Thursday, March 11, 2010

Portraits - Part 2

-  I didn't buy enough finish nails to finish, so ten dollars in fuel and an hour was spent to get less than a buck's worth of pin steel from the megamart. 
-  Four college aged girls were smacking a puck around the store's arcade air hockey game, shrieking as they traded turns.  Their joy was contageous.  Bank tellers and stylists in the neighboring booths were giggling just listening to them.  As I walked by, there was a loud 'chink', several simultaneous screams, and a laughing "OH... MY... GOD!!!" as the little disc flew out into the store and skidded under the cart of a surprised mother pushing two toddlers.  Both little heads swiveled to watch the puck slide under, then turned to see the gangly figure charging out of the arcade to retrieve it.  "Sorry... Sorry... SORRY!", she said as her arms and legs flailed; the most uncoordinated portrayal of running I've ever seen.  "Get back here!" she said to the puck, as she slid to a stop, hovering over it.  "HA!", she huffed as she plucked it from the rubber mat at the stunned cashier's feet.  "I've GOT you!"  And she stood, holding the puck extended over her head like a gleaming medal in the flourescent sun, then marched back into the game room where her friends were appreciating her performance.  The girl in the pink pajama capri pants was actually sitting on the floor laughing, her legs folded, her head tossed back, clapping and rolling in little circles of joy.  Another, in a green UAA sweatshirt two sizes too large, was bent at the hips with only her head on the the hockey table, holding the plastic paddle to her stomach, shuddering strangely, drawing long straw-sucking breath sounds between horse-laughs. 
-  The toddlers studied the foursome, filing every mannerism for future use, I would guess.  The cashier just smiled and said "Ah, spring break in Alaska, poor things."  The greeter, who'd missed the flying puck scene but was enjoying the after-riot, said "I guess you had to be there!", and the store manager poked his head around the corner, found nothing in the ruckus that would create paperwork, and resumed his rat-killing. 
-  Foot traffic at the store entrance began to move again, and as I walked past the arcade, I noticed the fourth girl.  She was standing calmly by the table, her hockey paddle held to her chest, lovingly smirking at her friend's antics.  There was something about her, something familiar, a connection to her my mind wouldn't drop, and I watched longer than I should have.  When she sensed I was looking, and I am convinced women can sense such things, she scanned, and we locked stares.
-  Let's get something straight right off the bat.  I was not stalking or attempting at a love interest here.  I have distant daughters older than this girl.  The curiosity I had was more familial, like recognizing a shared heritage. Imagine running across a brother or niece of whom you weren't aware.  That's the connection I felt, and it was stronger when our gazes met. 
-  Normally, in our culture, holding eye contact with a stranger is exceedingly rude or flirtatious.  Standard procedure is to avert your gaze, sending the message that you are not wanting to offend, nor do you wish to allow unfamiliar others into your space.  But this girl held her eyes on mine, and I was mesmerized, in part because they were so piercingly blue.  In the place where I was raised you occasionally met people with Old Spain blood that had dark blue eyes, but these eyes were deep heavy blue, like the blue of the glory pool in Yellowstone.  They were bottomless, and sadly haunting.
-  When I was able, after about ten seconds, to smile apologetically and work my way toward the finish nails, I began to analyze her image captured in my brain, and why it was so interesting to me.
-  It wasn't that she had Hollywood good looks or spectacular fashion sense.  She didn't.  She was dressed plainly in comfortable jeans and a sweater.  Her hair was very dark brown, semi-eighties high, and had that just-out-of-the-shower crazy bounce that really curly hair gets.  She wore very little makeup, but then she really didn't need any at her age.  She wore wide striped socks in Birkenstockisk sandals, but with a closed toe.  It was as if she tried to dress as goofy as her friends, but something wouldn't let her pull it off. 
-  I kept remembering her intelligent eyes,  focused on the brows, the heavy lashes. Then it hit me.  There had been redness to the lining of her eyes.  Perhaps she was sick, had allergies, or had been crying.  Maybe she'd just laughed so hard with her friends that she teared up.  But there was something else in her eyes when she looked at me.  A longing maybe?  A question?  There was of course no way for me to know what she was thinking, and I laughed at myself for my habit of reading too much into the moment, a tendency I have.  But she touched something, and I couldn't figure it out or make it go away. 
-  I'd stopped on the greeting card aisle after the hardware section because a birthday was coming up, and because it feels silly to go through the line to spend 79 cents.  The girls had been carousing through the store, laughing and yelling in that sorority dialect so popular today.  Pajamapants was pretend skating past my row, her hands behind her back as she shoosh-shooshed onto the seasonal card section one aisle over where her giggling friends were gathered.  I listened to the voices, wondering if I could recognize which went with blue eyes. 
-  They read the first page of several St. Patrick's day cards, then held the card open for the others who hooted, leaving me to guess at the punchlines.  "That's what you get for listening!", I scolded myself. 
-  Then Puckchaser blurted "SHEEZ.  They've already got Mother's Day cards!  Even FATHERS Da...", she stopped herself.  "God. I'm sorry Karen.  I'm so stupid." 
-  "Yes", said PJ.  "You are."
-  I finally heard Blue Eyes, Karen, speak.  "It's okay."  She started to sniffle.  "I just really miss him.", and she started to throw big heavy croaking sobs.
-  "We know you do.  Cry it out, girl."
-  A church bell clanged in my heart. I felt like I was going to break in half.  I hurried past the group hug on the card aisle. The cashier looked like she was about to call security re the crazy person trying to hide his welling tears, crying over a 79 cent purchase.
-  What I wanted to do was join their hug. What I wanted was to tell her how sorry I was for her loss, that her father had to be so proud of her, and that he would want her to live a full and happy life. I wanted to tell her that if she needed anything...
-  What I did, however, was rush out of the store, overwhelmed by the sudden release of my suppressed grief over my own alienated daughters.  My parking lot sobs rivaled hers, and theirs, until I could gather myself enough to guide the Jeep home. 
-  That look.  Those forever eyes.  The connection I couldn't have guessed.  They haunt me. 

1 comment:

kkryno said...

There's another story to be told...

I think you're ready.