Staring Like Gary Sinise
When the doorbell rings, I'm dressed like my late grandfather on a lazy afternoon - by which I do mean before he died and in a guinea tee and boxer shorts. He liked his granddaughters in dresses. I wonder idly if he'd be proud of his middle-aged darling in a "My girlfriend is in Palomar" t-shirt. The bread lady waits in the hallway. It's worth it to her but in this sweltering summer and in my endless quest to smell like an expensive dessert I'm afraid I've taken a left turn at the fragrant, meaty buffet.
Her name is Paula and she is very, very old. She always carries two shopping bags filled with what might be politely termed "day-old bread." The bags smell sour. Paula smells like sweat and determination; she speaks halting English with a heavy German accent. About once a week, she hands me a loaf of bread I wouldn't eat on a double-dog dare and I give her $3. We struck this deal years ago, though I can't remember when or how she found me. On days when I don't have $3 she lets me slide. My credit's good, she says. I always come up with money within a few days.
She tells me about the blessings of the Lord. Since it seems to give her joy to tell me about my Lord being nailed to a support beam, I let her go on a bit. She offers to bring me a Bible. I hold open the door, "I've got three. But thank you, and please take good care of yourself."
Before you get the idea I think I'm moral hot shit, don't. Instead: get the idea that I am filled with gallons of Leave Me Alone. I am also filled with quarts of It's Disgraceful You Have To Sell Mouldy Bread to Eat, a cup or two of Why Are Elderly People Defenseless and Uncared-For? and a few pinches of How Can This Be Happening? Paula doesn't appear to have in her an ounce of self-pity and good for her. I'm so horrified by the ordinary awfulness that must have led her to my door in the first place that I close it behind her very, very gently as she goes.