Inside, I shut the door and run my hand over an antique desk where She used to sit and do her make-up. The tainted mirror reflects my image and behind me, I can almost see her standing, searching in the closet for one of her rarely worn evening dresses. Her scattered fragrances fill my senses. Her powders and forget-me-nots still occupy the drawers, dresser and closet. So many times I have wanted to touch these things, to investigate their mystery, they seemed so foreign and strange to me these useless pretty nick-naks and fancies. I will not be shooed out tonight; there is no one here to defend her properties that she so intimately kept.
Everything is left as it was before. As if her absence will be short lived and we will see her soon. I keep thinking that she has forgotten her special this-or-that, like the lovely plated silver hand-mirror and brush set that often reflected her primping gaze; so seldom used in the past few years. The brush; probably used last when the final hairs on her head were combed away from chemotherapy.
I can still smell her. The hint of ammonia, vanilla perfume, dust, from the carpet, the shampoo, and laundry detergent, she wore them all. I anticipate her appearing around the corner of the hallway, asking if I’d like something to eat. “Spinach and Liver, maybe?” To her amusement, I had often asked in all seriousness for this delicatessen as an after school snack. I still imagine her rolling her eyes and proceeding to the basement to fetch the liver from the freezer. I think, sometimes I hear her call me from the kitchen and trick me into helping her with the dishes.
Her walls are full of portraits framed in Wal-mart discount, sectioned frames, memories, that she has kept like no one else. Distant faces peer through years and years of light damage and dust as I struggle to recognize them from reunions and gatherings. Most of them are strangers to me, now that the connection is gone. We were once bonded together by the woman who held onto these memories. I listened to her stories so casually, as if I would always hear them told. I wish I could recall them now; she had so much faith in me to remember. I fall onto the bed, deep in thought. My family’s movement and conversation still outside the door, but I am alone.
The evening walks with her are over. The garden will go un-kept. The sewing machine will collect the dust, and the chair she fell into after long days of domestic upkeep, will go un-sat. I have watched my grandfather look over at the chair a dozen times since my visit. Sometimes, when he needs something, he still calls out her name. “Gertie!” He says. But silence is the only reply and then he remembers… then we all remember.