Bonnie was next in line to the register. The only thing that stood out to her more than her favorite song on the store radio was the squabbling of a couple boys at the register ahead of her. The father was just staring ahead, paying no attention to the kids. Sweet, innocent, irritating little bastards who were just horsing around in line…just bumping into other shoppers and their merchandise. She had some of her own. She was over sixty, so she knew how to address the little darlings…who were getting on the nerves of many others in line. Flatly: “I really wish you two would cut that shit out.”
The children’s dad pulled an about-face. She followed his eyes as he sized up a sixty-something-year-old woman. She saw his confidence go from “Siamese Cat” to “WTF” when he got to her book selection: Modern Psychopaths and You; and The Sociopathic Mind. “You boys…settle down…NOW!”, he quietly barked to the kids, both of whom complied. The family politely faced forward during their wait. Both minutes flew by.
When Bonnie got to the counter, the man behind it was more than friendly. He leaned forward and said, almost in a whisper “Thank you so much for straightening those kids out, like that. I wish I had the authority to do that, haha.”
“Probably above your Pay Grade. You make about, what, Minimum Wage?”
Awkwardly, “Well, I’m a manager; so, I make a bit more than that.”
“Oh, a manager. La-de-goddam-da.” Receipt prints.
Lee, Bonnie’s friend and ride, chimed in “Ready to go?”
Bonnie “Yeah. Let’s blow this joint.”
Bonnie woke up. A memory dream. A good one, which is nice to have. She remembered that day, her son’s husband taking her out book shopping. Her son was a writer, something she never stopped bragging about at the home.
Bonnie sat up to start getting dressed. Feeling good, she thought about the new guy. A recent addition to the home made her feel like she was 40 again. They only said “Hi” in passing, but you never know when conversation might strike up. She put on her favorite blue tie-dye t-shirt. I’m going to have a bright day today. She decided to put on some lipstick, just in case. As she opened the tube, she thought I could have sworn I had a little more, and that the case was black. Oh, well. I sure don’t have the memory of a 40-year-old. Being her age gave her a pass to not mind such details.
She took a deep breath and decided to make her way to the common area.
A toilet flush jolted Claude awake. He was adjusting to having a roommate. After his wife had passed, he had lived alone for several years. That ended when a small loss of balance resulted in being on the floor for two days. His daughter insists this wasn’t the only time, but he would know more about how often he’s laid on the floor for over a day than she would. Right?
Not that it mattered. His kids determined he couldn’t live alone and none of them had room for him. It happens. Claude had to do something similar with his old man, so he couldn’t come down on his kids.
He got dressed, stepped into the bathroom and flinched. The reflection. Even after all these years, you don’t prepare for what you see at this age. You know you’re old. You know you’ve been alive for a long time. But, there’s still a little shock when you look into the mirror and see your grandfather staring back at you. Once that passed, he swished some mouthwash and put in his teeth. He decided to shave this morning, just in case he saw her.
There was a lovely little spitfire who has been here for a little while, Bonnie. She was always saying outrageous things, never minding who was offended. She wasn’t mean, at all; just a little uncouth. Claude liked that in a woman. She also dressed very brightly. She stood out. It was hard to miss her. When he didn’t see her, he wished he could. He chuckles every time he thinks of her telling the orderlies “Powdered mashed potatoes are one thing, but would you at least put a little water in them before serving us?”
Maybe, today, he’d talk to her.
Claude entered the cafeteria-style common area of the nursing home. He didn’t see Bonnie, so he chose a table that would allow him to see both doors while trying to watch the TV. Sharing a place where women outnumber men three-to-one sounds great until you realize the TV is mostly playing Hallmark, OWN, or Lifetime.
A familiar voice was approaching the door. “Girl, don’t you buy any of that bullshit. You know better.”
Claude’s heart fluttered. The hairs on his neck, shoulders, and arms stood. This was the first time he noticed how much hair he’s collected since balding. His breath escaped his lungs as he saw her enter the room, accompanied by a laughing orderly. The girls who worked here loved to talk with Bonnie about their love lives, which she would gladly engage in and offer suggestions based on her years of experience with the wrong men. If only he had crossed her path decades ago.
“Hey, Bonnie!” He raised his cup of coffee and offered the open chair.
“Yo. What’s going on?” She replied, sitting with him.
He couldn’t get enough of the way she spoke. He wasn’t sure what all has happened to lead a housekeeper to speak like a sailor, but he wanted to get to know this.
They gabbed all through lunch. She was wearing his favorite shirt – a bold blue that brought out the color of her eyes, which he kept getting lost in. He liked to ask essay questions so that she would go on long rants, keeping him in stitches over the things she’d say. He’d mention a band, she’d respond.
“Oh, I LOVE their music. And that singer is a damn cutie! Mmm. The things I’d like to do to him. But, I don’t know about guys like that. They’re the type that’ll leave you tied to the bed with your heart broken. I kinda prefer uglier men anyway; they try harder.”
Though neither of them smoked, they did accompany the smokers for the afternoon break. It was their only chance to get outside to stretch their legs and get some air. Bonnie was obsessed with the birds and squirrels, calling them all “babies” and tossing crumbs from her pockets. Claude loved how much she cared about the well-being of everything around her, even though her own health was failing.
Bonnie noticed how much Claude was interested in her. She was interested, too, but not sure how to proceed. She hasn’t so much as dated a man in over 20 years. She had given up, deciding that pets were better. She was wondering if maybe she jumped to that conclusion a little too soon.
At dinner, they chose a table out of everyone’s way. No TV, no music, no distraction from the other residents who can’t mind their own business. Not that it mattered anymore; it was just the two of them. After finishing their meals, Claude just couldn’t resist anymore. He stood up, walked to her side, leaned in, and kissed her on her bright red lips. She kissed back – hard! She threw her arms around his neck, opened her mouth, their teeth pressed together and immediately fell off of the roofs of their mouths and onto her lap.
Both briefly embarrassed, quickly looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Everyone suddenly looked away, which meant that everyone had. So, both decided to laugh.
They held hands while watching TV until lights out.
The Nurse’s Evening
Nurse Chris was observing the new couple all day. She thought the whole thing was sweet. In a day and age when your love life is swipe-left, swipe-right, it gave her hope about finding someone and falling in love.
As she was running down her daily list with the director, she shared what she saw. Her boss was able to fill in the new nurse.
“Bonnie actually came to be with us about four years ago because of her dementia. Claude came about a couple years ago, for the same reason. Since he showed up, these two have been nearly inseparable. They don’t know how long they’ve been here, and don’t seem to realize they’ve met each other several times. But, it is sweet watching them get to have a ‘meet cute’ every morning. I know I wish I could fall in love every day. All we have to do is make sure to stay on top of her lipstick never getting too low.”