“Do you want some juice? –Is it cold? –Yes… Do you want tea? –Yes, tea.” I go back to the kitchen. Making tea is easy: earthenware cup, tea-bag, sugar, boiling water from the machine’s tap, spoon. I place the cup, on the narrow table that always stands in front of Elsa’s wheelchair. Elsa nods approvingly.
Mr. Dill had been asleep in a lounge chair, next to Elsa. He opens his eyes. They start chatting together. Mr. Dill gets up to whisper compliments in her ear while stroking her soft white hair. Flattered, Elsa smiles for a few minutes then she becomes angry. She pushes Mr. Dill away and yells. He shuffles out of her reach, surprised and saddened. Soon he is complimenting another person, stroking feet, arms and head. He wanders around the room, randomly distributing compliments and tender touch. Eventually he is back in front of Elsa. Protecting her cup with both hands, she yells to him to go away. This cycle happens a few more times. Now, as soon as she sees Mr. Dill getting close, Elsa moves the cup to her lap, underneath the table. When Mr. Dill is far enough, the cup reappears on top of the table. When my colleague arrives to start the Russian program, I leave the room.
I return, half an hour later. Elsa motions to me, to come by her. When I am close enough, she shows me her shawl, rolled in a ball, on her lap. She lifts a corner to reveal the hidden cup, still full. “Drink, it will get cold. –No, I keep it for Virgil.” He is Elsa’s husband. He visits when their daughter is able to give him a ride.
I am afraid the tea might get spilled. If Elsa falls asleep? If someone decides to tidy up the shawl? I walk up to the care-givers gathered at the other side of the room. “Elsa has wrapped her tea cup in her shawl. She keeps it on her lap. She is saving it for Virgil. –Oh, Virgil is here? –No, that’s why she is keeping it.”