“We did cut lilacs, but I would hardly call it a date. It was a work session. And it was work. My hands hurt with arthritis.” Continuing, I add: “David did most of the arranging. He has an eye for shape and balance.”
“Do you think he’s gay?” Lauren inquires.
Poppy retorts: “Don’t you remember, he talked about his wife and children.”
“I never thought about it,” I add. “He is divorced. But that doesn’t mean anything, these days.”
Now into the café comes Ethel Ballenger, in her denim skirt and rubber shoes. “May I join you?” she asks, sliding into the seat next to Lauren, pushing her against the wall. Mary brings us the laminated menus, which we study, even though we know them by heart.
“So, what’s the news at the Shady Hollow old folks home?” Ethel asks. “Any gossip?”
“Not much to report,” Poppy responds, unfolding her napkin. “Adelaide and David did a great job with the lilac arrangement.”
“Yes, I saw it. Hooray for our garden club. Thank you Adelaide.”
“Oh, Lauren got this weird note,” Poppy announces. “Lauren, show them the mystery note you got in your mailbox. Very strange.” From her thin batch of mail Lauren pulls out a small envelope with her name and apartment number written in block letters. Inside, on a cream- colored notecard, are single words cut out from magazines, in different sizes and colors: All Is Not As It Seems the note says.
“It’s creepy,” Lauren says. “Who would send it?”
“The place has plenty of creeps,” Poppy continues. This is from some nutcase who likes writing meaningless sentences out of cut-out words. A person with obsessive compulsive disorder. Did you ever do that in high school?”
“Yes, I did, as a matter of fact.” Lauren’s face brightens. “I sent them to boys I liked. But I was too shy to talk to.”
“So there’s someone here, who writes in codes, of sorts. I wouldn’t let it get to you,” I say. But in my mind I’m not convinced.
After a salad, looking forward to a nap, I stop to pick up my mail. “Are you finished yet?” I ask Brenda, the pony-tailed young woman in a U.S. Postal Service uniform.
“Just about, Mrs. Brooks,” she answers. “Looks like the new issue of AARP magazine is out. With some aging rock star on the cover.” We try to guess the man, some hero from the 1960’s, now with a wrinkly face and dyed brown hair. Whoever he is, he can keep his diabetes under control. Brenda and I have become friends. I have made other friends. There are cheerful residents I pass in the corridors and think of Ruth Parsons’ warning: “Some of the gentlemen can’t keep their hands to themselves…” None of these gentlemen seem the groping type. “Hello Adelaide, beautiful day!” is what they say.