It was four months since I'd last gone to see my friend.
I went to Gertrude's place. The door was hanging open a little bit.
The place had been ransacked. Gertrude was lying on the floor in her bedroom and had been dead for at least a few days or more.
I stepped back and I almost fainted. It looked like someone had played a joke with a dummy dressed in her housecoat and slippers. The skin on her ankles was mottled purple. I ran out of air to breathe and my heart went into shock and I stumbled out her front door and called 911 to tell them I'd found the body. They patched me through to the county coroner. They carried her out on a gurney with a sheet over her.
I looked around her place. Stuff was missing. Her metal nest with the colored stones in it, her ruby necklace, the prescription medications on her nightstand. People had come into her house and taken stuff. Why was I noticing this?
Because I wanted to grab something too! I'm ashamed of this and I'm weeping. Am I crying for her, or for myself?
People stepped around her and got her stuff and did nothing. They didn't care. They got into her kitchen cupboards, opened the stale crackers and dumped them out on the kitchen floor. They took some books by the covers and flung pages everywhere. They threw her sheet music all over the player piano. They took the velvet throw from off her couch, and they smoked cigarettes and left them to make burn marks on the top of the coffee table.
The whole place stunk of rotten flesh, cigarettes and rotten food from the fridge, natural gas, mothballs and lily of the valley perfume that got sprayed all over. Did Gertrude let them in?
I took Gertrude's address book. It was on her desk. Most of the names in it, so carefully written, are crossed out. I'm keeping it.
My heart is a vacuum. She deserved to have me or somebody there holding her hand and blessing her, seeing to it that she got a proper farewell, and buying her flowers. I will take the ashes they bring me in a plain, brown box, and I will probably put them in an urn sometime as soon as I find a nice one. Goodbye, my friend. I'll never forget what she showed me. She helped me with my disappointment. She helped prepare me for middle age and beyond. She told me stories. Goodbye, Gertrude.