Gah, why won’t she answer me? This is what the blond is thinking as her right hand deftly manipulates the smart phone, thumb flying back and forth between messages, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Unconsciously, the fingers of her left hand twirl a pinch of her hair round and round her index finger, lets it go, grabs it again, twirl, twirl, twirl, lets it go; grab, twirl, release – a hundred times a minute.
Her breathing is shallow with excitement. Momentarily, her left hand abandons its task, picks up the Starbucks cup so she can suck down another huge gulp of her soy mocha latte. Her 28th birthday (ugh) is this summer but she still gulps loudly, like a child, when she swallows. Everyone notices; friends and strangers alike, but no one knows how to tell her. She doesn’t seem to know that anyone can hear from the outside what is going on in her mouth. Sometimes she swishes her drink around in her mouth for an eternity, oblivious to the distraction she causes.
Suddenly her phone vibrates. It is answered with a quick swipe of the thumb. She can contain herself no longer and blurts out the words that have been building inside her for the last 5 minutes since she heard them from the brunette.
“She must be pregnant….who get’s married on a Tuesday?”
Son, I understand that working at the family feed store might not be what you want to do for the rest of your life, but you were born into it. Your great-grandfather started this business with blood, sweat and tears. The family almost lost everything back in the depression, but we’ve kept it going. I grew up in this store, stocked shelves and took inventory since I was eight. You yourself spent all your summers here helping out.
Help me understand how you could just walk away from this legacy to cut people’s hair? How?! Cutting hair is a job for women, son! Would you really want to spend your days in a beauty shop listening to women gossip day in and day out? I just don’t get it.
Besides, if you quit working for me, you won’t be on our insurance anymore and that bull-riding will have to stop because if you break your arm, it’s on you.
There are eight of them this gray day, in the familiar common room with its fading flower print wallpaper; some sitting quietly lost in their thoughts, some with busy hands knitting or crocheting items that may or may not be worn by great-grandchildren, nieces or nephews who sometimes visit.
At six feet two in a sensible shoe, she towered over most teachers and all the students navigating the halls of her junior high school. With her head of tight orange curls and freckled skin, the sun had always been her enemy and mother had kept her inside, in the shade or covered from head-to-toe throughout her childhood. She never married. She has no children, grand children or great-grandchildren to make things for, so they are used to her silent, luminescent presence. Now, slumped in a wheelchair, her head topped with thinning blue-white pin curls and a face far more youthful than her years; unable to stand, not even sure of her height anymore, she suddenly interjects in her still strong voice, that: “As a child, I had an imaginary friend who used to get me into so much trouble.”
One head snaps up so quickly from the knitting in her lap that it startles another next to her who had been nodding off, and their eyes lock briefly, agree silently that “I always knew she was the crazy one”, before fixing their gaze on the speaker, who now has their full attention.