Cia pulled the itchy sheep-wool sweater over her head, and adjusted her skirt. The reflection in the mirror was frumpy and plain, the look her boss preferred for his employees. Just before she started out the door, she rolled down her sleeves, covering the six faded pink lines beneath her wrist.
Mr. Griff was a wizened old man, but he somehow always managed to raise the ire of all the nurses in the living community. He blew smoke in Cia’s face, coughed heavily and took another long slow drag. “Look Griff, I don’t really care how you feel about taking a bath, it’s a matter of cleanliness” She sat on the edge of his bed sorting his pills. “Nah, dahling” His drawl was slow and rolling, Cia always thought he must have been debonair in his youth, a real charmer with his golden tongue. “Only reason them hens flock to me here, s’cause I smell real nice all the time.” He coughed heartily and weezed, bent over in his wheelchair, “I’m done lollin’ about on this here earth. Time for me to move on, ‘nd I don’t need t’ smell good when I go.” He reached out toward her, “help me, get n’the bed sugar, now will you?”
She sighed and gripped his boney wrists gently, “Allright Griff, but tomorrow you get a bath, if you are still alive.” He smiled, wrinkles folding into other wrinkles on his face. “It’s a deal dahling”. Once he was laying on his back, she moved to close the blinds, but he caught her arm. She looked down at his wrist, she’d seen it many times before but it always surprised her. He had a line of black marks marching from the lines in his wrist bend to the underside of his elbow. His brown eyes were twinkling with mischief. “I know you think I ain’t seen them pretty pink lines on your arm.” She pulled away defensively, “So what. I don’t like everyone knowing my love score.”
He chuckled, which turned into a deep cough, that seemed to never end. While he struggled to catch his breath, Cia closed the blinds, and situated his wheel chair in the far corner of his room. “sn’t a score, sweet little. It’s a proclamation. You’ve been to battle.” “No one has ever loved me back Griff, I have no black lines. Is your mind going now too?” She felt the heat of anger welling behind her eyes. “You have all those lines to prove how many people have loved you and you’ve loved. That is how an arm should look, that is how love should feel- complete.” She wiped a warm tear of her cheek.
“The battle ain’t about makin’ people love you. People will love and hate what they want to. It’s about giving love, even when it hurts to.” Griff pursed his lips and was silent. Cia started to leave the room, “sweet dreams Griff”. “You got a good heart, dahling. Been caring for my ole’ bones a year now. When no one else’ll touch me, or talk to me.” He rolled over on his side away from her.
Cia quietly closed the door behind her. She had never really liked handling Griff, his canterkous behavior and ornery conversation made him a challenge. But when no one else volunteered for his shift, she always would. He had a golden soul, as her mother used to say. He had spirit and life more than most people her own age.
Later in the laundry room, she rolled up her sleeves and reached in the washer to untangle some garments. There was a clean black line under her wrist.