TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
I'm at my table by the window, watching, without wanting to, other tenants rush off to work, bundled up against the frigid morningrunning to catch the T, or starting their cars, warming them up in the parking lot before they take off for offices, stores, banks, schools, hospitals, wherever, just the way I used to, not so long ago. The only work I'm doing now is on my first cup, Maxwell House Master Blend, and a True Blue, lit with the last match from a splint book picked up at Grab & Go. I'm enjoying the first drag, if not the scenery, when, like an alarm, my phone rings. I check the time. Just past eight. I let it ring a few more times. It's got to be Cassandra, my firstborn. This time of day, she works on her to-do list, at the top of which is my name, my life, her plans to make it better scribbled underneath.
"Mimi, there's an open house tomorrow at that new seniors' complex, Squantum River Living." She's breathing hard, like she's just won the Powerball, but me, I could spit fire.
"Squantum River Living," I echo. Just read about it in the Patriot-Ledger, in a special senior living section. Plus she already sent me a brochure.
"It's a great new place for seniors, subsidized too."
I swear, at times like this Cassandra's voice works on me like a dental drill.
"Let's go. It'll be fun."
"I already know all I want to know about that place."
Squantum River Living, an environmentally friendly low-rise development with three wings and solar panels on the roof. Three wings. What kind of creature has three wings? One wing is for the so-called active, independent living; the next is for transitional living, meaning one foot in the grave; and the last is an assisted living part, meaning they're only too happy to help you put the other foot in. After that, I figure, they can dump you into the river that runs through the property. Squantum River. No fuss, no muss. If you're lucky, you'll just float away.
"Squantum River Dying, that's what they ought to call it."
"You're so negative."
Evicting Mimi from her home: a pot boiling on Cassandra's front burner ever since I lost my federal civil service position over at the VA Hospital in Jamaica Plain. Since I began living on a fixed income, fixed just above the poverty lineenough so you can survive, but not enough to have much funCassandra's been trying to get me out of here.
"You're going to be broke in a couple of years."
"My money situation's not your problem."
"It will be when you don't have any."
"MYOB," I say, louder than I intended, but maybe the high volume will get through to her.
Instead, she starts sniffling. I made her cry. I'm so cruel to her, one of my many sins, my shortcomings. Not that my apartment is so great. Just three roomsnot enough space for many visitors and certainly not enough for a family party. But it's in a sweet garden apartment complex called Centennial Square, near downtown Quincy. I'm on the lower levelbelow grade, I think they call itso the view isn't all that great, but the rent is cheaper. Plenty of windows, though. Those in the living room are level with my chest. Mostly what I see are my neighbors' feet when they're rushing off to work and home again. But it's mine. All mine. I don't have to share, and I don't have to take care of anyone else. The slightest little problem I have and Duffy, the super here, will come to fix it. A more reliable guy you couldn't find anywhere on the South Shore. I come and go as I please. No one criticizes me.
"Next question, baby." I'm nicer this time, certain Cassandra's got another item on her list or she'd have hung up by now.
Copyright © 2014 by Julia MacDonnell
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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