Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Oldest Person I Know

For her TY Work Portfolio, Robyn Brady wrote this piece, which she also read out at the TY English Evening last month:

The Oldest Person I Know

I don't actually know that many old people if I’m honest. I know “of” them, like my mum's uncle, and aunt, who I’ve heard stories of but never met in person. They’re old, possibly nearing their 80’s. But no one can compare to my to the little old lady who lives in the house in front of mine.

She’s a very mysterious creature. I’ve only met her three times. The first time was when we had just moved into our house after re-constructing it. She had the loudest dogs in the neighbourhood. Two enormous huskies. They barked all through the day and night non-stop. There was a little forested area between our houses at the time: it was overgrown and unkempt, much like relationships she had with all of her other neighbours.

Not many people try to get to know her: she isn’t pleasant on the eye, but also not unpleasant either. Her hair is mostly white, with a slight purple undertone. She keeps it under a clear hat, but this isn’t any kind of rain hat: this one is triangular in shape and she ties it under her chin. The skin under her eyes droops over the top of her cheekbones. 

The rest of her skin is worn with age, and she spends most of her summers abroad, giving her the appearance of an old leather bag with cracks. The rest of her face is very wide and bony; her jawline is speckled with hairs that make her face look like a peach, fluffy and round. Her eyebrows are always immaculately filled in, which surprises me because her hands shake all the time. Her neck is long and veiny, and constantly covered by her collection of rosary beads.

She lives alone in a large two story Victorian house. The house appears gothic to me, but it has an air of elegance. Its large white doors tower over her when she opens the door. I have never been inside the house but from my glimpses through the door I can tell she is a pack rat. Boxes overflow with trinkets and clothes. Her staircase is full of books. On a marble table beside the door sits a vase with dead sunflowers. They areher prize and glory. In the summer she grows them high enough for them to peek through the forested area, brightening up the dull browns and greens. She comes out of her house everyday at the same time, just before noon. She limps heavily to a battered red car that is covered with cobwebs. Then she leaves her house and comes back just before the six o’clock news.

When she talks she cocks her head to the left, and with a monotonous voice she slides her words together. She never shows any large amount of affection, except for two things: her dogs and her husband. Her dogs howling incessantly causes many of the neighbourhood disputes. One neighbour even tried to muzzle her dogs while she was out one day, which I thought was a very forward and disrespectful act towards a woman whom these people never got to know. This was the day that I heard her speak for the first time. As her mouth let out a hoarse croaky gasp, her eyes were just as amazed as ours, they slightly watered, but her bottom lip pushed up to her top lip to show her look of despite, and her eyes turned to slits. It was possibly one of the scariest moments of my life: her words didn’t slide into each other and as she roared at the man who had muzzled the dogs. Steam must have been trying to come out her ears because her face was so red. She screamed a lot of descriptive words in between her cursing. One line I distinctly remember was: “That flaming man will be the death of all of us.” Needless to say that man was just as flabbergasted as we were.  I was practically pushed into my house so I wouldn’t see what happened. All I know was that the police came by.

I said she was also affectionate towards her husband, this was towards a certain extent. He was also quite mysterious. He had a cleft chin with a little white stringy beard. He wore big round glasses that fell off the tip of his nose a lot. He had a very lop-sided walk that made him look like he was limping, but it was because one leg was shorter than the other. He left earlier than she did in the morning, and he arrived back way after my bedtime. 

The day of her husband's funeral was the last day I saw her. She looked even older than she normally did. Her hair wasn’t as purple and her lips were weighed down on the corners. Her wrinkles pressed together so hard that her face couldn’t even relax. The clothes on her shoulders just hug there aimlessly. She sat in the first pew alone. But if she hadn’t have been sitting alone, you could still see she was alone. Her presence was dim and unwelcoming, like she didn’t want anyone to fill the gaping hole in her heart. She’s the oldest person I know, and I think she's the oldest person she knows too, because with the few people that came to her husband's funeral, I began to see why she didn’t want anyone to fill the hole in her heart. There was only one person who could.

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