In the heart of this desert-wide eternally beige dry city, my best friend Maggie and I reach the top floor of Senior Arms where Uncle Joe (everyone calls him Uncle Joe,) opens the door before we knock.“Welcome to the Penthouse,” he says as Auntie (everyone calls her Auntie,) smiles from her lounger, listens to our end-of-semester reports. She raises a plump soft hand, a cigarette teetering brilliant white between fingers sparkling with ruby red polish and dime store rhinestone rings. Uncle Joe
pushes himself off the couch, bent slightly, steps slowly toward her, offers up
his WWII-era Zippo in a practiced, curve gesture, and asks, “Light, my dear?”
She puffs, inhales, watches her husband return to the couch, sink in, sigh,
then launch into Latin hoping we’ve learned a little more since the last visit.
Pleased, he presents us each a crisp five-dollar bill. To the cemetery we drive to visit his first wife’s grave, tidy up, place a fresh bouquet of her favorite daisies. “Doesn’t
this bother you, Auntie?” Her strawberry kissed lips whisper, “I hope the next
one does the same for me.”