“My grandson wants me to get that damn implant.”
We sat in the courtyard under a sun that dried my mouth and set Mikayla’s pink spikes blazing above her scowl. Last week her gripe was that he kept fussing about her smoking. I hoped eventually he’d broach the subject of her outdated hairdo.
“Aww, Miki,” I groaned in good-natured annoyance.
The empty courtyard had promised solitude when I’d chosen this bench to catch the recital, but then Mikayla had wheeled her chair out to me just minutes before my great-granddaughter was scheduled to play.
“What’d you say?” She asked.
“Nothing,” I barked. She said her fingers were too fat to fumble with hearing aids. I suspected she left them out of her ears to be stubborn and force people to shout.
“The chip was bad enough,” she groused. “I don’t mind as much about it now, although I still don’t like being tracked by God knows who. Now they want to stick more widgets in me.”
Just then the opening notes of my great-granddaughter’s piece broke through–gorgeous, pausing notes I knew would build into passionate arpeggios. Was it her mother’s influence I heard in the pacing?
“There’s a limit, you know,” Miki continued. I tried to tune her out. “It’s like appreciating modern medicine but knowing when it’s time to go. Is a constant link necessary?”
Her words kept cluttering the spaces between notes.
“Why can’t he just text?” She complained. “Or, God forbid, come visit?”
The nurses preferred Miki in small doses–for that matter, so did I–but I’d known her since we were in our 80s. You lower your expectations after a while. I finally motioned to my ear and she harrumphed.
The music’s sweet percussion flooded my head. I smiled.
“Emily,” Miki persisted.
“Well, what?” Get on with it, I thought. But then, she couldn’t hear it, after all. She didn’t know what it was like. I tapped the ridge of my tragus to remind her again.
My great-granddaughter’s finger hesitated on a down-pressed key, and the last note trailed into the dark silence between my ears. I closed my eyes.
When I opened my eyes Miki’s cloudy glare was on me, as though I owed her an apology.
“Would you listen to just me for a change?”
I exhaled. “I told you this was Meg’s recital. It’s not a good time.”
“Fine. I’ll be around if you ever find a good time,” Miki said.
I contemplated guilt but she had already wheeled her chair back inside, probably on her way to a nurse who was paid to listen. Focusing again on my little pianist, I caught the end of the applause for her.
“She’s a natural, Jen,” I thought to my daughter amid the growing list of comments.
“Thanks, Mom,” came my daughter’s answer. “I’m so glad you got to hear her.”
“Me too. Tell her I said it was beautiful. Talk to you at Caleb’s wedding?”
“Can’t, with the time difference. Dan has a work thing I have to be at.”
“Okay. Later, darling.”
Jen had moved on to other comments and didn’t reply. I switched and joined Caleb’s pre-wedding, mixing with relatives and friends of his I didn’t know. My attention pinged between conversations until the ceremony began and everyone was still.
When I closed my eyes, I could almost feel them all near me. I’d been leaving the implant on, waking in the morning to conversations in progress, dozing off at night to the household sounds of family. What an old fool Miki was when she had a grandson willing to pay for this himself.
An aide approached, her steps almost drowned under the swells of the wedding processional.
“How about some nice, cold iced tea, Miss Em-”
“Shh!” I hissed with my eyes still closed.
The intrusive aide withdrew.
I settled back with a sigh to enjoy the rest of the wedding, sitting alone in the sun.
# # #
Esther Rohm writes poetry, fiction, and fantasy while undercover as an office worker. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she was kidnapped by mischievous sprites and deposited in Ohio where she continues to live. Her work has appeared in Silver Birch Press and she is one of 35 authors featured in A Journey of Words (Scout Media, 2016).
Photo Credit: Andrew Kehoe / Retrograde Collective