6:59. Elva sat with the chair between the door and the phone. If Joanie was somehow let in the building by someone else- she would come through the front door. If she needed to be let in, she would call.
7:02. Where was she?
“A father kills his three kids and his wife.” The yellow of the Univision logo slightly reflected off the linoleum floors, which were greyed now without any replacement by the HSA building maintenance. Still the Univision moved off the small miniature statues as well as the twelve prescription bottles on the table.
Now it was 7:08. She didn’t recall Joanie being this late before.
Univision news rose louder. “El nino tiene 18 anos, y no se puede encontrarlo.” They still couldn’t find the young autistic boy who has gone missing. Sometimes she dreamt of him. His face replaced that of the photo of her mother on the bedroom wall.
Who would take this poor boy? Joanie said it had to be revenge since the boy’s father was a cop. It’s horrible, so horrible.
Suddenly, the loud tone of the phone silenced the news. Joanie had helped Elva set the phone, her first morning as her aide.
“Hola Elva! Aqui estoy! I’m sorry for the lateness as usual.” The buzz of the door speaker broke up her words, but Elva could always put them back together.
Elva sat up quickly when she heard the ring from the phone. She would always go to open the door for her, despite Joanie having a key for emergencies. These rings were what often dictated her movement- ring, get the door, ring, take medicine, ring, get phone when Edmund, her nephew from Miamo called each Sunday. The rings separated the silence in her apartment and lived with her.
When her mother had passed away ten years before, even the rings were muted in the apartment. The mourning hung like a curtain in the living room dulling all sound and light from entering and traveling through.
When Elva opened the door for Joanie it creaked open with a large echoey creek that slid down through the hallway announcing to her neighbors that the day had begun. The neighbors welcomed this sound in between their spatulas, eggs, tocino y café. Elva, ‘Senora’ they called her.
That same year Joanie began to come to work for her. The HSA called to announce her coming- 3 falls, two conversations with Astoria Hospital psychologists, and Joanie came.
“Amiga, I didn’t mean to be late,” she said moving the grocery bags to the chair careful not to rip the already torn arms.
Elva didn’t respond but moved again close to the television, focusing on the words that passed on the screen despite how small they now appeared.
Joanie let the bag sit on the chair and sat a little farther than she usually did on the couch mostly covered in Costco items, 30 rolls of toilet paper, 20 ketchup bottles, 30 bags of rice. Elva had never gotten used to the amounts in the U.S. Joanie had convinced her to shop at Costco, taking her step by step through the year on a small half coffee stained piece of paper one Tuesday afternoon. “See it will make sense,” she said, with her usual tendency to end with a slight inflection of her voice, a slight question reaching out to Elva for permission.
“They call you back?” Joanie asked, slowly taking off her shoes to put on her house sandals.
Elva didn’t respond but kept her eyes on the television. A young woman sat with champagne, accidently spilled a little on her dress. She sat close to a young man, her foot touched his leg, her arm touched the side of his jacket.
“Elva, did the Medicaid agency call you back?” Joanie said it this time a little louder, and rose off the armchair towards Elva and the television.
The couple looked peaceful together, like they were used to one another’s company, like they knew the other arm would be there, like they