There was an old lady living in the house next to us, but in the next block. Her kitchen window is less than 10 metres from ours, separated by a high fence. She must have been at least 80, very thin and frail, living on her own. We hardly ever saw, or heard, any visitor, save for the community nurse who came every second day bringing her medications. Or maybe — I hope — her visitors were just being very quiet.
Who are we to judge? We didn’t even know her name. All we could remember about her was that her door bell was very loud and sounded exactly like ours, when ours used to have a battery in it. (Which was about 4 years ago.) Every time that one went ding-dong, we had to remind ourselves that ours no longer worked. And that her phone –louder than our own — would often ring 10 minutes at a time, again and again. We never got annoyed at it, just a little worried, and hoping she was alright. But hoping was all we did. The phone kept ringing.
The lady came out the back yard sometimes and those were the only times we saw her. One time she called and handed me an envelop over the fence, asking if it belonged to us. But it was the wrong address altogether. Sometimes when it rained and there were clothes hanging on the lines outside, I thought of running over and bringing in the clothes for her. It wouldn’t have taken us long, 5 minutes at most. Yet we never did. The clothes got wet.
Then all of a sudden, a couple of months back, the house was alive with activities. Every weekend we saw a middle-aged couple buzzing around doing some renovation. And we realised the lady wasn’t there any more. A month later a sign went up. For Sale. Then it was sold. By the look of it, some new people will move in very soon.
We speculated about where the lady is. m’ said, most likely in a nursing home. I said, I hope she’s living with her children, who, I guess, were the couple who so diligently did up the place. We both refused to acknowledge one other possibility.
I miss the sound of her door bell. 9 o’clock in the morning. Every second day.