliant blue eyes though – they were faithful to her. “The key to knowing the age of a soul lay in the eyes,” she had told everyone. She had beautiful, youthful eyes that sparkled like the ocean on a sunny day.
“My eyes are brown, like the shit stains in my bed,” Judy’s best friend Clara had said when Judy had related her philosophy on eyes.
“Your eyes are heavenly chocolate,” Judy had explained to her.
“Are my eyes floating in my head? Because I have to pee again. For like the fifth time today. And do you know statistically the odds of me suffering an injury every time I pee are something like ninety-two percent?”
Judy had chuckled. “That’s a Wikipedia statistic.”
Judy took a deep breath and fought back tears. She missed Clara. She missed her so much. She walked over to her bed and plopped down, feeling a light twinge in her lower back. She bit her lower lip and fell onto her pillow, kicking her feet up and ignoring the worsening pain in her sciatica. If time and rest could heal all wounds, she’d be ready to take on the world. The truth lay more in a good diet and exercise (someone had told her that when she was younger, but it never stuck).
It didn’t take a lot of staring at the ceiling for her to get bored. Her iPad lay on the desk, out of reach and hard as she tried to use her hidden Jedi powers, the i-Pad refused to budge (damn Sith supporter). Her Kindle lay on her dresser beside the mirror, and although she had fifteen books she’d purchased from Amazon since COVID-19, she had no interest in reading them. She wanted to see Clara. She’d even settle for the that witch Becky or the new younger woman all the men were gawking over – Melany. Melany might be sixty-five, but her toad colored eyes made her look eighty.
A light knock on the door shifted her attention to the clock – 3:00pm – not a nurse.
“Hello? Come in.” Judy said smiling and giddy to have a guest. The residence managers had sequestered them all in their rooms when COVID-19 hit. She couldn’t have visitors, watch television in the commons or go out for a walk outside of her exercise time, which consisted of thirty minutes in the garden by herself (garden being a stone path surrounded by grass with a few flowers and a cheap Canadian tire water fountain she felt more compelled to drink out of than toss a penny into). Nurses checked on her twice a day and she had her phone for emergencies, but otherwise she was on her own. At seventy-seven years old she faced the fear of death every day from a lot of threats and would have preferred being with her friends at the risk of catching the deadly flu. It wouldn’t be a pleasant way to die, but neither was this and without a time-line to let her know when she’d be able to see her friends, a part of her wanted to die.
The door creaked open and Clara’s wondrous brown eyes looked in on her, a smile so big she looked ten years younger.
“Is it okay if I come in?” Clara asked, stepping into the room and gently closing the door behind her. Clara stood at attention with her hand up in mock salute, “I swear that I do not have any symptoms. I cough every day because I’m old and there’s a lot of phlegm in my former-smoker lungs, but it’s not getting worse. I’m tired because it takes a shit-load of energy to get my fat ass moving, but not more tired that I usually am. My temperature might be up a little but that’s because Luke was in my room this morning helping me tidy up and I’m still feeling the effects. I have heartburn because they gave me toast – even though I tell them every day it doesn’t sit well in my stomach – but I swear the only other pain in my chest comes from being overworked trying to keep my sagging boobs at attention.”
Judy roared with laughter, forgetting the pain in her back. “Yes, come in. Come in! Did they let you out of your room?”
“God no.” Clara said. “I’m AWOL. But I couldn’t take another minute of being in that room by myself. It ain’t right and I’m done with it. I want to see my friends.”
Judy regretted not being the one to be brave first. She’d always imagined herself as one of the risk takers of the group. When had that changed? Judy hadn’t even opened her door to check the hallway unless it was exercise time.
“How are you?” Judy sat up, the pain in her back reminding her of her age, and she patted the bed. “Come and sit down.”
Clara sat on the bed, using her arm like a measuring stick. “I’m six feet from your face, but one foot from your toes. Am I breaking the law?”
Judy shrugged, the smile on her face so big it hurt to hold it. “Who cares? You’re already in deep trouble for leaving your room.”
“Do you think Luke will arrest me?” She placed one hand on her mouth mischievously. “Return me to my room in handcuffs?” Her eyebrows shot up and down.
There was a knock on Judy’s door. Both their eyes went wide and Clara stood, looking left and right for a place to hide.
“Under the bed!” Judy whispered, trying to hold back her laughter.
Clara dropped and slid under the bed. Judy did not understand how she’d fit under there (a Winnie the Pooh miracle).
The door slowly opened and Luke peaked in and surveyed the room. He had a mask on his face, taking away from his usual dreaminess, but his emerald eyes still smiled. “I thought I heard voices in here.”
“Just me,” Judy said. “Alone and bored.”
She couldn’t stop smiling and she hoped it didn’t tip Luke off that something strange was going on. He squeezed through the door and took another quick survey, then turned to walk out when Clara laughed from under the bed, followed by rapid stifling.
Luke stopped and turned. Judy did her best to laugh just like Clara had, but Clara sounded like a cute teenage girl and Judy sounded like a pig on laughing gas.
Luke chuckled and walked out of the room, shaking his head. He closed the door behind him. Clara waited a minute before rolling out from under the bed.
“Oh goodness, I felt like a kid again! I haven’t felt so silly in ages.” Clara couldn’t stop laughing, barely able to get a breath in. “The sound of your impression of me . . .” She laughed even harder.
Clara returned to the bed, and they relaxed into a known rhythm; they shared stories of boredom, frustration and hope. Two hours passed and with dinner on its way to their rooms, Clara had to leave.
“We can do this tomorrow!” Clara smiled.
Judy laughed. “Yes! We should. I’ll come to your room.”
“Agreed.” Clara waved goodbye, gave a virtual hug with wide arms – for a moment Judy thought Clara might have embellished the size needed for the hug – and stepped out the door and closed it.
Twenty minutes passed. She missed Clara so much already. She’d have to find the courage to head to her room tomorrow. After an hour passed, Judy wondered if Clara had ever visited at all. She rolled out of bed, walked over to the mirror and scoffed at her reflection.