Irene was a recent widow who graced the Battery Park Hotel after she sold the house that she had shared with her husband for almost fifty years. Unlike Eloise, Irene didn’t hate the word “widow.”
She lived on the sixth floor and from the window, could see the house that she had lived in since she married at the age of eighteen. She and her husband had raised five children in that house and the memories she collected over the years overflowed like a mighty waterfall.
She was a master crocheter and knitter and possessed an imagination that allowed her to literally make something out of nothing. She could run across a rusted tin can and in her mind, see a beautiful container for a treasure.
She loved to hear dirty jokes and loved to tell them. One of her favorites was “look down your shirt and spell attic.” She knew Eloise but never told her that joke, although she mused about how she could say “pull up your shirt and spell attic, instead of look down your shirt and spell attic.”
Blessed with unusually long fingers, she played the piano at the church she had been going to for as long as she could remember. Also blessed with a remarkable soprano voice, she sang in the choir. Over time, the dress code had become less rigid but Irene wasn’t one to show up wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She would dress to the nines and one of her favorite outfits was a bright pink suit with matching shoes.
She had her hair done every week but settled for its natural color of silvery white. When asked if she’d like a little color added, she would laugh and say “I have earned every single white hair on my head and every single one of them has a name attached to it.”
She no longer drove and relied heavily on her best friend, Lilly, to take her to church, the grocery store and an occasional trip to the mall. They got along so well, people who didn’t know them thought they were sisters. When Irene fell and broke her arm, she stayed with Lilly, until she was able to fend for herself again. As Irene put it, “It was like a month-long pajama party.”
Irene had been a beautiful woman in her youth. She had chestnut brown hair that looked as if it had been kissed by the sun and she had piercing blue eyes that made you think she could see straight through you. She was taller than average and in her old age, still struck quite a figure.
She loved to watch game shows. Her favorite was Wheel of Fortune and she could, many times, figure out the word after only one letter had been exposed.
When someone described Irene, they talked about funny and friendly she was, but if you pissed her off, you had better run for the hills. With the expertise of an accomplished swordsman, she could metaphorically cut you in half before you ever saw the blade.
But Irene had a past. Due to a tragic accident, she lost a child when she was younger and had suffered a mental breakdown. She spent a few years in what they called back then, a nervous hospital. She recovered, as much as could be expected when you lose a child, but if one looked closely, they could see the deep sadness that still showed in her eyes.
She loved holidays and was always the first volunteer when it was time to decorate the lobby. When she got through, it was often described as a masterpiece of artistry. She appeared to enjoy her golden years and the camaraderie she found with the other patrons of the Battery Park Hotel seemed to enliven her.
As the fire raged up from floor to floor, Irene decided to cheat death and take her own life. She made her way up to the top of the Hotel and jumped. She was wearing her bright pink suit and matching shoes.
To be continued_______________