Stiff hugs, too much blinking, nervous giggles, finger nibbling, and the distraught and desperate reach to the back-pocket followed by distracted scrolling…
It’s 10:58 AM on a Monday. What time is it there?
I just texted my roommate. She’s in the same room as me.
I was young, maybe six or seven-years-old, in the bathroom of the supermarket in town. This was the supermarket, not the corner market. The “super” designation excited me—it didn’t matter why or if it was truly super. It simply was, and I believed it.
I explored while my mom or dad meandered the aisles. Neither of them particularly care(d) for the supermarket so, upon entering, there was a mission to be completed. I was impatient and curious and, thus, found myself veering from his or her hip and wandering off to find something exciting…
I found exploring exhilarating, especially when it came to places that others seemed fairly uninterested in, like airports, Home Depots, the first floor of hotels, conference halls, linen rooms, supermarkets, etc. The widespread disinterest of others made me eager to be the one to discover value in something that no one else had yet discovered.
It was 4:23 PM on a Wednesday. I was exploring the supermarket. I had exhausted the majority of the store on my own already—I had already checked out the word searches adorning the back of the cereal boxes, listened to the selection of musical tooth brushes, admired the sprinkle-coated cakes in the bakery cases, and oo’d and awe’d at the seemingly infinite apple variations…
I found myself in the supermarket’s bathroom. I didn’t have to pee. Instead, it was crucial that I found out whether this bathroom’s soap was of the foam or liquid kind.
I looked at the freckle-faced brunette opposite me, enclosed in the reflective rectangle suspended above the sink. Her head floated low within the reflective rectangle due to her short stature. Six or seven-years-old, for sure. Glistening eyes—curious and explorative, for sure. A thin scar traversing the tail of her right eyebrow, chapped cheeks, and a toothy (…not without a few missing, of course), crooked grin—alive and present, for sure.
In the corner of the reflective rectangle, I spotted a situation. A woman was having a hard time behind me, struggling with the paper towel dispenser. This dispenser wasn’t automatic, nor did it have a lever—it resembled nothing more than a plastic cube affixed to the wall. The woman was old, likely in her late seventies. I hesitated before going over to her. Does she even need my help? Would she want my help? Would I be able to help her? Would it be strange for me to approach her? She definitely needed to dry her hands—she didn’t seem like the kind to just wipe her hands on her Levis and call it a day…
Although those internal hesitations existed, I approached her. I asked her if she needed help. She nodded, thanking me with warm, steady eyes and a subtle smile. I reached up, twisted the dial, and out sprouted a few inches of fibrous tissue with zig-zagged edges. With both hands, I gently pulled and handed her the yield. Again, she smiled softly and thanked me.
It was well past 5:00 PM at this point. Faye was her name. We stood just outside the bathroom, beside the water fountain. Faye told me about her son and his new wife—Johnson and Sara. Their wedding was on Thanksgiving day. Faye was excited that it was now December, as the holiday season was her favorite time of the year. She hated how cold her toes would get, though. She was buying chocolate chips to make cookies for a cookie swap occurring the next night with a group of ladies from her neighborhood (of whom, she was reading the fifth Harry Potter with).
Her silvery hair glistened in the fluorescent, supermarket lighting—it nearly matched the white linoleum flooring. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to my dad with a cart full of bagged groceries and car keys in hand. I grabbed hold of his hand and raised my other, gently waving goodbye to Faye. Again, she nodded, thanking me with warm, steady eyes and a subtle smile. She turned and walked away.
It’s 11:49 on a Monday.
At age six or seven, I met Faye. I approached someone new, helped that someone new out, and learned about this unfamiliar person. I didn’t start nibbling, look away, and reach for my phone (…not that I had one at that age). Notably, social anxiety did exist within me (and quite intensely)—remember that internal hesitation? I didn’t escape from that anxiety though—I acknowledged it, allowed it to reside within me, and proceeded accordingly without allowing such anxiety to control my actions/paralyze me.
Try to keep your phone in your bag or your pocket. Embrace awkward fidgeting and shaky eye contact. Don’t flee—fight. Open up, use your voice, listen to others, and trust yourself and your curiosity. Who knows where a “Do you need any help?” will take you…
I still wonder about Faye—I wonder if she is still around. I wonder how Johnson and Sara are doing (they must’ve just celebrated their anniversary). I wonder if she is as excited as I am by the holiday lights and wafting whiffs of evergreen and the sound of Sinatra’s voice playing over the radio…
Daily, I look at the freckle-faced brunette opposite me, enclosed in the reflective rectangle suspended above the sink (although many of those freckles have since faded). Her head now floats higher—more centered—within the reflective rectangle due to her taller stature. Around eighteen-years-old, for sure. Glistening eyes—curious and explorative, for sure. A thin scar traversing the tail of her right eyebrow, chapped cheeks, and a fully-toothed yet still crooked grin—alive and present, for sure.
Who will I meet today?