She wore red. She didn’t hide.
I wore black. She found me anyway.
I gingerly knelt down on one knee to look at the bottom shelf. My hip hurt, just enough to be more than a little bit. I thumbed through the library CD’s, hoping to find something the husband might like to listen to on his commute to work.
She charged toward me before I could fully process her impending approach. I saw grey. It was her hair flying, swinging back and forth. I saw red. It was the flash of her pants, her legs marching right and left. She flew past me, barely pausing, preferring to deliver her confident declaration in fluid motion. “Oh, honey” she said while shaking her head. “Why don’t you pull a chair on over and sit on it while you look through those CD’s! You’ll be so much more comfortable.”
I muttered, weakly, politely, “Oh, I’m ok. I’m only going to be a minute.”
“Wait, do I know you?” my head silently muttered, trying to understand. Why did she think I needed a chair? Did she see the weak parts? Did she see the fragile?
I went to check out my rock star biography book and the CD’s I had picked out for the husband. She was next to me, checking her books out. I said hello. Her head turned to face me. Her grey, shoulder length hair swung from side to side again. My own post chemo, short, grey curls sat silent and motionless under my plain black hat.
The cranky in me couldn’t let it go. “Why did you think I needed a chair?”
She opened her mouth and poetic wisdom flew out. There were no bonus points for bravery, she said. There was no prize at the end of the day for stubbornness. No one was keeping track. These things, she said to me, while scanning her books into the system.
“Besides, I saw you wince when you knelt down.” she finally offered.
“Do I know you?” the inside of my head pondered, trying to envision if and where I had seen her before.
Her red pants forced me to stare at her. Her red shoes stood out parked next to my black boots. Her red leather backpack told me I wanted one just like it.
She spoke like she was anointed by confidence. She spoke like one destined to speak for the rest of us. She’d been around a long time. She saw the obvious, she said. It takes a long time to heal your body. But the brain is harder, she said, shaking a finger at me.
She said, trust me.
I’ve been there.
“Well, whatever is wrong, I hope you heal quickly. And next time, get a chair!” she said to me, as she swept her way out the door.
My head wanted to scream after she left. “Do I know you?” My mouth managed a weak and perplexed thank you.
She was gone.
I followed her out the door. She was fast and quickly made it to her car.
I followed her in my black clothes, full of my bad attitude and self pity. I followed her with my gimpy hip and stodgy, dull, post chemo, boring, terrible, old lady, demoralizing hair. I followed her to her red car, parked 3 spots down from mine.
She zipped away in her little car. All I saw was a flash of red.
I was 46. She was 74-ish. But she was so much younger than me. She was so much smarter than me. And maybe, probably, she was more resilient than me.
And as I drove away in my black sedan, I was sure of three things. One-I was determined to never, ever need to pull up a chair to look at the library CD’s. Two-I couldn’t wait until my grey hair grew long enough to swing like hers did. And three-I was for sure gonna get me a pair of nice red pants.