The Bestest of Friends
Lori and Patty’d sit together at the same table in the main dining room. Lori was the talker. When Patty agreed she would knuckle-rap the table twice then do a quick nod at Lori. When it came to a round-table discussion Patty’d put in her opinion with the economy of Frankenstein’s monster, “Friend good. Fire bad.”
They lived in Sleepy Oaks Nursing home. Lori’d been there seven years. She never married, and her two sisters were not interested in having her live with them. One sister had two grown boys—one in college and the other in high school. Neither she nor the boys ever visited Lori. The other sister saw Lori on rare occasions. So Lori was lonely and had to make friends at Sleepy Oaks, something she was not good at given her propensity for getting into fights. But when it came to Patty, Lori liked to describe their relationship, as “the bestest of friends.”
Now Patty, who had been there for about five years, was a mystery. She’d been married once, it was believed her husband had died. No one knew for sure. People gravitated to her, as she was a listener. She’d look you directly in the face and seemed genuinely interested in anything you said. And of course, if she agreed you could count on a double knuckle-rap punctuated by a quick nod of approval.
Lori’d complain to her daily about someone or other having insulted her. More than once they called her “big head.” She was vulnerable to this because, as chance would have it, she really did have a big head. The insults seemed to fly at her from residents, nursing aides, even visitors to the home. Management threatened to transfer her to the psych section if she didn’t behave. It was always something with her. Occasionally, Patty would roll back her wheelchair while Lori was in mid-sentence and swivel an about face and suddenly leave without explanation.
One day a new resident came to their table. Lester, a gregarious black man. Lori took an immediate dislike to him. He seemed to have sucked up all the attention at the table whenever he was around. Lori and Lester got into bitter arguments almost daily. Lester’d swear at Lori, too. The staff would listen to Lori’s complaints and then lectured Lester on being civil. They’d do no more than that, as they knew Lori well and figured she had provoked these fights.
Lori learned to lick her wounds by stringing plastic beads into bracelets and necklaces. This was her one true talent and she made money at it, selling to residents, staff and visitors to the nursing home.
Then, Lester transferred to a new home and things quieted down at the table. Though Lori suspected Lester might have poisoned the girls’ minds against her. Everyone went back to their favorite vice. Bingo was the most popular activity of all among the residents. Lori and Patty played regularly.
On this particular afternoon, Lori had already won a regular Bingo game, which paid $.25 for a Bingo. Then several games later they were playing “full card” Bingo, and Patty won.
Lori leaned toward Patty and said, “Ooh, you just won a dollar.”
Patty leveled her stare at Lori, no knuckle-rap no nod, and said, “Fuck you, Lori.”
She was certain Lori was worming in one of her custom-made put-downs.
Lori immediately swiveled on her wheels and scooted back to her arts and crafts table, without grabbing her Bingo cards. Two warm tears rolled down her reddened cheeks, her “bestest friend” no more, at least not for the time being, while her colored beads awaited.