i don’t get out of the house enough. it is an issue i’ve been working to overcome, but often, the effort of movement and the oppressive sense of pointlessness impedes. hard to explain, but perhaps that gives the flavor of it. sorry for the bitterness.
but i had to get out today, needed to go by the store for a few required items. it’s hot outside today, and the humidity is up. but i like the weather when it is like this. i like the cloak of sauna-esque warmth, even as it is sometimes stifling. so, into the truck and down the road to breakfast and then, to walmart.
i am often surprised that i am, seemingly, very approachable.
i reach the door and a polite walmart worker stops me to ask if i have a moment to fill out some info card. the cynic immediately wonders if they’re asking for donations… but they’re not. a glance at the card reveals it as the usual ‘give your info so we can add to the junk mail in your box’ kind of thing. i tell him, “sure, fine.” and think to myself, ‘it all goes in the trash anyway’… but no, they can’t have my email address or phone number. like he’s going to argue. heh. fill the card out and head into the store, where blessed air conditioning and full-on strategic placements for impulse buying beckons.
get no further into the entrance bay when i realise i’m still wearing my sunglasses. stop to slide them off and pop them into the purse when i hear from my left, ‘a pretty lady deserves a pretty flower.’
now. understand. i have not been ‘pretty’… ever. once i was gorgeous. yup. used to have to beat the men away with sticks. then i was attractive… then… well… i don’t know what happened. but i do not feel attractive anymore and i reckon i must be right because i don’t get ‘that kind’ of attention anymore. i’m still coming to terms with it, really.
but whatever the internal reactions of the moment, it was a literal truth that if i were attractive, pretty, whatever… i certainly wasn’t in that moment…. standing there in black jeans, a ratty grey t-shirt, hair every which way from riding with the windows down, no makeup, lightly aromatic from the weather and… well… just puzzled at who was talking to me.
so i look.
to my left, there stands an elderly gentlemen dressed in slacks, a white shirt, and a hat. the hat is military issue. as is the panel of ribbons he wears upon his left breast. he carries a small bucket marked for the VFW, and in it, lost amongst coin and cash, are small red poppies on wires. each has a small white tape clasped about it that reads ‘buddy poppy’ and a URL.
he hands me one. no request for donation. no look of expectation. just a smile and a flower… for a pretty lady.
i kick the cynic inside my head into a corner before she can speak. she snickers quietly and knows i already hear her words. i ignore her.
i never carry cash. but somehow, always manage to have a coin purse full of change. i reached for it and without looking, dumped it fully into the little white bucket, noticing that he had not even tried to hold it out to me. no solicitation. this, only registering as i later walked the isles of the store… and of course, now, as i type.
i kept the little silk poppy. when i left the store, he was gone. i walked to my truck, slung the bag inside and climbed in… wrapped the little flower around the jasmine bag hanging from my rear-view mirror. had a quick thought about how long it would take the sunlight to bleach it white. drove home thinking about the differences between me ‘then’ and me ‘now’ and wondering if maybe i really was a pretty lady… and somewhere along the way, i had just stopped noticing.
it is somewhat of a comforting thought. not for vanity… but for something harder to explain. don’t think i’m going to try.