My holiday was spent quietly…sleeping, reading, strolling through the park with the dog next door.
It was around 1 in the afternoon while lying in bed with Sarah Vowell rereading a book of hers for the third time, when out of nowhere I decide to go back out.
I shed my, It Happened One Night pajamas, jumping in jeans not quite knowing why since moments before being quite content. Never to be one to argue with an impulse, I figure, there must be a reason…it’s the Italian in me.
The Upper East Side is never as empty as on Thanksgiving day. Everything’s closed, not a soul in sight making it resemble an abandoned movie set, so to see this lone figure standing in the middle of Madison Avenue is more than a little startling, especially since I know her.
My first thought is what a great photograph it would make like in the days of yore when she was a top model…sultry in all her blondness, a pout someone once said could stop a train. Wrapped in fur, her Manolo Blahniks hosting long, willowy legs that went right through the floor…calling me Audrey ever so mockingly with a sly, sexy smile.
My reverie doesn’t last long however, knowing sadly, in her 59th year, she suffers from early dementia. I’m surprised to see her alone when she’s normally accompanied by an attendant. When I approach for a second, she seems lucid, until she says, “Don’t you just love Peru this time of year…there is no other place I’d rather be.” “Yes, me too,” I reply, “it’s so much like Paris.”
Having little experience with the state she’s in, I just let love rule, answering in kind, treating her like I’ve always treated her pretending this lapse in memory is merely temporary….if only…God, if only.
After she insists on going to a store that’s closed banging on its windows, I offer to walk her home asking things like…how are your kids? They must be so big. I remember when James was small and Jesse liked pushing him in his carriage. She smiles vaguely making me wonder if anything rings a bell.
When we reach her townhouse, we search for a key she doesn’t have, but then see the door’s open. I assume someone’s home, but then she turns to me panicked and says, “I don’t feel right going into someone else’s house.” “But it’s your house,” I say, “the one you decorated with such care.” She thinks about this for a second, but follows me back outside.
After a light discussion on the soles of her shoes, her husband appears.
“What are you doing out,” he said, shocked to see us, “you know you’re not supposed to leave the house.”
I immediately take umbrage on her behalf because, by the looks of it, he left her alone to go to the gym, a woman who has no idea why she can’t leave her home of 30 years to walk through her own neighborhood.
“She’s okay,” I said, my arm protectively around her once, 21 inch waist. Medication has made her gain weight she has no idea she’s gained, a grace if there ever was one. “Sometimes a girl just needs a little air.”
“He’s clearly upset, probably more with himself for leaving her alone, and blessedly stops scolding her for something that isn’t her fault.
He thanks me before leading her back into the house.
She looks over her shoulder like a naughty kid being sent to her room.
“So good to see you,” I call out, “will see you soon.”
I know she has no idea who I am.
“Audrey….it’s Audrey,” the name she called me in jest for so many years in a voice that’s no longer hers.
There but for the grace of God go I…Corinthians 15:10