I never saw her face, never knew her name. She was bent all the way in half, either from osteoporosis or gravity, I’ll never know which. She was out there day after day sweeping up the leaves that had dropped onto the street from the trees on her side of the fence. She and her stump of a broom together celebrating uncountable birthdays, she always wore a housecoat, with thermal pants in winter and sagging tights in summer. I admired her dedication and would have tipped my hat but I never wear hats and she never looked up anyway.
Then one day she was gone. Some days went past. The leaves piled up. In time, the workers came in trucks and vans. They brought jackhammers and backhoes and power shovels. They opened the gate and knocked down the decrepit outbuildings, no doubt sending whole legions of critters seeking new homes. Then they gutted the house and removed its bones. The trees went next; even their roots were dug up and hauled away. Finally, the fences came down. In what felt like a blink, there was nothing left to prove that the old lady had ever existed.
Perhaps she was the last of her line; perhaps she had survivors who didn’t want to survive in such an old house. All I know is that when the workers drove away, they took with them all traces of the old woman, her life, her history, her blood and breath quickly fading into the eternal whirlpool of what once was but is no more.
Walking past that empty lot doesn’t make me feel sad so much as embarrassed, like I need to avert my eyes. It’s as if the old lady had been stripped naked and left behind by the tribe. I hope that’s not the case.