The woman was in front of me on the bakery line at the supermarket. She was with a man who I assumed was her husband because he was old too. She was deeply engaged with the bakery salesgirl.
“It needs to be fresh,” she said. “We might have company this week-end.”
“Taste this cupcake,” said the bakery salesgirl as she offered a chocolate cupcake. “It’s got the same inside as the cake.”
The elderly woman broke off a piece of the cupcake and shared it with her companion. The bakery salesgirl smiled at me, because she knew I was patiently waiting to buy my usual two biscotti while the couple were making their decision.
The old woman’s hair had once been layered and colored. Now, its coarse clumps, tangled in dull shades of orange, yellow and gray, lay wherever they had settled when she got out of bed that morning.
She reminded me of the older women who get wheeled into the beauty salon by their children or their care givers because someone thinks a color, a cut and a blow will be just what they need. Often, it is difficult for them to maneuver into a comfortable position to have their shampoo. I wish that beauty salons had special seats (maybe some do) for elderly arthritic people who need someone else to maintain their hair.
“Mmm, delicious,” she said after tasting the cupcake. “I’ll take the whole cake. Thank you so much. You have been so kind.”
As their cake was boxed and tied, I waited in line behind the couple. I’m old, but they were older.
Her hunched shoulders were hidden in the worn collar of what my mother used to call a “spring coat.” It was made of some kind of black wool and they were a few loose threads that stuck out oddly. The pills and naps in it told me that, if it could talk, the coat might have great stories to tell, perhaps about the forties.
I don’t know. It was just a coat worn by an old woman who was with an old man. They were buying a cake, in case they got some company that weekend.
I hope they did.