They arrived on the last plane into Phoenix, and in the dark of the early morning hours made their way to the car rental. In a building, far away from the main terminal, the monolithic car rental complex seemed towns away. The couple trekked along the main atrium and found their stall and began bargaining for a better car. The attendants didn’t understand their jet lag and took their impatience for some kind of personality disorder, rather than adjusting from the New York time zone into the early morning Arizona time.
When all was said and done, the couple then gots to their car, tried to figure out the computerized mechanisms. Used to old school care where a stick shift and a key were mainstays, the computerized vehicle completely left them at a loss of how to start this car. For what seemed like an eternity, they searched for something to press or pull, and eventually had to ask the attendant for help. When this young man gingerly showed them the start button, they both sighed and gave an embarrassing laugh, nodding and then apologizing for bothering him. It never dawned on them that this boy was meant to help them, and really wasn’t doing his job to help orient the customers on the features of the latest car models.
The car purred when they started it. A brand-new Mercedes GLA Cross-back that inspired grand ideas about themselves. They drove away feeling rich inside: lucky. The delusion of grandeur, and the hope of lasting opulence seemed possible in visiting another place. But as they pulled up to the little Pueblo home on Diamond Street, the soft edges of wear on the houses, and the closeness to the highway reminded them that their luxury lived in a distorted perception.
They pulled into the driveway and spied Lily sitting on the small wicker sofa next her cast iron side table, filled with various cactus and a sizable aloe plant at her feet. Leaned over and engrossed in her phone, Lily talked to its beating heart of images and texts in-between heavy drags of her cigarette. Lily has cancer.
“Oh no you don’t!” she scolded into the phone.
“I can’t believe that you would ask me such nonsense.” She spoke to the picture of a friend.
Looking up, she gazed into the morning darkness. Took a drag of her cigarette, which lit up her face, then scrolled some more, coming upon a picture she liked.
“Awww. Love it! Miss you tons….”
While taking the last drag of a cigarette before putting it out, Malcolm and Darby’s care rolled into view. Lily looked up when she became bathed in light.
Like a spotlight on an actress center stage, Lily’s drawn, gaunt face became real. With one hand, shading her squinting eyes, the other reached for another cigarette. Her familiar smile grinned and signaled her gratitude that her guests arrived.
As Malcolm put on the breaks, Darby jumped out of the car, and Lily lit the cigarette.
Darby noticed Lily’s glazed eyes and pasty skin which slowed her pace. Then she heard the medication so obviously in Lily’s speech.
“HELLO!!!”, Lily slurred with outstretched arms.
Darby carefully gave Lily her big hug, careful not to overwhelm Lily’s 85-pound frame. Darby, afraid for Lily’s fragile condition, Darby held onto her. Their emotional reunion reminded them of their long-ago choice to be sisters in recovery.
Lily spoke first. “I’m so glad you made it safely!”
Then Darby. “You were worried?”
Then Lily. “No…yes…always worried. Something might – there might be something unexpected.”
As Malcolm took the bags into the house, Lily and Darby sat on the porch in reunion of one another. Lily took deep drags on her cigarette between the stories of what happened. Darby patiently listened.
Each wondered if this would be their final visit.