The old lady in a wheelchair
Bound to an electric wheelchair, an oxygen mask and a panic button at arm’s length, she is looking out the window on the 45th floor of a skyscraper. It’s a sunny day and in the distance one can see the albescent ridge of a mountain chain. The old woman’s hair, carefully tightened in a bun, is at least as white.
“This is the last time you are going to see me alive” she says to a young man and woman respectfully seated next to each other, watching silently their venerable host. “I’m not implying I’ll die tomorrow, but I’ve already told you everything there was to know about my life. I chose you to be my inheritors because I don’t have kids, and only after a lengthy inspection of your character. Basically I’ve watched over you since you were little, I discreetly intervened in your education and I took the necessary steps to bring you two together, because my intuition told me you would be a good match. And I was right. What I leave you is not only a financial empire - which you very well know it took me and my husband - deceased 7 years ago - five decades to build, but also indisputable proof that honest hard work and goodwill can sometimes lead to as good, if not better results than machinations of any sort.”
“What I want to tell you may sound incredible, but I still hope you’ll take me seriously and think about what you’re going to hear today all throughout your lives, which I wish to be as long and prosperous as possible.”
“I have a great secret I’ve never shared with anyone. When I was young, before knowing Michael, my future husband, I met a presentable, but withdrawn young man during a charitable action. He had simply introduced himself as ‘Bob’ and had begun to make advances at me. But I was looking down my nose and ignoring him. In those days I thought many men would want to have me and maybe that was true. One day, he called me, always the polite guy, and invited me to go out for a tea. He said he needed to tell me something important. At first I wanted to refuse him, but he kept insisting, so I dressed up and went. He was waiting for me, a single flower in his hand, a white lily. We sat down at a table on the cliff by the seaside, it was a wonderful day, seagulls circling above and screaming full of energy, the breeze ruffling my curls (I used to wear my hair fairly short back then). After a few minutes of casual chatting, I noticed Bob suddenly become pensive, almost solemn. I asked if he was sick or something. He smiled and said to me….”
[Bob] “Everything is ok, but what I am about to tell you might sound strange. Something came up and so I need to change my plans. I apologize deeply if I have somehow complicated your life. I need to leave, you’ll never hear from me again, nor will you meet me. But as a token of my feelings for you, I promise you’ll never lack anything. Whatever you set your mind to do will be successful. Any wish you might have will be granted. The only thing you’ll never have is children. You don’t know it yet, but it will become apparent later…”
“My jaw almost dropped, it was the last thing I was expecting to hear from him. I thought Bob was trying to joke so I laughed forcibly. But he was giving me a serious look. After a couple of moments he briefly glanced at the sea, then got up from his chair and attempted to kiss my hand. I didn’t let him, not knowing why. He gave me one last, maybe sad, look, and the next second he left. He never called me after that day.”
“Some time passed, I had almost forgotten the incident, when suddenly something horrible happened. My parents had a car accident. I wasn’t ready to lose them both at once, I was desperate, sleeping in the hospital and continually asking nurses and doctors for updates. My parents were in a critical state and given very slim chances of survival. Out of desperation, one day I remembered Bob’s words, so I cried “Hey, keep your promise and save my parents!”. Shortly after, they came out of the coma and the slow but steady recovery process began.”
“I’ve always been down to earth, so I couldn’t bring myself to believe there was some sort of miracle involved. Yet, I’ve gradually become convinced that something hidden was working in my favor. Whenever I needed a good advice, I was getting it. If I needed a friend or an associate, somehow the right person would appear out of the blue. I met Michael on a dating website, he was the first person to… hit me up (giggle) after I opened an account there. We liked each other, I was intending to start a family and he proposed to me. Later on I wanted to be able to help disadvantaged people, but we needed money and an infrastructure: people qualified to identify desperate cases, to avoid frauds, to cater to everyone’s specific needs etc. Me and my husband founded a law firm whose main activity were pro bono cases. My husband never lost a defense. EVER. In the following years we invested in green energy which subsequently developed at a breathtaking pace. We got rich, but were always careful to help people less fortunate than us. There was only one dark cloud on the otherwise clear sky of our marriage. No matter how hard we tried, I couldn’t get pregnant, although medical tests weren’t showing anything bad or out of place. For a while we considered adopting, but every time we found a promising kid, either someone else got to adopt them shortly before we could make up our mind, or the kid themself didn’t enjoy our company. So we eventually dropped the idea altogether.”
“Not long before Michael’s death, I had a dream. A voice resembling Bob’s, but somehow colder, and coming from afar, told me: ‘soon you’re gonna be a widow, look carefully and you’ll find someone suitable to inherit what you two have built together. Don’t fear death, for it doesn’t have any power over souls, but the most dangerous thing for man is despair.’ ”
On the 45th floor of a skyscraper, an empty room with a mountains view. On the walls, photographs speaking of a life lived fully, without regrets. In the center, on the desk, a freshly picked lily flower, exuding the discreet scent of unconsumed love.