She has been living next to us this entire time.
Just a few feet away, in a house so quiet that I was beginning to wonder if anyone lived there at all. And then, one day, I saw her. Out on her front porch saying good bye to visitors. I dropped the shovel and walked quickly across the lawn and to her front porch. I was wearing a tank top with no bra, and boxer shorts – my yard work clothes. But I didn’t care. I had to say “Hello”.
“Hi there,” I walked up to her porch, “My name is Alaina, I’m your neighbor.”
“You are? Wonderful! I have always wanted to meet you. Your name is beautiful, how do you spell it?” It takes her about four or five tries to nail it, but soon she has my name memorized and then she invites me in. I follow her reluctantly because Benjamin and his friends are at the house and I don’t want to leave them for too long. I tell her this, but she doesn’t seem to hear.
Her house is open and airy, not stuffy and cluttered. On the walls are a handful of select photographs. Like the house, the walls are clean, simple. No clutter here, only simplicity and everything is so clean.
“This is my family,” she says moving over to one of the photographs. She pulls it off of the mantle and into her chest where she holds it for me to see.”This is my husband and my two daughters and this is me.” Her frail finger is pointing at the image of a beautiful woman in a red dress with white polka dots. The photo is black and white but I can tell it is red. I don’t know how, but I can. Or maybe it is my imagination. Either way, her dark hair is shining along with her smile. She is sitting to the left of her husband, who is also beaming for the camera. They each have a daughter at their side, two little girls with light curly hair. They’ve all just finished dinner. It’s dark out, but the white table cloth helps to illuminate their faces. They are happy.
“This photo was taken right before we left.”
“Where? Where are you from?” I ask eagerly. I feel like a five year old in her presence. Suddenly I am completely and absolutely ignorant to the ways of the world.
“Cuba. And this is in 1961, when we moved here. Because of well…” she trails off, not wanting to say – the Revolution. Interesting.
“Ahhhh… and you have been here ever since?”
“Yes,” she says, “right here in this house. My husband died nine years ago and now I am here. I am here. It is just me with the memories.”
“Then you are the richest woman in the world,” I want to say. But I don’t. Instead I can’t find my words and I tell her we should exchange numbers. I want her to call me if she ever needs anything. She will, she says and then I have to leave because Benjamin and his friends are calling my name. They are just a few feet away, but it may as well be miles. I have slipped into another world.