The trash mocks me in ways that the stillness of this house and the too sweet smell of old people I will never see again haunt me. I've only just begun the cleanup and already I have sat down in Granddaddy Ace's chair and cried three times. Once it was his ball cap, which I plucked from between the chair and the wall with shaking fingers. The second time was just because. This time, it's the trash.
I started in the upstairs bathroom, arguably the messiest and most important for my sanity in the weeks I will remain here. Little bottles – greenish blue, pink, and gold –some glass, some plastic, from decades and just months prior, form a colorful almost sea glass-like picture at the bottom of a Kroger bag. The picture looks like my childhood. Jars of Vick's VapoRub and Goldbond powders and Pepto bottles clink and squish around as I tie up memories and carry them down to the doors of the three seasons porch. I used the Kleenex for my face and then I flattened that box and added it to the pile.
It's hot out here like it always has been in June. The heat settles on you like a wet blanket and it won't let go, but instead of smothering the grease fire, it ignites one in your soul. You can't run from this heat. You can't run from anything, not really.
I look around a minute and get a bit lost in all her plants gone wild in this mini greenhouse, which he refused to give away even when they'd overrun the porch and his ability to care for them. I have to do something about them. I have to do something about all of it. One thing at a time. Rosa said that yesterday and she will say it when she shows up today. She won't complain because she is Cuban and Granddaddy said when you grow up under Communism, all the complaint gets worked right out of you.
I walk every bag out to the curb instead of waiting and taking a load. It's the feeling of accomplishment but it's also a respite. I may be breathing in wet air, but it's fresh. I cannot smell old medicine or the linger of his aftershave.
Across the street, the neighbor raises his hand as he's fiddling with a rusty-looking push mower. He's the youngest person I've seen on this street, and to be honest, he could be a gardener. He's got a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth, but he doesn't leer at me even though I'm wearing next to nothing to keep from shriveling up under the long suffering and nearly worthless central air unit.
"Gonna be a hot one." His eyes are wet and green as the grass that curls almost to his ankles. He cocks his head at me like waiting for I don't know what. I guess he expects me to reply but I don't. Of course it's gonna be hot. It's already 85 at 9 a.m. The palm tree behind him looks like it's giving up on life. The trunk is peeling and the fronds kind of bow down to his shoulders like they are weeping. "Well, stay cool, Miss." He fires up the mower with one long pull of the cord and goes ambling along behind it, his cigarette clenched in a mouth too pretty for the kind of work he seems to do. I stand there a second, watching his biceps and triceps work that mower since he can't be bothered with shirts that have sleeves and then I turn back to Granddaddy's.
Yeah, it's hot all right. Just like hell.