Life at Covenant Woods gets curiouser and curiouser. There is the Evelyn and William question: Are they lovers? Sometimes at dinner they stare into each others' eyes, smiling and holding hands. Other times, they pout and spit insults across the table. Then William gets up and leaves. A few minutes later, Evelyn excuses herself. When I finish eating and head out, I usually find them in the lobby, sitting side-by-side on one of the couches, talking pleasantly.
William is a retired Marine in his late fifties. Evelyn, who worked for the State of Florida, is in her early nineties. Despite her age, Evelyn stands straight, walks without assistance and speaks with authority, although she often makes the same authoritative statement several times in a fifteen-minute span. She is always well dressed, and her gray hair always just so. William is muscular – he must work out – and all his T-shirts are a few sizes too small; the better to show off his physique.
Evelyn is a proud woman. Most of her conversations are about Evelyn, unless she is complaining about this or that. Often she’ll complain about things that weren’t done, which frequently turn out to be things that were done; she just doesn’t remember them being done. William spouts nonsense loud enough for everyone to hear. His diatribes are so disjointed that it’s often impossible to discern their targets. He is easily upset, and when he’s upset, his language gets earthy.
Evelyn might be a cougar and William her prey, but I think it’s more likely William is the spoiled little boy, and Evelyn the doting mother. They depend on each other for affection, and for the satisfaction they get from playing with each others' emotions. But I was never very good at relationships; so who knows?
Al, a retired Army officer, has as hard a time as anyone dealing with William. They exchanged words Friday at happy hour. Al told William to keep his voice down so he and Ed could have a conversation. William said he wasn’t talking to Al and Ed, and that Al should butt out. They went back and forth, got loud and broke into four-letter words. Then we adjourned and went to dinner. Later, I ran into Al in the hallway.
“I know William has problems,” Al said. “But damn it, he makes it impossible for anybody else to talk. It’s tough. I know. I’m starting to have problems with dementia myself.”
He stopped and was quiet for a moment, then added, “And I’m not that old. I’m only eighty-eight.”
There is a lounge area near the elevator and Al suggested we stop there and “bullshit.”
“Why are we on this earth, Tom?” he asked. “Are we put here for some purpose? Does anything we do make a difference? Or are we just a bunch of chemicals? Do we matter? Really?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I wonder about that, too.”
“I’m trying to find out. I’ve got a bunch of books upstairs I’m reading. I want to know why we’re here. Right now I’m reading Marcus Aurelius.”
We talked a while longer and agreed that just because the human race is smart enough to build weapons capable of killing millions, perhaps billions, there’s no reason to believe we’re wise enough not to use them. Then Al took the conversation in another direction.
“Tom, did you ever smoke marijuana?”
“Once. In Vietnam,”
“Did you like it?”
“I can’t say. We’d been drinking beer, and I already had a buzz on. If the marijuana did anything for me, I didn’t notice.”
“Well, if you ever want some marijuana, I’ve got it in the room,” Al said. “Get yourself a pipe and come up some day.”
About that time, a woman on her way to the elevator came by, looked at Al, grinned broadly and said, “Don’t believe a word he says.”
I am not sure if I should believe him or not. But last night, as we waited for the dining room to open, he extended the invitation again.
As I said, it gets curiouser and curiouser.
And it gets hotter and hotter. It was 104 in Columbus, Friday, equaling the all-time high. We had to wait until yesterday, when it was 106, to set the record. I’ve been out riding around every morning, but I’ve not been going out later in the day. According to Yahoo, it’s 103 at three o’clock this afternoon. On Thursday, however, the predicted high is a mild ninety-two, and I should be able to resume going out two or three times a day.