She woke up early that morning, fixed her bed, then went to wash her face and comb her hair. Her hair always gave her trouble, because it was thick and wavy and it never stayed long within the confines of the big black clips behind her ears. It was also strangely healthy for a woman her age. She was secretly proud of it although not vain. She had never been vain. The whole neighborhood could testify as to her modesty, moral and character. The ones that were still left anyway. Most had moved away with their children, or died. She could count the remaining ones with the fingers of one hand, still remembering when they moved in as brides, grooms, young parents full of worry, stress and little kids. The truth was, she barely recognised their faces today, mostly when they said hi on the street, or when they came to ask her for little favors that only good neighbors can provide. As much as the neighborhood changed, they still knew which door was still open for an extra cup of sugar, a saucer of yogurt, or a jug of water for when their own fancy faucets ran out.
Today however, they would be out of luck. She was going out. She put her stockings on, smoothing them along her legs and smiling at the words of her friend from so long ago: “Why, God, oh why? What did I do that you gave those legs to her and gave me chicken drumsticks?” She always remembered those words.
Next she put on her chemise (white, with a fringe of lace at the bottom) then her good blouse (black silk with pearl buttons), then her long midnight blue skirt, then her woolen cardigan, a hand-me-down from her granddaughter. She never understood why her granddaughter also wore black. Ah, the girls of today! The kerchief went in her rigid black leather purse, right next to her coin pouch and her chapstick, another gift from her granddaughter. She always used it since her lips were always cracking, but rubbed her lips vigorously after, so that no trace of gloss or shine remained.
She slipped into her black kitten-heel shoes and fixed her stockings for the last time. Then she noiselessly went out, taking care to slide the door handle so that it would not creak. It was an old one, so it still whined quietly as she let it up. But she was finally gone.
The telephone bell woke the sleeping man. He cursed and picked the receiver.
‘Yeah’ he croaked into it.
‘It’s me’ his sister said ‘You guys are still asleep?’
‘It is 8.30 Sunday. What do you think?’
‘Sorry. I just called to talk to mom.’
‘She probbably went to the market, otherwise she would have answered already. But let me check.’
“Grandma left’ a girl’s voice piped in the other hand ‘I heard her before’
‘Sweetie, I’ve told you a thousand times not to listen in to other’s people’s conversations.’
‘But the phone woke me up too, and I just wanted to help.’
‘Let her be. Sweetie, where did grandma go, do you know?’
‘It’s grandpa’s day.’ the girl said sourly and hung up.
‘I told her not to go by herself’ the woman said to her brother ‘I was going to go with her.’
‘You know how she is’ the brother answered. ‘ She wants to go when she wants to go and that’s that.’
‘But her blood pressure will go up. She’ll have a stroke.’
‘You know she does not listen. She’ll go to each grave, put fresh flowers, clean the weeds and dry leafs, bully the caretaker into fixing the grounds and then pay the kids not to steal the flowers.’
‘And she’ll be hours under the sun.’
Well, there was nothing more to be discussed. They said their goodbyes and hung up, the sister going back to her coffee and the brother snuggling with the warm body of his wife.
Later, they both prepared the hot water, the blood pressure medication and the toast with feta cheese for the bus always made mother’s stomach queasy. And they said and waited and did not talk about how there would be no one visiting, cleaning and bringing fresh flowers to their graves every month. For she would be gone by then.