“What about it?”
“I heard it unlatch and then creak.”
“Is someone home?”
“No. It’s just the wind.’
“I’m so lonely, you know. I always hope someone will come by.’
“I know, and I feel so much less lonely when you are here. I am always thinking of my old friends, hoping they’ll pay me a visit. Skype connections are good, but they make me cry when they come to an end and I know my friend is thousands of miles away.”
Justine lets the old lady bathe in her memories and lets her fall asleep. When her time’s up, she leaves a note to let her know she left and the time at which the next aide will come.
She walks out into the bright sunlight. The sky is clear. There are clouds at the horizon, far away, nonthreatening. She hops into her car to meet Chase for lunch. He is late.
She waits, remembering Katharine, the old lady she cares for, and how much Katharine misses her friends now that she is no longer able to get out, now that she is, for the most part, bedridden. Justine feels young and able. The world is her domain; she can go anywhere she wants, with whom she wants, anytime. Such freedom! What’s the meaning of a life limited to four walls, your books and a window? What’s the meaning of life when the only contacts you have are with aides you barely know who you have to show your wounds to and let them wipe your privates? Aides change all the time. Some may become your friends, but aren’t likely to visit you when they aren’t on duty. What’s the meaning of life when all you have is your computer, and time is measured by the meds you are to take?
Waiting for Chase, Justine counts herself lucky. She isn’t like Katharine. She can meet her friends when she wants. She’s not lonely. She checks her smart phone. No text from Chase. She’s thinking of ordering lunch. She has another client in 45 minutes. She texts Chase: “Can’t wait. Eating.”
On her way to her next client, the thought becomes more pressing: “Why didn’t Chase text back?”
Her next client has Alzheimer’s. She’s there for four hours. Bart barely talks and when he does, it makes little sense to her. When he walks out the door, now, he forgets how to get back home. He can no longer be left alone. He responds to old photos of his children. He recognizes his daughter by the sound of her voice as long as he does not see her at the same time. She talks from behind him, if she wants him to know who she is.
When Justine goes home there’s still no message from Chase. She goes on Facebook and exchanges comments with fb friends. No one seems to know where Chase is. She listens to a few Youtube videos. She gets more and more anxious with time. She hates her agitation and she hates that Chase does not call her. She calls him, not expecting a response. She goes to his apartment. He is not there. She calls Betty, his mom. She has not heard from him.
The next day, Justine listens to Katharine’s youthful adventures. All Katherine has is her memories, and her pain. That’s all she thinks she has. She encourages Justine not to wait for life. “Go and grab what you want before it’s too late, before you’re bedridden like me and you can’t to do anything about it anymore,” she says.
On her way to visit Bart, she wonders how it really matters. If she’s going to end up bedridden, what does it matter to accumulate experiences before it’s too late. To reminisce them later? There must be something else, she thinks, something that you never tire of, something that transcends being bedridden. But what is it? How to get to it? And why doesn’t Chase call her already?
After work Justine calls her mom, Vera. “Oh! Dear,” she says, “What do you think has happened?’
It suddenly dawns on Justine that Chase must have had an accident. She calls the local hospitals one after the other. Finally one of them tells her that Chase was transferred to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “Chicago! Why?” she asks, “What happened?”