I was just taking out the trash. I’d spent the whole day cleaning. Hadn’t eaten, hadn’t had anything to drink, just went straight to work. I was taking out the trash, that was it. Then I was going to sit down to my feast and do some homework.
It was a beautiful sunny day when I opened the door of the mobile I was currently house sitting for. Two neighbors were sitting on their porch shushing the dog that just began to yip loudly at me.
I hurried to take out the trash, shutting the door behind me, and when I jiggled the handle upon my return, my heart sunk.
My keys, phone, backpack, purse, everything…was inside. I was locked out.
“Should I walk 5 miles to my house?” I wondered…No phone, no keys, no food or water the entire day (it was 1pm).
I glanced at the women on the porch with the yipping dogs, sighed, then walked over to them.
“Do either of you have a phone I could use? I just locked myself out,” I called, sliding across a muddy patch of grass.
The dog yipped louder and in greater frequency as I got closer….
“WHAAAAT???” the younger woman shouted at me, leaning forward. I walked closer.
“Do you have a phone I could use? I’m locked out,” I repeated.
“Oh, yeah hun. Hang on.”
She disappeared inside the mobile home, and came back out with her cellphone, handing it to me over the doggie gate which I was standing on the other side of.
I dialed my mom’s cell phone number. No answer.
I dialed my dad’s cell phone number. No answer.
I dialed my dad’s office. Answer.
“Dad, I am locked out and I don’t have the numbers of the family I am house-sitting for, and I have martial arts to get to and some school books I need out of there. Do you have a church directory or something?”
There was a moment of silence and then he replied, “Yes, in fact, I do. I put a church directory here in my brief case in the event that my daughter locked herself out of a mobile home, and didn’t have her cell phone to call the people to let them know that she was locked out.”
“No,” he replied, laughing. “But I do have one here. Do you have a pen and paper?”
I wrote down the numbers, called the son, and he was able to take some time off work to come give me the key. It took about a half hour, though. So in the meantime, I took a seat on the stairs of the people whose phone I borrowed and stared at the dogs awkwardly.
“Better here in the shade than that hot sun over there,” the older woman commented.
“Yeah,” I replied, smiling. “Thanks for letting me use the phone.”
“No problem,” she replied, grinning back, and swaying back and forth like a rocking chair pendulum.
I looked around at the surroundings, wondering what I should say. Then I blurted, “So what are the dogs’ names?”
“Penny and Duke. Duke sleeps on about five pillows. Like the Princess and the Pea.”
I laughed. He even looked like a duke.
There was more silence, and then we realized we hadn’t introduced ourselves.
The older woman said that the younger woman was her niece/caregiver, because she’d had a spinal surgery recently. “I was in that darn hospital for 6 weeks,” she began, with a long Texan drawl. Then she continued, “I was goin’ to that physical therapy too, down on the first floor of the hospital, and, well, that was an outpatient thing, so you know, I didn’t stay there for too long. But I went to the physical therapy, and I got the crabs.”
I think I must have blinked with and I know I had a blank look on my face…I wondered if I had heard her correctly.
She read this expression and felt the need to clarify. “You know, the crabs. Them bugs down below,” she made a scratching motion at the air between her legs.
Dear God, save me.
I stayed silent, not sure how to respond. Apparently her story wasn’t over.
“I was in the shower and I said to myself, ‘Is that a bug?’ and sure enough, it was! I showed my doctor and he gave me some of this…this powder stuff to take home, but when I got home, I just shaved it all away.”
I tried to keep a straight face with a concerned look because this story was sincerely traumatizing for this woman.
“My doctor, he then called me up, the next day, and he said to me, ‘are those bugs going away?’ and I telled him, ‘Sir, I just got rid of their home. So yes, they are gone.’ Then, that hospital, they traced it back to the physical therapy because lotsa other people got ’em there.”
….I finally let my laugh erupt. I tried to control it, because it was one of those laughs you don’t want to let out because it might become so out of control that it borders on socially unacceptable. I couldn’t believe this was her first introduction to me, and she felt the need to tell me she got crabs at a physical therapy office.
What do you say in response? “I’m sorry that happened,” I said. “That’s super disgusting.”
A lady came out of the mobile next to us and began hitting the front of the house.
“Gloria, what are you doing???” the older woman called out, without turning her head (she somehow knew it was Gloria).
“Those damned landscapers keep knocking in the front of my mobile. What idiot puts weedkiller under the front of it?”
“Talk to Uva,” the older woman said. “He’s the hottest Mexican landscaper you will ever see. All the women here love him.”
Just then, said man appeared with some sort of grass cutting tool in hand.
“Uva!” Gloria called to him.
He came over to her dressed in jeans, fancy boots, a silver belt buckle around his waist, a dress shirt on, and fairly tall and clean-cut. Handsome, as landscapers go, I must say.
When he arrived, the older woman said, “Ooooooo just look at him. Aint he fine????”
Gloria tried to explain her dilemma, and he just said apathetically, “Somebody probably hit it.”
When he walked away, Gloria kept whacking it, trying to get the panel back in place, and the older woman said, “Did Uva help?”
“NO! Of course not. Useless. Good looking, but useless,” she hiked up her porch muttering.
“Talk to the office, Gloria. Take it up higher,” the older woman insisted.
“A lot of good that will do. The whole mobile park is in love with Uva and nobody will reprimand him.”
“That’s true,” the older woman agreed. She turned to me and added, as though about to let me in on a juicy secret, “He wears sunscreen to keep his skin light. That’s why he is the hottest Mexican around.”
Uh…how does one respond to that? The niece lit a cigarette and I held my breath. In between smokes she asked me, “So what’s your major?”
“Nursing,” I replied.
“Oh, good career choice,” both women replied.
“I don’t like them bacterias” the older woman said, rocking in her chair and shaking her head in disapproval. “I got a staph infection at the hospital.”
I told her, “That is one of the most common infections you can get at a hospital…pretty awful. Sorry that happened.”
I then listened to their two war stories of staph infections that either they, or close family members had.
“My boyfriend got MRSA once. Pretty horrible,” I added, feeling compelled to add another war story to our pile.
“Oh right, that’s what it was called, MRSA!” the younger woman explained. “My dad got fake joints put into his hands and he got MRSA.”
“Yikes…” I got distracted trying to envision a man with fake hand joints and an infection. The image was confusing.
The older woman interjected: “I wipe the bacterias whenever I go out places. I am always buying those gels and using those wipes for my cart handles.”
“Yeah, me too.” I agreed.
“So I heard you on the phone. You do some of that martial arts?”
“Yep. Kickboxing. It’s fun.”
“I wish I could get my leg up. They got a seniors class?” she asked sarcastically.
“They actually do, believe it or not.”
“Well that’s nice. I think I want to tap dance though.”
“Yeah, but I’ll be seventy soon, so I guess I won’t. I also want to ski. Tapdancing would be fun. So fun. Tapping my feet around….”
“That would be fun.”
“You know, it is good you are going into nursing. People are prejudiced against old people. I go to them stores and people see I am an older woman and they talk to me differently and they think I don’t have no brains, no sense no more. But theys wrong! I thought I had dementia and Alzheimer’s and I went to the neurologist, or whatever you call him, and he said I aint got no dementia. Just post-concussion syndrome. We need more people like you to treat older people like real people. It aint fair! It just aint fair!”
“It isn’t fair; I agree. Also, I think if you had dementia, you wouldn’t have been aware enough to go to a neurologist with that concern,” I told her.
“That’s what he said!” she exclaimed relieved with the confirmation that she has no dementia.
“So why are you house sitting?” she asked.
“Those folks go to my church, so I am doing it for them.”
“How long you been going to their church? I used to go there. Been needin’ to go back. The Lord’s important, you know?”
“3 years,” I replied.
“You know what them kids need these days?”
Seemed like a sweet answer with some truth embedded in it. But then she added, “Because the Lord would give them the spankin’ they need and they’d stop messin’ around!”
“I’m a mother of four when I was 19 you know? And let me tell you, children are piles of heartache. Life is full of joys and heartaches. And I am so glad my grand-kids aren’t old enough to have their hearts broken yet. By the time that happens, I hope I won’t be around no more.”
We were interrupted by a LOUD meow across the way.
I turned to look.
“That’s the lady who used to be an RN like you want to be. Her cat lost its partner of 17 years not long ago, so now it is lonely. It sits outside and cries. Long, pathetic cries, all day long. Sad, so sad.”
The son of the folks I am house-sitting for pulled up in his car just then. Relieved, I took off. “Thanks for the phone!” I said.
I was on their lawn when they both called out, “You can come visit us anytime!”
When I got inside, I put a single note on the front door that read:
DON’T FORGET KEY.