“Miss? Hello, miss? Are you all right? Can you hear me?”
I tapped on the driver’s side window. She was slumped over the wheel, parked in a space with the engine running outside our apartments. I recognized her as a downstairs neighbor, but we had never spoken. Rain pelted me and I felt a twinge of fear.
As I reached for the door handle, she stirred, woozy. She had fallen asleep. That was how Terrie and I met, years ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was ill and slowly getting worse. As the weeks and months passed, we would see each other occasionally, smile and make small talk.
She was only a little younger than I, a wisp of a woman, and her frailty concerned me. During the cold months, she would seem to disappear, only to emerge in warmer weather to sunbathe on a lounge chair. Eventually I learned that she was too weak to hold a job, and lived alone with only an indifferent sister somewhere in town for family.
She invited me over to watch TV in her ground floor apartment. It seemed too much to ask her to hike up to the third floor where I lived. We laughed over schlocky sitcoms and sighed at romantic old movies. Once I took my guitar with me to strum a little for her. The situation came into focus: doctors, hospitals, bills, cancer. Terrie was a trooper, but it was clear that the prognosis was grim.
One night I found myself alone at an Applebee’s preparing to order a nice dinner. I thought of Terrie and the bleak cavern of Ensure that was her refrigerator. I asked the waiter to duplicate my order for a steak dinner, dessert and all, and box it to go.
Terrie answered my knock on her door in her pajamas. “For you,” I said, extending the bags. “For just one night, eat what you want.” She was overjoyed. I left her in disbelief and tears.
A few months later, I moved out of the apartments. I had scarcely unpacked the boxes in my new home when the phone rang. It was Terrie’s sister. “She left a note asking me to call you,” she said, and hung up, leaving me in disbelief and tears.
The memories linger. Now I hold in my hands a new Cordoba. Her name will be Terrie, for a friend who suffered so alone for so long. Peace be with you, sweetheart. Your namesake looks and sounds beautiful, and makes me smile, like you.