by Myra Chappius
She wouldn’t have gotten lost. Lillian would’ve researched the route, mapped it out – even identified a place to stop in case we needed it. Why would we need a pit stop for a 30-minute drive? “Because we’re old, that’s why.” That’s what she would’ve said. I left in such a hurry I forgot the scrap of paper with the flower’s name on it, but whenever I close my eyes I can see it. Nothing could make me forget the first time she showed it to me. Even through a computer screen I could see that the color matched her eyes so closely you’d think it had been created just for her. She just loved that. Since she’d tacked the printed photo to the refrigerator, I’ve seen it every day. I reckon I could describe it to those flower folks, and they’d know just what it was. If I ever get there.
I know I’ve seen this road before. I’ve definitely driven past that Mexican restaurant; anyone would remember that many paper sombreros waving in the breeze. But am I east or north of home? I lost track of the turns. One of those smartphones would probably come in handy right about now, but who can understand how to work those things anyway. My flip phone has got plenty of battery left. I can figure this out. I really haven’t been in the car that long, so how lost can I be? Perhaps I should’ve waited till morning to set off. I just got so excited. Lillian had been talking about this store for months. What kind of husband would I be if I wasn’t there on opening day? The sun is still pretty high in the sky so maybe I’ve got time.
I can damn near hear Lillian’s voice saying, “Pull over. Pull over right now and call Hillary.” I’m not calling our daughter. Every time we talk there’s another conversation about how unsafe it is for me to be living alone. What if I fall? What if I forget to take my medicine? Who’s going to do the shopping and the cleaning and take out the trash? I’m going to do it. If I call her and tell her I got lost trying to go to a flower shop two towns over, I’ll never hear the end of it. It won’t be but a breath before she’s on the line with Michael making plans to put me in some nursing home where everyone smells like moth balls and eats tapioca at every meal. Of course, Michael would have to actually answer the phone for once. No thanks.
I can do this. I pull over to the side of the road, try to just retrace my moves. I was definitely on the right track at first, maybe I should’ve kept going straight instead of turning right at the gas station. That’s probably where I messed up. That sun is definitely getting lower, but the clock tells me I can still make it to the store and get back to the cemetery before it gets too dark, and they close the gates for the day. It’s gotta be today. Help me out here, Lil.
After a few more minutes I’m ready to make another go of it. I have to try. If I can’t get back on track in the next 15 minutes or so I’ll call Hillary. No use in me driving around aimlessly all night. Before I can ease the car back on the road, I see flashing lights coming towards me. I put the car back in park and sit still while the officer comes to my window. The glass rolls down and I’m surprised to see it’s a woman. Not because women can’t be cops or anything, it’s just not that common around here. She asks me if everything is alright. I explain I’m just trying to find my way to that new shop over in Milltown. Imagine my surprise when she tells me I’m already there.
She points up the road and says, “Just make the next right – can’t miss it.”
When I finally raise my eyes to her face to thank her, I am stopped short. The officer looks nothing like my Lillian but, I’ll be damned if it ain’t the exact hue of her eyes looking back at me. She mistakes my hesitation for confusion, and I have to shake my head to bring myself back to the here and now. I repeat the directions back to her, assure her I’ve got them. A moment later, I’m back on the road still seeing the palest shade of blue before my eyes.