To comment or not to comment...
August 29, 2007
Editor's note: Warning! Warning! Warning! The following column was submitted by me, which according to my proofreader does not sound like "me" at all.
I'm sitting at the bar of a local restaurant waiting for a carry out. It's Friday afternoon and the whistle has blown. I'm oh-so-ready to have a quick one, nab some food and head home for a relaxing evening. I'm not too much in the mood to talk. I spend much of my five day work week talking. I'm not complaining. It's my job. But when 5 p.m. rolls around on Friday and I'm off duty so to speak, sometimes I just feel like clamming up and being anonymous and invisible. And not talking.
There's a chair at the very corner of the bar that's open. In front of the one next to it is a half-full tall mug of amber colored beer. While I realize that whenever whoever it is comes back from wherever he or she is I'll be sandwiched between the wall and them, the only other open seats at the bar are between groups of men and experience tells me that my choice in the corner is the best. Especially when I'm not in the mood to talk.
I'm not saying that everyone talks to me, etc., because that's not always true. But often when someone else is sitting alone a light, friendly 'Isn't it hot out?' type thing will ensue. And that's okay sometimes, especially when I feel like talking. Then there's the other end of the spectrum. If I'm not careful about how I choose my seat, whomever I land between assumes a) that I'm forward and looking for some sort of connection/conversation or b) that I'm forward and looking for some sort of connection/conversation. Anyhow, I've learned that the corner seat, corner booth, corner anything is the wisest choice. Usually.
I put in my carry out order and alternate sipping on chilled chardonnay and a glass of ice water with a slice of lemon in it. At this time of the day—and with the oppressive 90 degree temps outside—I surprise myself by deciding that the water actually tastes better at the moment. I suck it down through a straw.
By then the temporary owner of the beer mug half-full of amber colored liquid returns and wedges into the seat next to me. He is someone I somewhat know. I say somewhat, because the only other times I ever lay eyes on him is in this particular restaurant.
Also by then a man sitting across the way with another guy calls out to me: "Hey, where you been?" he says.
"Busy," I say, concentrating on my glass of water which has suddenly become the most interesting thing in the universe as far as I'm concerned.
"I've been looking for you all summer," he calls out. "I had a line on a lawnmower for you but since you never stop in anymore it got sold."
I shrug my shoulders.
"So what's the deal?" he yells out. "You fall in love or something?"
I shrug again. Apparently that answer's not good enough. He shouts the question one more time.
"I'm broke," I say, wondering whose voice this is coming out of my throat. I sound quite #itchy—a voice I rarely use in public. "I don't go out much."
I'm thinking how strange it is that this person whom I don't know and see only occasionally feels that it's appropriate to yell out such a question. Not once, but twice. Then I'm even more annoyed that I answered. When is that good girl inside of me going to trade in her 'I-must-please-everyone-and-be-nice-as-sugar' for a sharp-edged flaming dose of red hot spice?
Ahh, what a question. Mr. beer mug speaks up now.
"That's the first time I've ever seen that birth mark," he says, looking down at my lap. I'm in a dress and when I sit down it slides up a bit and reveals the inch-and-a-half-long dark chocolate colored football shaped mark on my thigh about three inches above my knee. That crazy mark has shaped my life.
Gee, I think, testing out my new spice tongue. What type of response shall I give? "How kind of you to notice. Isn't it beautiful?" "It's not a birthmark, it's skin cancer." "I picked it out of a skin discoloration catalog." "That's the first time I noticed that bald spot."
Instead I say nothing. For years—and I mean years—I never wore shorts, a skirt or a dress because of that crazy birthmark and all the comments that went with it. While it doesn't bother me as much as it used to, people who know me know I still do not wear shorts or even short skirts for that matter. All of my dresses—just about—fall to three inches above my knees. I went for years without donning a dress or skirt that wasn't ankle length, and these days I wear dresses to stay cool.
So then I think to myself 'well, you asked for it. If you cover up your legs, go directly from your office to your home and never venture out into the world, you won't encounter these little annoyances.'
So, does anyone know where I can get some good, sturdy potato sacks—extra large so they go down to my ankles? And please, pass along the names of any survivalists you know, I need to stock up on some things at home. Anyone have a 'How to Live Like Howard Hughes' manual?
Email Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org