She used to sit out by the pool with an elegant, long stemmed wineglass in her hands and get drunk like a genteel older lady does, along with another older woman and two young Moraccans. They were a little ‘set’ and I would watch them, alone, from my upstairs apartment, along with many of the other drunks there who put on quite a show every weekend.
They were not like the other drunks.
They did not fight or need to have the police called on them. They talked about religion and politics and all were quite smart. The oldest women, in her sixties, and still gracefully lovely, had no children or husband or anyone.
I always watched them from a distance.
One day she was not there anymore. The group was gone and the other woman had taken them to her back patio. Now they drank in private. I assumed the other lady was with them.
There was a day, that week, I was walking past their patio while one of the young men went in and saw the older woman was not there. Curious, I went to her door and knocked and heard a thin cry from inside.
The door was locked…I went to the manager and explained. The manager gave me a key and I went and unlocked the door.
The place stank so badly. This could not be the house of that elegant woman! Everywhere was elegance in chaos. Her cats ran to me ‘MIIIOOOON MIOOONNN RRRAAAOOOO MIIIIONNNN’ and led me to the kitchen where there were empty food bowls and water dishes that I filled with canned cat food from the cabinets. The cat boxes were overflowing and I heard her voice calling weakly “Who is there? Who is there?” I went through the living room where it looked as if things had been knocked over by something dragging and went to her room…
…she looked mortified.
By her bed were open cans and a can opener and they had been pulled in on a sheet, drug across the floor perhaps, and hauled up to the bed somehow…empty cans were everywhere and a dirty spoon and she was huddled under a satin comforter and the room smelled like….
“Please please can you get me some wet washrags from the bathroom?”
Her voice was so weak.
“Where are your sheets?” I asked her
“In the middle cabinet in the hall.” she whispered almost like relief.
When I came back to her room she was on the floor on all fours in a lovely elegant lace gown stained with humanity. She looked so piteous.
“The wolves are at the door!”
“There are no wolves we are in the city.” I assured her thinking she was weak from hunger and seeing things and I wondered why her friends were not here with her? I took the soiled sheets off the bed and put clean ones on and did like I remembered from the days I worked in a nursing home. I put a smaller sheet where she would lay that would be removable and save the bed.
“Can you get up?” I asked her
“No.” She whispered back….
“Ok then put your arms around my neck and we will do the ‘firemans hold’, Do you know how? She nodded and I managed to roll her back onto the bed.
“I need to call someone to help you. who can I call?”
“Please give me the wet washrags and leave for a few minutes?” She was crying. I left.
After some time I went back and she had tried to hide the soiled rags under the bed…
“Where are the trash bags?”
“They are in the cabinet above the sink.” I went and got them and used them like a glove to retrieve the soiled things from the room and bag them up without touching them and put them in her washer with some soap…I stayed a while and set her house in order and kept asking her who I would call to help her but she would not allow it.
“PLEASE PLEASE don’t tell anyone about me!” She begged me with tears in her eyes and against my better judgement I agreed.
I went back once a day for the same routine for only three days and the next day I went and the door was wide open and ER technicians were standing in the living room.
“Are you her next of kin?”, They asked me.
“No I am not but I was helping her….”
“The last thing she told us was ‘the wolves are at the door’. Do you know what she meant?”
“No but did her cats all run out? She told me a lady who was going to take them and I have to take them to that lady. How did she die?”, I asked them.
“It looks like she had a broken back…she must have been in terrible pain. Are you her friend? Do you know who we can call?”
I thought of all the times I saw her with her friends…I thought of all the times they laughed and all the times they spent together…no they were not her friends.
“She has no one sir.”
“OK I will call a mortuary…thank you the police will come and may want to talk to you later but this looks like natural causes.”
That older woman had osteoporosis and cancer and had never told anyone. The wolves had come.