March 18, 2015

Questions Left By An Open Door

When I walked into the ladies room, I was greeted by oatmeal pasty thighs and blue veiny hands hitching up once-upon-a-time-white grandmaw panties.

They were attached to a woman who didn't seem to care that the open stall door left her exposed to me. I was rolling into work an hour early, half awake, half bitter and in dire need of another ninety minutes of sleep.

Maybe the potty training phase of my now 12 y/o girl is what left me unfazed: for about four months of my adult life, all I saw was panties, hineys and assorted potty poses; so I went on primping, preening and pretending that I was up for the song and dance act required for presenting my report at the monthly board meeting.

Once she had everything hitched, gathered up and zipped up, she exited the open stall and approached. Excuse me, I know a lot of people don’t smoke anymore… I listened to her pitch and noticed her acid-etched face wasn't too many years younger than mine, and her eyes were bright-white-blue, accented by eyeliner. She went on ...but if you smoke, can I buy a cigarette from you?

I rifled through my purse for smokes, assuring her there was no need to buy one, and then apologized when I realized I left them in the car. My new friend assured me it was okay, and explained her release from a four day hospital stint left her with a raging nicotine fit.

We parted ways.

She returned to her heap of belongings parked in front of the suite’s entrance to the nonprofit where I work. She was waiting for the place to open so she could be seen by a substance abuse counselor. She was here early to get help. I was here early because I had no other choice. Maybe we aren't so different, I thought while trekking down the dark hallway toward a back entrance, only accessible by fob.

Minutes later, the board assembled and did its usual business of approving minutes, reviewing financials and conducting due diligence according to Roberts Rules. I tap danced and sang about fundraising attempts and planning. But my bathroom buddy never entered any of our discussions, even though ultimately, we were all gathered to help her and people like her.

The board adjourned and I returned to workday busy-ness.

But she still lingered my mind’s eye. Her face, her eyes, her voice. Even the grandmaw panties. I wondered who she was ten years ago, what led her to that open bathroom stall and our doorstep waiting for help, and who cooed over her when she was a chubby rosy-cheeked baby with beautiful eyes.

I wondered if she knew I was really sorry about leaving the smokes in my car.

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