All eyes were focused on Billy. When Blondie turned around, the other residents immediately looked away—except the old man. He looked at Blondie with an unbroken gaze. Blondie then looked away and shouted, “You’ve got 10 more minutes then it’s back to your rooms for the rest of you.” Blondie walked away back down the main corridor to the front desk station.
Loretta looked at the old man with a glance of concern. He put one hand on her forearm and with the other he pointed at the hallway that leads to the facility’s exit. Then, he looked at her and with the expression on his face; she knew what he meant to say.
“I can’t. There’s nothing for me out there.” Her small voice was heavy with despair. “No one to go to. No one to take care of me.” Her soft brown eyes were beautiful to him even though their light had long ago faded away. “I can’t afford anywhere else. This is all there is.”
He thought about the words she just said. He looked in her eyes and knew her. She was a woman who had no hope for the future, only her memories, moments of joy too frequently separated with the torture of life’s living. Fate had been cruel to her. She was meek and humble. She was married twice, giving herself in marriage first to a drunk, then to an abusive drunk. She worked minimum wage jobs, lived an honest life, and was stricken with a kind of Parkinson’s disease that left her unable to work. With no one to care for her and nothing but debt, she bounced around from hospitals and healthcare facilities, eventually winding up here.
But, for all the cruelty and unfair treatment, she was good and decent. They looked at each other in the silence. She was old and wrinkled, with spots on her skin. Her greying hair was frayed and dry. Parts of her would start trembling, sometimes subtle and sometimes wildly. Though she was skinny, lumps of fat accumulated at her back and in her small tummy. Her breasts were shapeless. He saw in her beautiful eyes a kindness despite cruelty, generosity despite poverty, and gentleness despite injustice.
He moved his hand from her forearm and clasped her hand. A pleasant chill coursed over her skin and her face grew warm. Out of her heart, which for so long had known only sorrow and had forgotten how to hope, an excitement leapt forth.
Right now, she was in a moment of joy. Even though she knew he would take his hand off hers in only a few minutes and she’d be off to her solitary room for several hours before lights out, there in the dinge of the cafeteria, among the neglected, abandoned, sick, and mentally-challenged, hope and love brought a smile to her face.
He smiled back and gently squeezed her hand.
Down the main corridor at the desk station, Blondie saw them on a security monitor.