was a terrible thing to do, I admit. Often Andrew and I would eye
each other guiltily as we sat completely frozen, waiting for Simon
and Sonia to stop ringing our doorbell. Though after ten minutes
of DING-DONG, DING-DONG, DING-DONG -- I thought you said you
heard them come in! I DID! Then why aren't they answering the door?
MAYBE THEY CAN'T HEAR US. Ring the bell again! DING-DONG, DING-DONG,
DING-DONG -- we felt a little less guilty. And, to be fair, we didn't
completely stop helping them -- it's just, we were busy people and
we resented being at their beck and call.
Thus, it was with utter annoyance that I awoke one morning to the
incessant intonations of our doorbell. I got up angrily and yelled
through our thin plywood door: Who is it? To which a plaintive,
raspy voice replied: It's Sonia, Cora! I checked the clock
and saw that it was 7:08AM and responded in the sing-song manner
of thinly veiled annoyance: Sonia, I have to take a shower. Can
I help you later? Sonia's voice sounded urgent: My husband's
on the floor and he's not moving! And that's when I rushed next
door and found Simon dead on the sticky, dusty floor, his eyes wide
as if caught off-guard, a putrid mucusy pool around his open mouth.
His formerly yellow and blue face, now looked gray and ashen --
his body twisted and his limbs in unnatural disarray. Anyone could
tell he'd been dead for hours. Anyone but Sonia. She turned to his
vacantly staring corpse and yelled -- Simon! Simon! Get off the
floor! Then she turned to me -- His eyes are still open,
but he won't answer me.
The night of Simon's death, I stopped by the grocery store after
work to pick up food for Sonia. She went through the bags with her
characteristic brusqueness, telling me I bought all the wrong stuff
and never once thanking me for my trouble. But the moment I made
motions to leave, she started crying. Her grief was oddly farcical,
like that of a vaudeville performer. She cried without tears, literally
saying the words "boo-hoo-hoo!" and I could've
sworn I caught her raising her eyes to check my reaction. So, I
sat on the edge of the couch that had the least amount of stains
and comforted her as best I could, tapping the small clean spot
on her right shoulder: I'm sorry, Sonia. I'm so sorry. The
second she realized I was staying, she cheered up instantly and
smiled: Let me show you a painting of me!
And there she was, stepping gingerly over the place where her husband's
dead body lay only hours before. I noticed with alarm that she hadn't
even cleaned up Simon's mucusy mouth pool. With great pride she
pointed to a portrait of herself looking slightly less old, much
cleaner, but still pretty creepy. Then she touched her greasy hair,
thoughtfully: I should get my hair done like that again. Simon
In the course of that long surreal night, Sonia revealed a lot of
things to me that I wish she hadn't. She told me Simon had been
mean and senile toward the end, waking her at night with a flashlight
and peeing in the bed. Then she revealed that at a recent doctor's
appointment she learned she had cancer of the "bagina."
After that, things got really weird.
Sonia told me she was a virgin, having lived with her mother until
she married Simon at the age of 64 and only then learning he was
"impudent!" Before I could recover from this revelation,
she was leaning in confidentially to ask about Andrew's and my sexual
habits: How often do you have sex? What do you use for protection,
those condiments? She moved on to other, equally disturbing
questions, rattling them off like she was reading from a card: What
about the Ellen DeeGen-knees, the les-bean-in? How does she have
sex with that other woman? Do they rub their two baginas together?
I can't remember how I responded to this comically disturbing barrage,
I just remember that while she was talking the light was hitting
her crooked, gnarled face in such a way that she really looked like
the devil to me. Many years later, however, I was able to see our
conversation for what it really was. Sonia's one chance to have
life's mysteries answered before she died.
Six months later, Sonia did pass away from her "bagina"
cancer. Since there was no family or friends to sort through Simon
and Sonia's stuff, the landlord hired people to come over and empty
out their apartment. Watching the workers chuck their things over
the side of their beloved balcony into an awaiting dumpster, I got
sad. There it was. The end of Simon and Sonia. Ashes to ashes. Dumpster
to dumpster. And no one to witness their obliteration but me. I
wanted to have a keepsake from them, something to remember them
by, so when my husband came home I made him retrieve the portrait
of Sonia from the trash. We have it hanging in our house to this
day and it never fails to elicit a response from anyone who sees
it. I actually consider the portrait among one of my most prized
version for easy reading
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