Dementia

Nora wasn’t her real name, it was the name of the lady who lived in the flat before me but she died. Other than her post for cash prize draws and Christmas suppers at the rotary club, I know nothing of Nora. She is gone and when this is published fully so too, most probably, will be the flats themselves. It seems ok to pass her name up one floor and give it to the saddest case of an elderly lady that I never had the pleasure to meet: only hear.

I wish I could tell her history but I have less than fragments. If I change her name can I change her past, give her an intoxicating one. All the gossip fragments crumbs said that she was from Nigeria and was deaf in one ear from an accident. So let me retell her again with some sweet dignity that the Blind House denied her.

I like to think of Nora aged twenty five in a hot Nigerian city. a shocking pink floral scarf twisting in a mound on her head and eyes that saw. Eyes that didn’t crease when she let out her crisp bleating laughter. At everything she laughed at from hidden giggles to wild, unstoppable cries her eyes only widened and swallowed the world. Nora walked to buy food daily with a turquoise string bag sailing at her swinging hips. On a Saturday she would stop to buy fresh cut mango form a street stall and holding its waxy skin to her cheek for a piece of coolness under the awning, she would laugh at the world. Her favourite observation since she had been a girl, collecting a mango on Saturday mornings was the delight in watching people getting lost. There was always at least one lost person if she waited long enough, taking small bites on water cooled fruit. Some would get lost in short steps and turn in jagged mis-steps to find their way along the stalls. They would look so certain for a pace or two and then turn and pretend it was the other way they needed all along. Nora liked to pretend there were no stalls and just watched how funny she found their confused movements. Her favourites though were those who pretended they knew their way across the market only to come passing back again, and back again. She couldn’t work out why the lost made her laugh only that she knew exactly where she was with that fruit stirring her smiles and that she would never be lost. Of course none of this amusement and knowing of place on her expression will ever be seen, was ever seen. I caught her face once in the shadows of her bedsit. No story can make her not lost. I keep getting told dementia means forgetting but the nights I heard Nora’s confusion in it song of slams and crashes I can only tell you of a woman who became very lost in the smallest of places.

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