The house was an old two story. It was probably lived in alone by an old lady who had no family interested enough to keep the weather out. Plaster was hanging loose, even on the first floor, with black mold streaks. The lady never modernized; there was just an old bathtub and certainly no cordless phone. Upstairs, and everywhere in the place, it was very dark. She was a housebound devout Catholic; the plaster icons of Jesus and Mary were for sale in box-lots for $3. She could have saved herself in that her house was in the sun shadow of a low-cost high rise across the street that was built specifically for older poor people.
The old lady stayed alone in the mold-streaked house. All she had to do was call the social worker across the street and let the young volunteer boys carry her remaining stuff to a small clean bright apartment with a view, from above, of this old house. She was feeble, for sure, but she could call the social worker; her black rotary telephone still functioned. But she stayed until death took her out the old door and across the porch to the street because, I get the feeling, she was hoodwinked by the shabbiness, the leaking roof, the stained bathtub, the grumble of her offspring who visited against their will. Creeping into her at the age of 80, and almost within by 85, she began to experience herself as old and leaky and shabby. Began to believe she was not worth fixing, painting, and washing up. Believed she deserved to stay in the sun shadow of the bright apartment building across the street.
I almost fell into the belief that I should somehow stay in the old house, take up where her death left off, in the leak. This old house spoke a powerful argument in capturing its inhabitants. But, in the front bedroom on the second floor, there flashed an oddity, something bright without mold. It was an original acrylic painting of a tulip. Very minimal; it bore only one monochromatic green leaf on the stalk, stretched on top was a very red bloom. The flower was made brave by a pure white canvas background. It was framed nicely with a signature of C. Malstrom and dated 1972. This treasure was not painted by the old lady, rather by her friend who foresaw this moldy future for the sure-to-become widow and sought in vain to cheer up this future place.I rescued the one-leafed tulip and ran out the door and across theporch before getting captured by the dark house. I stood out of reach of the sun shadow, wondering how it was that Ms. Malstrom made the aesthetic choice to leave one leaf alone.