Eloise had been a resident of the Battery Park Hotel since it opened its doors to the elderly. She was a sixty-seven year old widow who hated the word “widow.” She showed her annoyance when she tersely said “don’t call me a widow. That makes me sound like a spider!”
Eloise was a force of nature. She never wore a brassiere and had no compunction about flashing her ample but sagging breasts when she heard that “hated” word. She would let out a hearty grunt, raise her shirt and say “do you see a red hourglass on my chest?”
Most women ignored her but others would gasp in horror and show their disgust…but all the men loved Eloise. A few protests were sent to the manager, a middle-aged, slightly over-weight, balding man, who politely nodded while listening to the sensitivities of the complainants but shook his head and smiled as soon as they walked away. He loved Eloise, too.
Eloise frequented the hairdresser but blue was the color of her eyes and would never be the color of her hair. Her choice was a jet black color called Raven and she never let her silver roots show. She proudly called herself “a Raven beauty.” It was a clever pun on the word “raving” and Eloise was a master of puns.
On game night, Eloise made the rounds, floating fluidly from table to table. She was a fairly good poker player, although it was discouraged, especially if it involved money. But Eloise was a rule-maker and a rule-breaker. “If I want to play poker, I’m going to play poker,” she said. “If I win your money, don’t cry to me. You shouldn’t be gambling if you’re going to be a big baby.”
She had never worked a day in her life, as far having an actual paying job, but would quickly remind everyone that looking after a man for forty-some-odd years was one of the hardest jobs a woman could ever have. She didn’t talk much about her late husband but once you got to know her, albeit casually because even though she would bare her breasts, she never completely bared her soul to anyone, you sensed that he was an honorable man who was very good to her.
She still wore a simple gold band on her left hand and always wore a locket on a long chain that seemed to have great sentimental value. If she still grieved for him, she did it in private or maybe she had reached the point of acceptance and resigned herself to believing the often used words, “until we meet again.”
Eloise didn’t dress like an old woman. You wouldn’t find any polyester frocks in her closet and stiletto heels were at home on her feet. She was never seen without make-up and may have singlehandedly kept Max Factor in business for years.
She could be described as flashy, but not trashy. She could be described as eye-catching, but not gaudy. She could be described as someone who wasn’t going to let time and age slow her down or resign her to a mundane life of mere existence.
The fact that Eloise loved to flirt did not go unnoticed. She loved the attention and loved even more that she could get a rise out of an embarrassed old man, whose certain appendage hadn’t stood at attention in possibly many years.
But Eloise was not interested in having a relationship. She didn’t need a man to take care of, nor did she need a man to take care of her. She was by no means wealthy, but she was frugal. She didn’t need a man to pay her bills, nor was she interested in paying his. She just wanted to live and laugh and spit in the face of age, while defying its onslaught of brittle bones, arthritic hands and the eventual final surrender.
Eloise was found huddled next to the window in her bedroom, clutching a scorched silver picture frame that one could only guess held a picture of her late husband. The remains of a chair were beside her and she may have been trying in vain to break the reinforced window. Fused to her finger was the gold band and the locket still hung around her charred neck.
To be continued________________________