Sharing the stage

‘Mum, I went door-knocking with Cathy today,’ she says as I am driving her home from Cathy’s.

‘Door knocking? Why?’

‘Because Cathy and I had to distribute flyers for our play,’ she says.

You never know what lurks behind closed doors, your child dealing with unknowns is never a happy thought.

‘Sweetheart,’ I begin, ‘Was Cathy’s mum okay with this?’

‘Yeah, of course.’ she says. ‘They know all their neighbours. Except…’

My heart starts to trudge.

‘Except what?’

‘Except all of Cathy’s neighbours are getting so old, they are house-bound now, Mum.’

Her face falls. Remember the unknowns? It is not just monsters that hide behind closed doors. Old age and disease and sorrow lurk in sealed off spaces too, who knows what you will find in a discarded chest.

‘We went to Miss Gloria’s house. Miss Gloria is from Italy. She has the cutest accent.’

‘How old is Miss Gloria?’

‘She cannot remember anymore, she says 90, then she says she could easily be a 100,’ she pauses for a minute. ‘She could not hear the doorbell so Cathy and I walked around to the back of the house and knocked on her bedroom window.’

I think of Miss Gloria, alone in her little flat, not waiting for any visitors, her doorbell rusty and defunct over time because no one walks her way anymore.

‘And she was so delighted that she said she would be at the door in a minute.’ Miss A smiles a little. ‘Mum, we had to stand on tiptoe so that she could see our faces, she is so old now that she kind of curls up in bed. She is very small.’

It is a grand circle. First we see, then we do not, then no one sees us. Except on the days that some comes a-knocking.

‘Then we raced to the front door and rang the door bell again. But no one answered. So we went around to the bedroom again and she laughed and said, ‘Dear me, I am so forgetful. I will open the door now.’ We waited till she got into her wheelchair and then we got to the front door before she did.’

My heart, it does somersaults.

‘Then she opened the door and she asked us to come in and we told her all about the play. She looked like a different person when she smiled, Mum.’

The original Miss Gloria, I want to say. The one that came over from Italy on a liner ship many decades ago. The one that did not forget.

‘Honey, I am so glad you visited her, did she like hearing about the play?’

‘Uh-huh. But then she became sad again and said that she did not go to the theatre anymore.’

She looks out of the window and I catch her crumpled reflection in the mirrors.

‘Cathy and I said we were sorry to hear that. Miss Gloria said that perhaps we should not leave any flyers with her because it was not like she was going to be coming to see the play or anything.’

‘And?’

‘We said she could keep the flyers. Even if she was not coming to the play. Then Miss Gloria smiled again. She asked us to sit down and she pushed her wheelchair towards the kitchen. She gave us biscotti Mum, she said she had made it at home.’

A lump in my throat. A glimmer of tears in hers.

‘We said it was delicious. Then she asked us if we wanted some more and we said ‘No, thank you so much Miss Gloria. We should get going now.’

‘Miss Gloria’s face fell again but she gave us a dollar each. Because you are nice little girls, she said.’

‘We cannot take the money Miss Gloria,  we said. She looked sad now, real sad like when she was sitting alone in the bedroom.’

‘Give it to your drama school, she said. A little donation from me since I cannot come to see the play. Because I do not go to the theatre any more. And thank you for the flyer, girls.’

I wipe my eyes. Miss A is still not looking at me.

‘Some days, ‘ I say, my voice a tremor, ‘I bet Miss Gloria does not forget everything. Like today, she is going to remember everything about today.’

‘Yeah,’ says Miss A, smiling a little bit.

‘We asked her to shut the door behind us and she chuckled and said she would remember to do that.’

‘Hey,’ I say a few minutes later, ‘I am so glad you got to do this play.’

‘Me too, Mum,’ she says. ‘Otherwise I would never have met Miss Gloria.’

It is not so much that the curtain falls on all of us. It is that we share the stage with wondrous actors and sincere extras, with graceful dancers and acrobats that waltz across a spotlight, hands akimbo and feet keeping perfect rhythm, even if it is for the tiniest of moments. And sometimes, we learn our parts from the people who do not have the most lines. Age is a great leveller like that.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rajavel Manoharan (@RajavelMano)
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 13:16:07

    EArly morning you moist my eyes and I have to wipe it off and say I am allergic to dust to my friends ! You make me lie too ! 😦

    I remember.

    Reply

  2. Nilu
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 02:01:20

    Really, really sweet!!!! Had tears in my eyes reading this!

    Reply

  3. tharinid
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 04:29:24

    So true. Age IS a great leveler. As is time. Ms. Gloria is actually very real to me, because we were at the nursing home this last weekend, and met so many old ladies, who might just forget to open the door, if they had lived on their own.

    Reply

  4. IW
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 12:52:39

    Perhaps Miss A, Cathy & remaining cast could stage a private show ( @ Ms Gloria’s home or in backyard ) ? A shorter version perhaps..

    (your writing) very touching as always.

    Much Love,
    (“sincere extra” )

    Reply

  5. scarlettletters
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 09:51:12

    Rajavel, I had moist eyes while writing this too :/ We all do remember, don’t we?
    Nilu, thanks.
    Tharini, isn’t it sad that we have to wait till we get to the end of line to realise that we were all waiting for the same thing? :/
    IW, mere bhai, have I told I LOVE your comments? Loved the sign off “Sincere Extra” – I think you are more in the category of a “talented actor”, extra vextra kya laga rakha hei 🙂

    Reply

  6. enig
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 11:22:29

    had loved this one as well, didn’t realize I hadn’t commented and told u so 🙂

    Reply

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