She had long taken heed of the shallower implications of her aging. So much so, that these new circumstances... her widowhood, her isolation, her dependence on the few she wished, frankly, she didn't have to talk to at all... struck her, mostly, in their scale, more so than their substance. "Here I am, " she thought, as she always knew she would. The ugly formica paneling of a waiting room. The caustic uncertainty with no one to soothe its burning. The plain, unforgivable fact that she not only could have predicted this all, but long ago looked upon these prosaic objects that were in fact all that remained, and said to herself, "this is what it will look like." She had never looked away. And now things looked just as she had thought.
"Mrs. Auburn, your sisters nearly done," said the very nice nurse. And it was certainly good to be forewarned. She used to flush with anger at the unexpected phone call, back when weeks would pass without incident. Back when life, her life, was what anyone would recognize as normal. Today though, Dilly was never surprising in any way at all. Never surprisingly thoughtful. Never surprisingly lucid. Never surprisingly resilient. Well... she had never been resilient at all. So, no surprise.
Dilly did come through the door, looking pretty and composed. She was telling the nurse something about somewhere she'd never been. It all sounded perfectly plausible. The nurse clearly recognized which was the life of the party. Anne hated partys. The nurse wouldn't hate parties she realized. And surely, like so many people, the nurse could not imagine hating Dilly.
As Dilly looked into her eyes, with the subtle triumph in her eyes that reflected her pretensions had fooled them all again, Anne knew she would say nothing to contradict her sister. "Are you hungry?" were the only words she could even think of. And, of course, they had the benefit of having something to do with her own circumstance.
"I don't know," said Dilly. "We should go to a movie... what do you think?"
As always, "I think I'm hungry," said Anne, while they moved into the bright and ceaseless sunlight of the parking lot, to the car.
"We could eat popcorn, you know," said Dilly. "You love popcorn."
Anne loved popcorn, yes. But hadn't been able to stomach it in some years. And, yes, she knew that old hunger for a movie and popcorn. For a good time, just the two of them.
"We should go to the pharmacist. And I have things I need to get done. Though one of them is off the list," Anne said.
"You need a worry board," said Dilly. "You should ask Bill to make you one. He'd love to give you a gift." Dilly smiled at this in the old way. And, as always, Anne nearly blushed.
Closing the vehicles door she couldn't deny her sister, "I could probably use something to calm me, true. And yes, he has never hidden his feelings. I'm the one with that problem."
"If wishes were horses, you still couldn't accept him, Anne. And he won't go begging forever. Just say yes! Isn't that the magic of a man?" Dilly looked over the Hospital building, as if canvassing a crowd of breach bronzed body builders, nearly shivering at the thought.
"The fact that you are right, does not change my feelings, Dill," she said to her sister, pulling out into the street, toward no theatre, no popcorn, and remaining, therefore, upon the the path she had seen already, long ago. At the signal she stopped, it's color being red. And she noticed, with the peculiar senses she had always been burdened by, that her sister had nothing else to say, and it satisfied her, this confluence of conversation and the obedient traffic.
Things certainly had grown complicated since Dilly's husband, Joseph, had died. Joseph had never been someone Anne looked forward to seeing or spending time with when they were young. His tastes extended to all manner of exotica, and Dilly was only one of the pleasures he'd taken as his birthright, being a man, and being indifferent to refinement of any sort. It might have bothered Dilly to some extent, Anne surmised, very early on, with Dad and Mom and the Hoidays, in all the expected ways. But Anne knew that once Dilly had recognized her fears of retribution from the family were never going to be realized, now that she was married, she completely quit thinking about it at all. It was a friend that suggested to her that Dilly's lack of concern might actually be the rational response to her marriages tension with her family. Like a half resolved, cloud covered spot of light on the horizon, Anne could imagine there being something virtuous, and heartfelt about that perspective, but there was never going to be a question as to whether their had been a betrayal or not. Dilly walked away, from the family, and whatever her rationale, could not subsist simultaneously as a completely accepted member of their tribe, and a wife to Joseph. They drank excessively. They cared nothing for principles, either generally recognized, or potentially held by strangers. They offended, loudly. They brought children into not only a dangerous world, but the heavily consequential orbit of their own worldview. Were they train wrecks, these resulting memories, Anne would ask herself? No, a train wreck would not be seen, predicted, and so much the fruit of causality. A train wreck was a tragedy. Jo and Dill's family were precisely what you'd expect them to be. The phone calls were distressing, but there were never any questions to ask. Only, "What can I do?" Dill had certainly been interested. Dill could not have comprehended that it wasn't a question, either.
As the years had passed, though, the callouses did thicken. And there were times, Anne had marveled, where Jo seemed like nothing so much as a brother in law, and a predictable one in the end. His pleasures, even he'd confide, had their costs. Their marriage, they seemed to enjoy, like a foam mat upon deep, dark waters. One side, in the sun. The other, what? Out of mind? After decades, and funerals, and troubles faded by time, the whole imposition of thier union in the face of that old fiction of a once so hopeful youth, had replaced the implacable old boundaries. It was surprising certainly, to witness. Though so oddly comforting.
There was Josephs treatment of Dad, for example. Dad who sought to offend no one; Dad who had accepted this son in law, somehow. Joseph delighted in the composure of her father, realized Anne. Joseph certainly knew he had no desire to compromise his freedoms with his family, for the father of his wife. But Dad had, in the ripeness of time seen something in his son in law. Perhaps it was simply that way with men. A lacking maliciousness proving some irrational bonhomie? She'd been grateful in the end to Jo. He shrugged off Dad's illness the way he shrugged off all mysteries, apparently. He had strange riches of time to spend with Dad. It seemed, often, they talked more to one another, near the end of Dad's life, than anyone else. It helped Dad.