Old

She is staring up at the ceiling.

Her small, frizzy mop of thin white hair is splayed around her head. Her tired blue eyes are soft and still.

She can see the sunlight spilling through the window in her periphery. She can imagine the view outside — the clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds scudding across, the mild temperature, perhaps a worker or two by the shrubs. And beyond that — the gate. Not that she’d get that far.

She tries to take a deep breath, but her old, tired lungs protest. She lies there for a moment, feeling stuck. She can no longer sit up on her own; that privilege of hers was robbed over three years ago. She can press the button on the side of her bed that will summon a helper, but they are not kind and she does not wish to see them. They hurt her sometimes, knowing she is defenseless.

Her daughter visited her yesterday, older now, sixty-five, but still beautiful. Still young. Her eyes were bright with purpose.

She tries to remember the last time she had a purpose. A goal. It was years ago, back in her eighties, when she finally decided to retire. She’d been helping people for so long, and it was time to help herself.

For a short time, she traveled. Then did charity work. Joined a book club. Settled down.

Eventually, her health became too much. She got a maid inside the house, but finally her daughter convinced her to come here. To prepare for the end of her life.

She had been looking forward to retirement since she was little. No expectations, no work. Freedom.

She didn’t realize she’d taken her health for granted until she lost it and couldn’t gain it back. Now she lay on her back in an empty room, a prisoner in her own body.

Wishing her eyes had not opened that morning.

She sighs. Maybe if she falls back asleep, she’ll stay that way.

So she does.

Someday soon — not today, but sooner than she thinks — she will finally experience relief.

When she realizes what is going on, she will be afraid.

It is harder than she thinks to let go.