Her Way Out
Alicia paints her lips everyday now. She has made her decision to leave and wants everyone to remember how lovely she could be. The other residents know a brusquer, impatient woman who is short-tempered and complains constantly about the bland kosher food served in the enormous dining room as well as the lack of privacy in the room she must share.
She is 95, a New York bred, political liberal with a still-sharper intellect and an even sharper tongue. She reads the newspaper every day and longs for a fiery conversation with a worthy opponent. At the home for the aging, where she has lived for 4 years, there are many activities to keep the residents busy. But Celia is finished with clubs and classes, and therefore is making her own plans.
Gardening is her passion. In college she had been a botany major and can reel off lists of plants and trees and flowers, including their communities that they belong to, their origins, and their relationships to one another. It is as if all are members of an illustrious family tree. Gardening is the tonic that lathers her soul and coaxes her out of bed to breathe life into another day.
There is a soft side of Alicia. She can turn a brown, dusty square of dirt into a lush bed of delicate petals that lift their heads toward the sun and wave languidly in the valley breezes. She leaves them now, strewn around the grounds, like pieces of herself.
The narrow window box hangs outside the small East-facing window of her shared room. Pink, bell-shaped flowers hang from thick green stalks that have grown tall and sturdy. Alicia cares for them as if they were delicate birds that must be fed and nurtured. She cuts them back in late June before the stifling heat and unmerciful winds strip away the foxglove’s lush beauty and leave it dry and parched.
Tonight, Alicia carefully paints her lips, then slowly and deliberately bites the leaves she has cut from the foxglove. She knows it by its Latin name, digitalis purpurea, and she knows too its enormous power to carry her away.
The window box hangs empty now.
Written by Julie Feldman, an accomplished artist, now author. Check out email@example.com