“This is my nephew, Matheus. He doesn’t work. He’s a bum. He’s a writer.”
That’s how Uncle P. introduces me to one of the many strangers that crowds the small apartment that afternoon. On a normal day I would say something, but not today. I don’t want to make a fuzz while Eva lies in her bedroom, a strap of cloth holding her chin.
Be nice to Uncle P. I tell myself. He lost his mother today.
I know he lost his mother. I was by her side when she died, because I don’t have a real job.
Instead, I smile. I even hug Uncle P. My hands are not shaking anymore. How can so many strangers fit in such a small apartment? The last time I saw this place so crowded was on New Year’s Eve many years ago.
The apartment is on the ground floor, and people come from all over the neighbourhood to say goodbye to Eva. My kindle e-reader is somewhere in this apartment. I should find it before someone steals it. With so many people around, it wouldn’t be hard for a stranger to walk in and steal a few objects.
My kindle is in Eva’s bedroom, in the small bed. She’s in the other bed, surrounded by our family. They do not know how much she yelled and screamed till an hour ago.
“Mum! Please, save me, mum! The bad man wants to get me!”
Her mum wasn’t there, but I was.
My kindle screen shows me I’m 48% into Henry James’ The Bostonians. My plan was to come down, helped Eva to take her bath, sit by her side while she slept and continue to read about the strange romantic triangle between Olive, Verena and Basil.
She kept screaming for her mum.
An hour ago I was sitting by her side. I covered her with my jacket, held her wrinkled hand and told jokes. She looked at me with those big blue eyes, her entire body shaking. She knew it. I knew it too.
“I’m afraid,” she said with her eyes. “I think I’m going away.”
“I know,” my eyes replied, while my mouth said other things. “And I cannot keep you from going. But I’ll walk you there. I’m going to hold your hand until you go.”
That apartment is always so cold. The nurse and the caregiver tried to put her in bed. Then they yelled and asked me to call for an ambulance. We all knew it was too late.
I ran into the street and waited to hear a siren.
I walked the paramedics inside the house, and stood in the bare wall of the living room waiting for the words.
I sat down on the floor, covering my face with my hands. Everyone in the room cried.
Soon my uncles and aunts arrived with their sons and grandsons. We dressed Eva so they could pay their respects. Someone prepared coffee and bought snacks for everyone.
The paramedics forgot to sign her death warrant, so her body stays there until late at night. It’s a big family.
The world looks pale. She looks peaceful.
There’s a tree in front of her building, a weeping fig she planted some twenty years ago. It’s almost as tall as the building now.
Did her mother hold her hand on the other side? Did she get back everything Alzheimer took away from her?
Too many questions without answers. It’s been a long day. Hers has been a long life.
Those beautiful eyes were milky white now. The paramedics closed her eyelids so we wouldn’t be scared.
It’s over now.
The funny voices and the afternoons watching TV.
The smile and the stories of times long past.
The little coats she sewed for my action figures and the bites she offered me from her sandwich.
I won’t reply to her questions five times without losing the patience.
I won’t admire the thickness of her hair and the beauty of her laughter when her dog jumps on her lap and licks her face.
Out there, the weeping fig continues to grow.