I would come home from school, drink a six-pack
and iron five white shirts in the basement.
Aunt Liz would be asleep in her chair
upstairs, her Alzheimer’s relaxed for the moment.
In the basement the steam iron hissed and spouted
over Oxford cotton. I averaged fifteen minutes
per shirt. Bare bulb over my head, I pushed
the iron until after midnight, until Friday
became Saturday. Neatly arranged on hangers
the shirts hung on the clothesline like ghosts,
reminders of a stress-ridden profession.
My aunt’s hearing loss prompted her to turn
the TV so loud that The Late Night Show
echoed through the floor.
Finished ironing, I emptied extra water onto
cement, reluctant to climb stairs back into
claustrophobic caregiving. When I entered
the living room, I saw her head sagging
onto her chest like a Raggedy Ann doll.
Timers had turned off lamps, but a path
of television light streamed across the
carpet like a lighthouse beam. I shook
her shoulder, and she awakened wide-eyed.
After she’d turned off the TV and gone
to bed, I returned to the living room
and sat in her chair, looking out the window.
The streetlight spread its light across
the marble windowsill, and I stared at
it until I slowly vanished into the shadowy
freedom of sleep.