Who can account for the things time does to the body, the mind and the essence both hold within? Who can account for anything? And what does it matter when the day draws to its close? There was a woman in the back room who could expound upon the question. She was knowledgeable about most things after having come up against them for almost a century. She was not one to make much of a fuss. She had become a Grand Master at adaptability in her time, and she still liked to have her nails painted. She would hold her hands out and describe the color; some kind of pinkish shade that the home attendant was partial to. She herself could take it or leave it, she said. And that is how it was.
The woman’s humming could be heard from the kitchen. One peek around the corner would reveal her wrapped in a glossy red shawl, with head tied and arms folded, and feet crisscrossed across the bed, looking through her spectacles at the television screen or hanging over the open book placed delicately in her lap. Smoke rose in the kitchen and there was the sound of a sizzle. There were vegetables softening slowly in a pot and bits of fish waiting to be fried up with the pieces of chopped garlic and scallions already simmering in the oil. The taste was all in the timing the cook had said.
He stood against the counter, moving a spoon around in the frying pan. The lady shifted in her chair, not far from him, she raised meat from her plate and tasted it. The couple was having a conversation. They spoke to each other and also to a nephew who observed them from the edge of the dining table. They feigned contradiction of each other’s perspective. They chided each other in that way spouses can after two or three decades have passed; where words that sound stern are aglow with a character that is much warmer and thicker for the love enfolding it. They called on the young observer for input, but did not particularly expect any.
Someone made a roguish remark and there was an eruption of laughter. The occupants in the room slapped hands on surfaces, dropped utensils on metal, and made the floor rattle. The matriarch called from her quarters in the back that the joke must have been a sweet one. And the couple gave smiles that must have been identical some twenty years before. At twilight, some short evening ago, when they walked with arms linked and hearts associated, connected and hopeful in ways they could not truly communicate; discreetly overwhelmed by what they shared between them. There were no costs to be paid just yet, in whatever capacity; no relatives crowding round to weigh in on matters only of concern to the participants in the marriage. Only the two, just the pair; strolling and grinning; strolling and clinging.