Time Travel Woman
She looked like those images I had seen of women in the early part of the 20th Century, the kind who played tennis in clay courts and who were of good stock. She might well have been from a family where the women were suffragettes, or perhaps founded an organization for girls to widen their perspectives by becoming familiar with the woods, camping, sailing and other skills usually reserved for boys.
Her hair was of that old style, too. Those waves sitting snugly on the sides of the face, well kept silvery hair that seemed to always be in place, probably even when she slept. She had dark eyebrows and eyelashes and wore a light shade of lipstick. Although in her late seventies, she had that youthful look of one who had not been ravaged by the cares and worries of raising a family. In fact, she had been in a secluded community for many years, but depression and anxiety forced her to leave.
I met her in the hospital when I was recovering from a broken ankle. She was a volunteer and at first it seemed like a vision from an old textbook entered my room. Her dress was starched and of a style called classic. It was a pale blue color and a white collar surrounded her sturdy neck.
She quickly befriended me and I looked forward to her visits. She would tell me of life in seclusion and how she one day packed a small suitcase and just headed out with no particular destination or plan in mind. I felt sorry for her and was glad to listen to her tales about her wealthy family in another country.
One day she brought an old gold-edged leather album and sat on the straight backed chair next to my bed. I was amazed how each page was filled with photos of her and a very handsome man in places like Tahiti, Nepal, Rio and Paris. Both were dressed in top fashions of those days, much like passengers on fine ocean liners that most tourists can never aspire to. She did not mention who this man was or just when all this happened.
In other words, she was a mystery to me, as if a time machine had spit her out and she could not get back to whatever epoch she came from. My ankle was healing and the time came when I could be wheeled into the spacious gardens on the hospital grounds. The sun felt so good on my hair and face. I looked up and saw the canopies of giant trees and listened to birds twittering above.
A nurses aide had wheeled my chair in a shaded area and was to return in half an hour. I enjoyed a kind of meditation and saw the outdoors with new and happy eyes. From the distance I noted a figure approaching. It was her. She did not wear the same blue and white frock she usually wore. This day it was a dark green, with a pale cream collar.
There was something about the way she walked that also looked different. Soon she was sitting next to me on a shiny black wrought iron bench. Up close, her face looked unusually young, almost like a teenager. I knew she never married or had children, and I thought how the expression "Old Maid" fit her perfectly. A maid who has lived for many years, and is still a maiden.
She had a small bag strapped to her side. It was woven and had fringes hanging down. It reminded me of handicrafts I had seen in a mountain village on one of my trips abroad.
"I have something for you," she said brightly. She pulled out a cup with a metal lid and quickly unscrewed the lid.
"Here, drink it," she prodded. "It is a healing drink. It is very good."
I had no reason to suspect her or her offering. She had been nothing but kind to me. Yet there was a slight hesitation in my mind. I remembered the time I had told the nurses aide about the beautiful album my friend had showed me. At that very moment, she had walked in and looked confused. Had she been upset at me telling someone else about her album?
"Drink it now," she insisted. "It is still cold."
I took several sips and the beverage felt cool going down.
"Thank you," I said simply.
She grabbed the container and left in a hurry. "I must go to see the doctor," she explained.
As the nurses aide wheeled me back to my room, I felt dizzy. She helped me into my high hospital bed and I fell backwards like a sack of potatoes.
"Are you okay?" the aide asked.
"Sure," I said. I actually was not okay. I could hardly see because bright colored rainbows were dancing around the room and the walls seemed to be spinning.
I fell into a deep sleep and missed the dinner hour as well as the supper snack. When I finally awoke the next morning, the aide came in with coffee and cereal.
"Your trip outdoors really must have tired you out," the aide said. "How are you feeling now?"
"Oh, I'm pretty hungry," I said. The rainbows were gone and the walls were no longer moving.
"By the way," the aide said, "Your volunteer will no longer be visiting this floor. She quit and will be assigned to another facility."
"Oh, really?" I said, feeling a kind of relief.
As the aide was leaving, she turned to me for a last look. "By the way, she was very angry when I mentioned what nice pictures were in her album."
I said nothing.
"Strange," the aide said, "Strange." Then she closed the door behind her.