Stumbling through the door of our apartment complex she falls against the wall in search for stability. A plastic cup decorated in a well known beer logo hangs snuggly in her grip as she lifts it to take a sip. Her disheveled hair makes her look desperate and her glasses sit in a crocked slant on the bridge of her nose. Shuffling in my direction, the woman moves closer. I continue to look down at my mail as if I am completely unaware of her presence. Although the smell of alcohol clogs my throat, I focus my attention on being invisible. Despite my efforts, the smell gets closer and before I can leave a heavy hand falls on my shoulder.
The question, “What do you think of my glasses?” comes from a slurred voice to the side and slightly behind my ears. I turn with a smile and reply with a simple, “I think they look great.”
She begins to comb through her hair with her fingers and it flattens some of craziest parts. “Really? I lost my glasses and I found these outside. Are you sure they look ok?”
The two perfect circles frame her eyes and I notice how pretty she is. I place her in her late fifties, even though her dark black hair throws you off track for a second. The wrinkles that dance around her eyes suggest wisdom spoken in sarcastic tones and late nights of hard work. She’s struggling with something. It is as evident as the oversized black coat draped over her shoulders.
“Yeah, they are a great pair of glasses. And you know everyone is wearing circle frames right now. They suit you well.”
Just then a man in a similar condition slides through the door and curses it as if it tried to attack him. His white hair stands on end in several places and to be honest, he looks like the kind of guy I would be on my guard around, especially at night. He mutters something about the weather and points at nothing every time he uses profanity.
I have company upstairs, I should be going. As I try to make an exit, the woman goes off on another tangent. Politics of all things. Naturally the direction of our government should be discussed by people that are not in their right mind. It’s gotten us this far, right?
He starts yelling and that gets her rattled. Storming off he decides she is weighing him down. She bursts into tears as soon as the man enters the stairwell.
I try to console her while trying to keep my mail under my arm.
Amid the tears and exhausting exhales she finally blurts out, “My husband died two days ago. I don’t even really know that guy. He’s a jerk…”
Suddenly the company awaiting me upstairs fades into the most irrelevant parts of my mind.
I don’t ask questions. I don’t offer promises of happiness, I simply play the role of a quietly, comforting bystander. After what feels like the heaviest minutes of drunken grief, she silently walks away.
Humans cope with pain by numbing everything that means anything. Widowed and wandering, this woman walked the city streets with an intoxicated stranger in an attempt to forget about the man that died with her heart in his hands. Using cheap beer to cover up the scent of the cologne that lingered on that jacket she wore, she sought to drown in the brewed boldness given to her by intoxication.
Two days after tragedy this woman was already “all in” the poker game of emptiness. I cannot even begin to understand the pain she must be feeling underneath it all. Don’t mistake my observations for judgment. I couldn’t tell you what I would do if my world collapsed around me. My heart aches within me as I trudge up the stairs to my perfectly intact world. It’s incredible how layers of drywall can separate joy from pain; mountain tops from rock-bottom. Tears in 21 while 15 celebrates an anniversary. How strange. Pain is like a trap in the deepest woods. It is well hidden and it always catches its victim off guard. From now on, I’ll stick to the city streets to avoid that same fate. I say a prayer for the mysterious widow as I reach my door. I pray that she looses that man and finds her happiness instead. I pray that her pain fades and leaves behind only extra strength to carry her through the coming days. Two days is too soon to have it all together, I don’t blame her in the slightest bit. Tonight, he and I will celebrate our special day in honor of the livelihood of the love that brought us together. Tonight, I’ll hold close the happiness that woman once had. For her I will never take this love, this joy, for granted. I realize it is fragile and rare. I tip back the glass of youth while remembering her face.
I envision sparks of hope invading her darkest nights.
I believe in you, whatever your name is. I believe you can be healed and happy.