We bumped into one another outside the café in the center of town. Her eyes go wide as she recognizes me, and I can see the quickly hidden shock… time has changed me in ways unexpected, though I suppose the eyes always remain the same… windows of the soul, why would they change? I grin wryly to myself as I approach the table and we have the obligatory welcome hug, ‘So good to see you!!’, she gushes to me… and for a moment, I believe it… the warmth of it rushes over me like arousal, a feeling clean and pure and good.
I sit and we sip coffee as we discuss the time of silence between us, and I catch her up on the things that have happened. Her face is animated, registering horror and sadness and pity… I pretend not to notice that last, and find myself feeling slightly resentful as I realize even this meeting I had sought out…. My thoughts wander as I sip my coffee and her voice fails to pierce the veil… as if without my action, there is no play to be had on this particular stage.
I mentally straighten as this thought flashes brighter and ‘louder’ across my mind. And all at once several, small epiphanies… she is the same – life has cocooned her like a new butterfly, held her safe and changing only into more glorious form. I consider myself through her eyes, knowing her as I do… and I realize how awkward it is for her… to sit across from someone she would never be seen with, someone frumpy… dumpy… less than glamorous. Apparently, much of the world cares not for what lies in the windows of the soul.
The feeling of angst and anger rises, though I remain to all appearance calm, cool, collected…. So many years spent wondering if my popularity and desirability were for myself or merely the shell I wore in the world… and so many years spent quietly realizing the truth… only to have this ‘friend’ underscore it so viciously with her polite silences, her distance, her strangeness, her otherness… all of which did but remind me of the fact that we are, indeed, much, much different than ever I realized… and that here was yet another who preferred the window dressing to the window itself… the decorations to the tree, and the leaves to the branches and roots that support them.
I find myself wondering if Autumn made her cry. Somehow, I doubted it. I suspect she merely curled up inside, looking at images of flowers so she wouldn’t have to contemplate the naked reality of the dormant trees…. Just as she spent these moments turning and swiveling to watch the people around her, to watch traffic go by, to do anything that meant not having to look at me.
It hurt. I found myself breathless with the pain of it. Why am I surprised? I feel a certain wonder to realize the total lack of understanding that has left me unprepared for this outcome. I try to tell myself it is because I do not wish to believe her that empty… but this isn’t true, for I readily embrace that she is so as I sit here and feel her distance. I ponder that perhaps I am sad for the death of hope I held for her… that she would be among the number of those who looked beyond the curtains and sheers and glimpsed me, myself.
I am angry for being someone who cannot seem to stop hoping, and for being someone who hurts every time that hope is dashed. I am angry for having to live in a world where such things can be casually shattered without even so much as the realization of the act. I am weary for all the days spent insuring my panes are clear, working to permit the most pristinely accurate view… only to find the world’s biggest concern is the weft and dress of my curtains.
I feel as if I am the dupe of the world largest and most secret joke – a skyscraper in a metropolis where everyone knows the view exists, but have forgotten how to see it… or worse yet, have resigned themselves and me to being but an aspect of the landscape… some detail too taxing to recall, so much easier to lump into the meaningless whole that is ‘the city’.
The series of thoughts cascade on, and my feelings with them… a rollercoaster of pensiveness, anger, sadness, resentment, and loss… I feel the cord that bound me to her unraveling… fraying with every second spent in this polite silence, irreparably.
I consider the honesty of the glass wall, and the horror of the boarded up factory… I contemplate the insidious lie of the seamstress, giggling and fluttering as I bought the fabric and bought into the lie. I spent many years a fashion window and many enjoyed my fripperies…. But none cared for me. And now, I am a plain and unadorned one… naked and clear… and I face the Highway in defiant disinterest… a challenge to a world obsessed with satins and moirés, a challenge unmet.
My thoughts settled into quietness and my eye to her… mere moments had passed and she turned a slanted look to her watch… no longer was there comfort to be had here. I coughed lightly and apologized, telling her I had forgotten an important appointment, and perhaps we could get together again, when there was more time. I will never forget the look of gratitude that slipped over her face before the faux sadness made it onto the stage.
I had not lied. There was an important appointment… with life.