The Alhambra lay before her in the shimmering sun, hovering above the western horizon; showering golden light over the sparkling city, jagged mountains, and green fields. Alone, after parking her walker with the brakes engaged, she sank onto the bench, soaking in the sound of the water of the fountains behind her, the pomegranate trees before her. Near the end of her life, she had returned to heaven. She absorbed all that lay around her. The clipped cypress forming mysterious passages decorated with flowers and joyful marble fountains, along with the summer palace with its pools reflecting trees and sky telling a thousand stories. She inhaled the spicy floral scent of jasmine and closed her eyes.
The man in the next room died a few days ago and his soft withered body still remained, announcing his passing to the hallway with the odor. He had not been alone in his passing. She, herself, had been ill in late February, with a fever, then an irritating dry cough. She had kept herself as separate as possible in an impossible environment. So many became ill in the home. First Manuel succumbed, then Angeles, then the many of the staff, who quickly ran out of masks and gloves became ill. Some of the staff were not seen again, whether through fear of the disease or their own illness, no one would tell. She, herself, had recovered, slowly. But she had recovered, and today, she decided to leave and go to heaven.
She waited until the early morning when the staff was either asleep or watching television. She had packed a small bag the evening before and hid it behind her door. It had been so easy to shuffle down the hallway, bag in the walker basket, down the elevator, and out into the street into the dry chill of Granada before sunrise. Down the alleys the police could not patrol, past the enormous Monastery of St. Jeronimo with it’s beautiful cloister and 11 residents. The enormous, nearly uninhabited monastery seemed to echo the present situation in the city.
In the narrow streets, she rested in recessed doorways and listened to the birds awaken, singing and cawing in a way she had not heard since the last summer spent in the cortijo outside of Alcalá la Real with her children and her ten grandchildren, who chased butterflies, ran through the trees, and inhaled the food she cooked with such love. They ate with incredible speed, chattering all the time.
At the Plaza de la Trinidad, she found a cafeteria with an open takeaway window that sold her a café con leche and a croissant. She pushed her way into the plaza and sat on the seat of her walker drinking the fragrant coffee and nibbling the croissant. Before she was seen, she moved herself and her walker behind the closed kiosk as a police car drove by. She closed her eyes and allowed the trees to embrace her and the trickle of the fountain to take her back to those rendezvous with Jorge so long ago. Those hot summer evenings spent falling into each other as the cigarette smoke curled, the wine quenched, and the children played under the trees of the plaza.
Down the shopping streets, the doors rolled down displaying graffiti over dirty grey metal. Chairs and tables piled next to closed restaurants and bars. At a corner, a police car stopped. The policeman, after looking at her identification card, respectfully scolded her for being this far from the home. She made some excuse about preferring the mandarinas at a nearby fruteria, and backtracked briefly before carefully crossing the Calle Reyes Católicos and disappearing into another walking street.
As she shuffled on, inhaling the beautiful buildings, the Corral del Carbón, with its delicately plastered moorish arches. The balconies with tumbling flowers arced over the patterned stone pavements. She allowed the breath of the beloved city to animate her body and soul. Soon she would be in heaven.