There’s another woman living at my house. I hear her more than I see her. I hear her laughing and talking with JD3 and Anna. I hear Gracie make that “Oh, yeahhhh” sound she makes when someone scratches her behind her ears. I know she makes Wild Kitty and Big White Cat purr. And I hear her giggle when The Little Dog does her tap-dance routine in demand for another treat. She feeds the pets and washes dishes and makes beds and cleans the bathroom. Sometimes she even cooks. Although I’ve never been introduced to her, much less spoken to her, I feel as if I know her well. I would even call her my friend.
She’s a middle aged woman, a little taller than average and wears glasses. She has shoulder length, salt-and-pepper colored hair - more pepper than salt, except at her temples, where it’s snow white. Her eyes are a green-brown hazel and look their greenest when she’s been crying. Her lips are full and, although they appear to have faded some with age, they’re still a soft pink. She has a few wrinkles around her eyes and a vertical crease in her forehead right above her nose, but her skin is clear and smooth and soft-looking. And she’s extremely overweight.
I know what she looks like because, even though I don’t talk to her, I do see her, both here at home and in town. I was in The Olive Garden once when she and her family came in for lunch. When my friend asked for a booth instead of a table, the unsmiling hostess looked at her right square in the abdomen and, with a little sigh that said, “I don’t think you’ll fit, but…,” led them to their seats. I wonder if anybody else saw the look of anger mixed with hurt and embarrassment that slid quickly and quietly across her face.
Once, we were both in the same fabric store. I saw her pause and look at ticking-stripes and toiles and plaids. I saw her run her hands gently across velvets and chenilles and moirés. After she walked the entire perimeter of the huge, warehouse-like space, she went to the counter, presumably for help. When I noticed how the sales lady just ignored her, I lost interest in looking for curtain fabric and gave them my full attention. After waiting a few minutes, my friend laid her keys not so gently on the counter and cleared her throat. The sales lady, who’s big red hair, thin red lips and aqua polyester clothes clashed in such a way that it made my eyes hurt, slowly rose from where she was reading a magazine and offered her assistance. When my friend told her what she was looking for, the woman crossed her arms and grasped her elbows, revealing bony - Oh, my Goodness - red-tipped fingers. “We don’t have that and we can’t order it,” she said. “You need to go on the internet to look for it.” Thanking her for her assistance, my friend turned and left the store.
The next time I saw her was when I was shopping for a birthday gift for my daughter. Because it was her 18th birthday and I wanted something special, I was shopping in one of the few upscale jewelry stores in town, something I don‘t usually do. Beautiful gemstone jewelry was displayed quite elegantly in glass cases lined with black velvet. When my friend asked to see “those earrings. No, no, the pretty tsavorite garnets,” the sales lady’s my-hair-is-better-than-yours-my-clothes-are-better-than-yours-and-I’m-thinner-than-you-so-I’m-better-than-you attitude changed to one of surprise, and it showed in her face. She obviously didn’t expect my friend to know anything about gemstones or jewelry. We both left the store without buying anything.
Someday soon, I hope I’ll be able to sit down with her over a cup of tea and listen as she tells me her story. This is what I think she’ll say:
You know, what they think they see when they look at me has absolutely nothing to do with who I am. They see a fat, frumpy middle-aged woman without much going for her. But I look at them through the eyes of a young-at-heart, mostly happy woman with family and friends and pets who love me and whom I love back. My home is a warm and caring place that reflects my quirky personality. I like to work with my hands. I can knit, I cross stitch, I’ve made pottery, and I’m learning to make bread. I collect old junk and fabric and quotations. I love the way some words and phrases feel as you say them. I like to read and I like to write. I’m smart and funny and compassionate. As a Hospice RN, I’ve held the hand of a dying man and, later, held his daughter in my arms and cried with her as she grieved. Yes, I wear ugly clothes, but it’s not because I don’t know what looks good. I love jewelry and know that there are at least six colors of garnet, my birthstone. I love God and try very hard to live the life He wants me to live.
I know I shouldn’t blame them for not seeing the real me. How could they in the little snippets of time that we have together? It’s just that I’m so tired of it all. I’m tired of not being taken seriously. I’m tired of them being surprised when I say something intelligent or meaningful. I’m tired of being looked at like I don’t matter. I’m tired of the ugly clothes and the one-size-fits-all that doesn’t fit me. I’m tired of an aching back and sore knees and shortness of breath. I’m just tired.
Then, as she gets up to leave, she’ll look into my eyes and she’ll know that I know exactly how she feels. She’ll take my hand in hers and she’ll say, “Maybe it’s time we did something about this.”