A disheveled woman in her early 60s was standing inside the elevator. She seemed confused or, at least, in the middle of a perplexing thought. After a brief hesitation, she stepped out, giving me a polite smile. I stepped in and pushed the button for the main floor.
Just as the door was sliding closed, the woman turned back and asked, “Are you going up?” Something about her voice, or her odd question, made me stop the closing doors and step back out in the hall.
“Are you lost?” I asked, noticing confusion lodged in her eyes. “Where are you hoping to go?”
“My hair,” the woman said. She held her hand up to her head of loosening curls. “My hair.”
The woman turned and walked toward the door that would take her out onto the busy street. I walked after her and said, “Were you with anyone?”
This stopped her. “My husband dropped me off,” she said as if just remembering. Then, as if another thought had come to her: “I have Alzheimer’s.”
This explained things. “Where are you going?”
Her hand went back to her hair. “I don’t know.”
I wasn’t helping. “Come to the next floor,” I said. “Maybe your husband is there.”
I knew that the next floor opened out to a quiet commercial street. It seemed the most likely place for her husband to be.
“Ok.” She followed me into the elevator, happy to have a place to go. I pushed the button for the second floor, and she smiled. “Ah! Two!” When the door slid open, we stepped out and slowly made our way down the hall.
There were shops on either side of us. The woman looked into the windows as if shopping. I could have been out with my mother on an afternoon stroll. She stopped. “This!” she pointed at the window of a hair salon. Her face lit up.
Of course, her hair!
She opened the door and peered in. Her stylist waved her over, smiling. Stepping inside, she looked like a child setting out on an adventure. As the door was closing behind her, she turned, looked directly at me, and said, “Thank you. Thank you so very much.”