Monday, September 19, 2016

A Story With No Beginning And No End

A Story With No Beginning And No End
            Yesterday Ariel and Lani, Kathy and Crin and I went to Rolando’s taco restaurant.  He served us chicken with cream and mushroom sauce and all the fixings, family style. We loaded our plates and the only sound for twenty minutes was clinks of knives and forks. Delicioso.

            After overeating, we walked around the Plaza. We passed a young couple sitting on a white wrought-iron bench, his arm around her shoulders. She appeared sad, as if she might have been crying.

            I passed closest to the couple, and in Mexico, strangers give a polite greeting. “Buenas tardes,” I said and smiled.   

The man stopped me with an unusual question. “Senora, do you think my wife is beautiful?”

            “Yes,” I looked into her eyes. “You are muy bonita.”

            “She thinks she is not beautiful.” I relayed our conversation to my friends. With sincere words and gestures, we assured Danielle that she is indeed a lovely woman. Certainly Lorenzo thought her beautiful.

We will never know what caused her to doubt herself. It could have been something as simple as some other woman prancing by all dolled up. Our couple looked like they drove in from the farm, wearing jeans and boots and plaid shirts, clean and well pressed, but hardly high fashion. We learned Danielle is twenty-two. The couple has three babies. That alone would be enough to make me cry.

The look in her eyes jumped-started a memory as vividly as if it happened today. I’ve talked about it before. To briefly recap, I was divorced, a single mom, teaching school in Hays. I met a man from Box Elder who had a remarkable impact on my life. Over a few months time I saw James several times. We had fun together. I liked him a lot. But it wasn’t enough.

The finale exploded my world. I don’t remember what we were discussing. But I’ll never forget when I said to him, “But who do you want me to be. Just tell me who you want me to be.”

His reply, “I just want you to be yourself. I like you, not someone you think you need to be to please me.” Not the exact words, maybe, but close enough.

“Just be yourself.” How could I? I’d survived many years by being the chameleon I thought others wanted me to be.

Erasing myself had taken time, a subtle process, an on-going addition of many little things, all of which subtracted me.

As a child: You can’t be hungry. We just ate. Or you can’t be cold. It’s 75 degrees. It’s an easy progression to being told: You don’t want to do that. You really don’t want this one. You’re going to wear that? You don’t really think that. Why can’t you be more . . . (fill in the blank)? I heard it all.  And these examples are just a few of the words within which I became lost. Body language speaks even louder. Add isolation to criticism and half-truths. I disappeared.

Fortunately, though I never saw James again, I remembered his words, his priceless gift. James gave me back my life. I am the person he saw through all the masks.  

I began the search for myself by remembering my childhood, the things which gave me joy, the things that had nothing to do with pleasing other people. Gradually I put painting, sewing, designing, building, writing and rock collecting back into my life. These “doings” helped me to begin to “be” once again. Little things, over time, like wearing comfortable clothing rather than what I thought I should wear for the job, added to my increasing confidence.

That was the beginning of a long process. You’d have a hard time erasing me today!

I realize I’m imputing my experiences and pains onto Danielle, an innocent woman who may have simply stubbed her toe. Yet I think I recognize a relationship, however tenuous.

Before we left the Plaza the couple spoke with us again. Danielle looked considerably more cheerful. Yet she stayed in my head the rest of the night. I want to remember her with pink bubbles, three laughing babies and a man who wants her to be happy.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

September 8, 2016

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