Little Lambs Eat Ivy 4
Adam and Eve fell into a comfortable pattern. They met every morning for breakfast in the dining room and sat at their usual table. Then, they walked the gardens until the heat sent them back inside. Afternoons, someone always asked them to a game of bridge or hearts in the atrium at the center of the complex. The atrium was tiled with rubberized, textured flooring to minimize the threat of falling, tropical plants surrounded a central fountain with four spouts facing east, west, north and south. Bistro tables and chairs sat scattered strategically for spontaneous games of checkers or conversations about days gone by. Staff members circulated about, bringing cups of coffee or trays of vegetables to the folks sitting around. The whole thing had the casual look of an outdoor café in Paris, if Paris had traded the Seine for the Amazon; all it lacked was young love and parrots. Eve complained about the chairs.
“I’m too old to care about looking fashionable. Give me something I can actually sit on,” she’d say, until one of the staff brought in an easy chair for her. Soon, other residents demanded softer chairs, until the atrium looked like a living room Henri Rousseau would have loved to paint.
All of this upset Dr. Deen, though he was careful not to show his displeasure to the residents. The bistro chairs and tables had been his stroke of genius, he thought; an attempt to keep the facility looking younger and more trendy, less like an “old folks home”. Dr. Deen was himself of retirement age and didn’t like to be reminded of it. He had been a successful therapist with ten self-help books to his name, a Hollywood practice attended by the stars, frequent television appearances on talk shows in which he would admonish the behaviors and lifestyles of the other guests. He was widely loved and privately feared by his patients. Now, he turned his attention to Deen Gardens, to “his” people who lived within the world he created as, “the antidote to an ignoble existence spent alone and forgotten in a sterile nursing home,” as the brochure put it. And Eve seemed bent on ruining everything.
Adam’s days began and ended with Eve. He couldn’t wait to meet her in the dining room, so he started meeting her at her door. He hated the thought of missing a single word she had to say, even so much as a hello to a friend in the hall. With Eve, hello was never just hello, but became a story. She had a way of drawing out even the most reticent fellow, and making him shine for a while. Adam wanted to be that fellow as often as possible. Her laugh alone sent him into places normally reserved for the younger set. At seventy-five, Adam found himself falling in love with a woman of capacious weight, white hair and wrinkles – a far cry from the osseous socialites who decorated his high-class arm back in the fifties. Let Emily and Dennis laugh and call him “schoolboy” for his crush, he didn’t care. For the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, when he thought about the angelically beautiful women who would not smile for fear of wrinkling their perfect faces, Adam was not alone. Eve, ever convivial, provided his link to the rest of the world; the world of Deen Gardens, where now he felt truly at home.
For all of Adam’s settling in, Eve felt ungrounded. She made friends easily enough, but she felt born to the task, as natural as a breath taken in to speak. She delighted in the beauty of the gardens, but longed to get down on her knees and plant something herself. Two things kept her from doing this. One, she didn’t want to show favoritism toward Albert, which adding to his gardens would surly do in the eyes of Ken. Two, planting even so much as a pansy in this place would prove her acceptance of the four walls now surrounding her. One thing that did not stop her was the rule against tampering with the grounds. Eve didn’t give a fig for any of Dr. Deen’s rules, including his weekly mandatory “chats”; private therapy sessions held with all the residents. The brochure called them, “Opportunities for mind care tailored to the needs of each guest on his or her golden age journey.” Eve called them opportunities for invasion of privacy.
At her first chat, Dr. Deen asked how she was adjusting, if she was making friends, enjoying her food, exercising. Eve sat with her hands folded in her lap, sweetly smiling at Dr. Deen, and said nothing. He met her silence with questions about her sons and received no reaction. He asked her if she had a problem with him personally. He talked about projection, about putting a face on him that did not belong. She yawned, stretched, looked at her watch, all the time smiling, smiling. The only time Eve spoke was to say hello to Mr. Keans, the Dean of Admissions, whose office was just off the “Chat Room”. She brought her knitting or quilting projects to subsequent chats, working on them without saying a word. Out of desperation, Dr. Deen nit-picked her stitching. He still made notes on Eve, as he did with all the other guests; meticulous files which he kept locked in a row of shiny black cabinets along the wall of his inner office. The files were written in the Dr.’s perfect longhand. Typed copies were stored in a similar manner in Mr. Keans’ office....