The key slid in the lock with its usual slight resistance – or did it? Wasn’t there a different feel to his apartment door? How would he be able to decide that? He knew he imagined things and then often had to admit they were unverifiable. That was to be expected at his age, but that lock felt different, dammit. Why would he pretend to be dumber than his years?
His monologue was loud enough to reveal a mid-west accent. Living as he had, outside the USA since he was 33, he rarely spoke English, except to himself. Now he felt the need for that special clarity produced by native emotions.
He dropped his shopping bag in the kitchen and as something wasn’t right, dropped his backside onto a convenient upright chair. Then came the ritual of smoothing a greying beard and short-cut sparse white hair.
His disbelief at the tricks of a wild imagination caused a shake of the head, which meant a glance through the doorway, towards his writing table in the next room. Where were the papers from the church elders? They had written asking him if he would play a few Sundays, while the regular organist had her baby. He’d left the letter there, on his desk, protruding from the half-opened envelope that had arrived that morning. The envelope was gone.
Jumping to his feet with the energy of a five-year-old, he inspected the desk, the drawers, turned papers over to make sure he hadn’t slipped it under something, to then stand, arms crossed over his old-man’s torso, considering possible conclusions. What was there to consider? Someone had taken the papers. Impossible of course and why would they?
‘Check the waste bin,’ he said, his voice husky from the years of too much singing. He still sang. ‘What is there left in life if one stops singing,’ he would have demanded. ‘Why would I have thrown them away? Why am I beating myself up, accusing myself of some bizarre senior moment? There is only one explanation! Someone has let themselves into my apartment.’
Back in the kitchen he bent to retrieve the bin from under the sink, but, although his hand arrived on the bin lid, his concentration didn’t. He’d left the sink full of breakfast washing up. Where was it? Not on the draining board – so he hadn’t washed up on auto-pilot and left it to dry. Washing and drying without noticing was a step too far for credulity. He opened the crockery cupboard. There were the plates, cereal bowl – and his favourite mug, the one he never put in the cupboard, because he used it so often.
The ringing phone diverted him from the unsolvable riddle. It was a friend from the UK, one of the few people with whom he still spoke English. That was good. He felt that revealing the onset of dementia shouldn’t be hampered by language limitations.
A quick ‘Hi,’ was all he said as a greeting, which barely covered necessary courtesy.
‘I’m so glad it’s you. Advise me if you can. Am I lucid? Do you get the impression I’m losing it? I can’t decide anymore. Think carefully. A lot depends on your answer.’