Sometimes I like to think that I am a ghost.
It’s the days like this, when it’s a little too warm outside for it to be January, when everything just feels off, that I’m most translucent. I glide down the stairs of my apartment building a little too fast – the first sign something is wrong, I think, because I’m too heavy and take too small of steps to make so little noise – until I’m slamming myself against the peeling white door leading to the parking lot. Except, though I hear a thud, I don’t feel anything, can’t smell the kind-of dingy scent that comes from such an old hallway.
I open the door and immediately step on a half-burnt, soaked-with-yesterday’s-rain, cigarette. This I can smell, and the not-even-there smoke fills up my lungs like tiny snakes, so I don’t even really feel it inside me.
I half-jog to my grandma’s car, passing four more cigarette bits and pieces until I’m standing in the middle of the road. Her car is a deep red, but I can’t ever remember what type it is no matter how hard I try to memorize it. I’ve never been good at memorizing things.
I kick aside a few pebbles on the broken asphalt and climb into the car. “Hi, mom,” I say, pulling down the visor that has a mirror on it. I look into my own eyes as I ask how she is.
I don’t think she hears me, because next we’re pulling out of the parking lot and she’s dialing her next call to some corporate center for whatever rehab center is giving her issues today. “Is this GuardianOne Senior Care? Can I speak to Brooke?”
I feel a little more transparent because I don’t know who Brooke is and I don’t even recognize the rehab center. I guess that’s where we’re going.
For a while, the car is silent, and if I breathe deeply enough, I can almost draw out the smoke in my lungs and dispense it to the interior of the car. So I breathe, in and out, but only because I don’t know how to work the radio in my grandma’s car. Sometimes I shuffle the bags I’ve brought with me between hands.
When we arrive at GuardOne, or whatever it is, my mom parks in the handicap spot and beckons me to follow into the foyer. I’m not handicapped. While we’re being signed in, I look around; in the corner of the room is a short, medium-sized piano. I’m not very good at piano, but I imagine playing something like “My Heart Will Go On” and being kicked out of this stupid care center – because you can’t play sad music for sick people.
This center looks like it used to be a hotel, with all its high ceilings and fancy paintings. Never mind how it looks, I know it isn’t because I see a great dining hall with walls made of windows, and it’s filled with people in wheelchairs, not talking, just eating. I follow my mom down a wide hallway, and I know we’re not in a hotel because I can hear nurses asking, “What’s wrong?” and faint alarms blaring from down a hallway to my right.
I see nurses who look away when they see me too; I don’t blame them, because they’ve probably dealt with visiting family and people like my mom all day, every day, for who knows how long. I narrowly avoid tripping over myself as my mom stops and opens the door to one room. “Come on. Grandma will be happy to see you.” I hoist my bags into one hand, push my way into the room, and shut the door behind me.