While reaching for the door knob, a scent paralyzed me. I glanced over to see Mrs. Zuckerman’s abandoned yard. She was sweet, our old neighbor. She didn’t speak many words, but she always wore a smile that separated her sagging left jaw from the right. As a kid, I wondered if she was lonely. Did she have any friends? Children? No husband? I don’t know, brother or sister? The crumbling steps leading her narrow doorway were useless. The pathway was barely visible. Over grown weeds had made a home in the cement’s cracks. I hadn’t been back in 15 years and something told me, it probably was the same for Mrs. Zuckerman.
I remember a time when I’d snuck out of my bedroom window, a task I’d perfected during my smothering, summer nights in Florida. I’d waited for Dad to return home from work. From my room, I listened for his footsteps as he completed his end-of-shift ritual. From the kitchen, I heard him empty his lunch box. The dishwasher opened and closed. I could hear glasses being shuffled in the fridge. Finally, silent filled the house and the lights went dim. I placed one leg in the window. Using my tippy toes to find my bed, I used the other leg to push myself through the frame. I overshot. I used too much force. I found myself falling seven feet to the ground. I threw my hands over my mouth and fought tearful cries from the pain. When I looked up, Mrs. Zuckerman stood over me.
“You took quite a banging, honey. I’ll call and get your dad out here.”
“No, no. Um..I’m fine. I don’t want to wake him.”
She never said another word. Mrs. Zuckerman disappeared through her front door. She came back outside, with a plastic zip lock in her hand, “Here. You better ice yourself before you start to swell up.” She disappeared again.
Just then, I recognized the scent. One ginger lily, perfumed the entire garden, while Mrs. Zuckerman whispered in the dark.