Louie Cronin: “Compliant”


Baby boomer turning 70, ok exaggerating a bit, I’ve got five more months. Of wearing masks, checking case numbers, primping for Zoom. My friends are all gray. I only see them on Zoom, or outside, bundled up, triple vaxed, windswept. I can’t afford to go gray. Went wrinkly instead, aged fast, chasing Sandy, who drowned at 22, always in a hurry. My period dried up at 45. Blamed it on ciggies, though I quit 10 years before, when Barry died, an old man of 29, struggling up the stairs at Times Square. Got my period at 11. Thought my life was over then. Maybe it was.

Work? Happy to get tossed out, though I hadn’t saved enough, who has? Now I’m aging into the high-risk pool, 68, 69, 69 1/2… I see how the baby doc looks at me, fumbling for my reading glasses. Old girl needs an EKG, a lipid panel. Would you consider eating healthy? Me? I used to rollerblade here, you little fuck! Everyone around me is deaf. I’m ok, unless I’m with young people, or watching movies with the captions on, narration buried under effects. I’d lose my job for that. Oh, right, I did.

Sad to see my brother with a cane. My father used a broom or a putter, died anyway. My mother was compliant, as am I. As I will be. She put on her big bifocals, stocked up on hearing aid batteries, used a cane then a walker then a transport chair. Her sister Gert fell putting in eyedrops, her sister Mary rolling up her hair. My husband installed railings this Thanksgiving. I was fine without them but reach for them just the same.

I get tired so early or am I just bored? Another meal to cook, another night to endure, streaming Netflix, trying to read a book. Wine tonight or detox tea? So many steps before bed. Sonicare, pick, floss, cleanser, serum, antiaging cream. PFFFT! And God forbid my pajama bottoms cinch — my stomach has forgotten how to squeeze, dinner lingers, threatens to turn.

Wait! Stop that. There’ll be no turning yet. There are red berries on the prickly bushes; the bay peeks flat and silver through the trees. There are stacks of cut wood and the fireplace draws like mad. There are baby boys on the West Coast and a baby girl on the East, getting onesies and picture books from distant aunties they can’t yet conjure.

Fucking plague stole two good years. Or slowed them down enough that I might notice.

Louie Cronin’s novel, Everyone Loves You Back, was a semifinalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Her fiction and essays have been published in Compass Rose, The Princeton Arts Review, Long Island Newsday, The Boston Globe Magazine, and on PRI.org. She formerly worked as a writer/producer for Car Talk.

1 thought on “Louie Cronin: “Compliant”

  1. Dark, funny, real as it gets. Mary Louise, you just keep getting more brilliant at storytelling. Another trade-off ?maybe the only way?❤❤❤


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