in the middle of the night. He hadn’t bothered to close the door, so I
stood there in the garage looking out at the gray morning. I had parked
my own car on the street. It looked as small and prematurely aged as I
felt. I pulled the keys from my pocket.
As I drove to the facility, I noticed again the overturned car, the
burned-down donut shop, and now, too, broken stoplights, blinking red.
The cars that passed me going the other way seemed to be fleeing the
scene of an accident. On the face of every driver, I saw an expression of
tragic regret. I saw no reason to rein in these projections. The world had
a habit of standing in the way, like a perfect screen.
Parking outside the facility, I noticed elderly people in bathrobes hiding in the bushes, leaning on canes and walkers, one pushing another in
a wheelchair. They looked out at me with dull expressions.
“Hello,” I said. “Are you OK?”
“Here for our rooms?” said a woman with a beige eye patch. “They’re
“I don’t want your rooms, no.”
The woman looked embarrassed and seemed to give up the idea of
questioning me further. Another staggered to me and gently grabbed
my arm, like a docent with a warning.
“Do you know,” she said, “the name of the woman who is living in
all the rooms?”
“Mallory,” I said, realizing it must be true.
“No,” the woman said. “It’s Gary.”
“A woman named Gary is living in all the rooms?”
The woman shook her head. “No, Gary said it was Mallory.”
“I said it was Mallory,” I said.
“But so did Gary,” said the woman; she waved a hand. “I don’t want
to argue with you about it. Tell Mallory she’s in our rooms.”
“I can get her to leave,” I said. Liar.
The woman had wandered into the grass but now turned back. She
and several of the others started laughing at me. I hadn’t planned on
running from them, but as I backed away, the automatic doors slid open
and seemed to suck me into the building.
The first person I saw inside was my mother.
“Hello,” she said, casual.
Her grin was big as a billboard. She stood with her purple cane and
seemed out of breath as she leaned against a wall. At the sound of two