By Viviane Morrigan
Jane recoiled from the heat as she pushed the shopping trolley out of the air-conditioned mall.
Her slacks and cardigan that helped warm her poor circulation were suddenly uncomfortable. The sunlight was blinding and drove her to rummage in her handbag for sunglasses. They were old-fashioned in a clunky kind of way, but Jane was grateful. At least they still did their job. Surveying the spread of orphaned cars waiting in the baking sun to be claimed, her tall frame slumped, shoulder drooping, Jane struggled to remember what their car looked like. She was overwhelmed by a sense of futility: nothing looked familiar. The task of finding their car seemed impossible.
Is it that one? Jane wondered, looking at a white car parked nearby. Turning to Sarah, she said as calmly as she could, “Dearest, can you see our car anywhere?”
“No, but I think it’s over there,” Sarah replied, squinting through her glasses while pointing off to their right.
“OK, let’s go and find it,” Jane replied, swinging the trolley more confidently in that direction. She let Sarah lead the way, not because the trolley was heavy—the pension didn’t allow them to go much beyond the essentials—but because it gave Jane time to gather her thoughts. Sarah’s arthritis had worsened these past few years so she limped with a walking stick. She looked so small and frail, not at all like the lively woman Jane had first met all those years ago. Now we’re both old ladies with grey hair who wear comfortable clothes. Ladies who don’t get noticed, unless someone thinks we’re a soft target, Jane thought grimly.
Sarah stopped. “There it is, Jane. It beats me why you couldn’t see it. I had no trouble, and my eyesight’s worse than yours.”
Sarah walked up to the passenger door of a white car. It was similar to the one that had looked vaguely familiar when Jane had first walked out of the mall.
So this must be our car, Jane thought. I was almost right. My memory can’t be that bad.
Jane gave a little sigh of relief. As she approached Sarah, however, Jane became anxious again.
Am I the one that always drives? Her confusion led to alarm as another thought overwhelmed her. I can’t remember our address!
Sweat broke out across Jane’s forehead and her skin prickled with fear. Reaching Sarah at last, Jane found her voice. “Er, Sarah, would you be able to drive this time?”
“Oh, no, dear,” Sarah replied, looking up at Jane with an ironic laugh. “That would be breaking the law. Remember those pesky police last year stopped me for driving too slowly. They said I was too dangerous to be allowed on the roads any more. And then the doctor wouldn’t sign the papers for me to renew my licence.”
“Oh, it’s just—I’m just feeling a bit tired,” Jane mumbled. “But, of course, I wouldn’t want you to get into trouble.”
Patting her pocket, Jane found the car key, fumbled with unlocking the passenger door and eventually helped Sarah into the car. As Jane helped Sarah settle in frantic questions crowded her brain, making Jane’s heart race. How can I drive us home when I don’t know our address? How can I do it without Sarah knowing I can’t remember? I don’t want to alarm her, too.
Jane slowly closed Sarah’s door, saying “I’ll just load the groceries into the boot.”
At the rear of the car, screened by the raised boot lid, Jane was relieved to find the registration papers in her wallet. Grabbing a pen from her bag, she scribbled the address onto the palm of her hand. She felt reassured. At least it looked a bit familiar.
Now she just needed to find a street directory. She couldn’t see it in the car boot. She opened the rear door and looked on the back seat, on the floor and in the door compartments. No luck. She returned to Sarah’s door, flung it open and flipped open the glove box, almost grazing Sarah’s knees. She was disappointed yet again.
“You’re carrying on like an old chook!” Sarah complained with a laugh. “What are you looking for?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” Jane replied.
She slowly walked around to the driver’s door, opened it reluctantly, slumped heavily into the driver’s seat and started the engine. Still stalling for time, she turned on the radio and surveyed the dashboard. “I wonder what this button is for? The one marked ‘NAV’?” she wondered aloud.
“Oh, that’s the satellite system, dear,” Sarah piped up. “It’s supposed to be better than the old book of maps. But we don’t use it because it’s too complicated.”
“Mmmm” Jane said, adding, “By the way, where is our street directory?”
“Oh, sorry,” Sarah replied. “I took it out the other day to look up an address and forgot to put it back in the car.”
Jane took a deep breath. Then she turned on the satellite navigation system and began to enter the address.
“Why are you doing that?” Sarah asked.
“Oh, I just think it’s time to try this new bit of technology,” Jane replied in an offhand way designed to discourage further questions. After a few soft curses and sighs from Jane, a map finally appeared. Jane found it difficult to tell left from right on the map. Whenever she could, she pulled over to the curb while she worked out where to drive next. The perspiration dripping down Jane’s back told a tale of stoic application to her problem. Luckily, she was the only one who knew of her difficulties: Sarah had dozed off. Eventually, a loud sigh escaped from Jane’s lips as she pulled up at the address, proudly calling out, “Sarah, we’re home!”
As Sarah opened her eyes, a look of puzzlement shadowed her features. “Wha..? Why are we here? This is our old place. We moved from here three weeks ago!”