by Kellie L. Thurman
Back in the day, she was built like a brick shit house. By back in the day, I’m referring to the 80s, when sex, drugs, and stadium rock-n-roll were the norm. We were often mistaken for sisters, two peas in a pod…or like two shoulder pads in an acid-washed jacket.
Standing under the harsh lights at the Wal-Mart, with decades behind us, the shit house had exploded.
We accidently bumped carts in the household section.
“Well, hey there.” She smiles, tiny teeth, all gums. I remember this is something she doesn’t like about herself.
“Well, hey you!” I smile back.
We were once inseparable, best-friends a long time ago. As adults, when our thirties had reeled us in, wrung us about, and cranked us out on the finished end, we were not.
Only our shopping carts touched now, not our lives.
Time had raced on.
Our paths had forked somewhere along the way.
I took mine.
She took hers.
Nothing bad happened…just life.
The steadfast commonality of our youth didn’t exist as adults. The only thing we have in common now is motherhood. It just isn’t enough.
My oldest, 20.
My youngest, 15.
Stair steps and pay backs.
And now, here we stood, surrounded by toilet brushes and soap dishes.
I hold on to my cart; she holds on to hers.
Her mom jeans are pulled high over her belly, which was once washboard, but now a resting place for her once impressive D cups. My jeans are in style, low on my waist, thanks to thousands of crunches in the gym and high fiber/low fat in the fridge. There’s enough padding in my bra to stop a bullet. I know she remembers this is something I don’t like about myself.
All women have these self-proclaimed flaws.
We’re no different.
Yet, we are.
Her sweatshirt covers her bulkiness. My blazer accentuates my curves, curves that are so damn hard to maintain as the kids grow up and the years grow wide.
Her shoes…house slippers. My wedges are cobalt blue, this fall’s trendy color.
Once so big, auburn and full of Aqua Net, her hair is now limp and dead, home hair color on the ends, gray at the roots. My edgy pixie cut is clipped neat.
With no makeup, her face is tired, wrinkled.
I’ve spent an hour putting on my face, and a fortune on anti-wrinkle creams.
I think of how old she looks and wonder if I look just as old. I know that I am tediously trying to hold back the inevitable. I wonder if she realized that in herself, and just gave in. Did she think I was a fool and she the smart one? Or, am I the smart one and she the fool?
“How are your girls?” I ask, trying to see the girl in the woman standing before me.
“Good. Yours?” she asks…fidgeting. She was always the hyper one. I smile because I catch a glimpse of the past in her.
“How are you getting along since your dad passed?” She shows concern, but toys with her hair, pulling it back in a make believe pony tail, letting it go…pulling it back…letting it go.
“It’s hard; you know that.” I now understand the void she has always felt. Her dad has been gone over 20 years. Our dads have both died from cancer, but decades apart.
“Mom’s birthday is tomorrow. I’m looking for towels to match her bathroom,” she adds.
“Aaaaw. Your mama is a sweetie.”
The woman was a genuine saint in my book, especially dealing with us as teenagers.
“How old is she?”
“I had forgotten that our moms were the same age.” I smile like a dope… at one time we knew this, and now, I’m remembering it again.
I wonder if the wrinkles around my mouth are just as pronounced as hers. When I look at myself in the mirror every day, do I not see what others can spot right away, especially if they haven’t seen me in awhile? Was she seeing in me right now, what I was seeing in her?
But I make a mental note to buy more creams, stay out of the sun.
Another pair of shoppers shuffle through our aisle. The old lady in orthopedic shoes is complaining to her husband that she can’t find a damn thing. We smile at them. They ignore us. The man seems miserable and the woman is on a mission to find a new toilet seat, there’s no time for pleasantries.
We continue on, chatting about our girls. Our youngest both made honor-roll. Her oldest is still trying to ‘find herself’; mine is struggling through nursing school.
“Bub’s still outta work.” She sighs. I know that Bub is always in and out of work.
“Times are hard. I’m sorry,” I console, but I need to end our bump in. Time, and little of it in the day, is still rushing on, pushing me further away from my then and knee deep into my now.
“It was good seeing you, but I gotta get. Good luck with your towel search; tell your mom happy birthday! We’ll get together!”
I know we will never get together.
“Good seeing you! Yes, we’ll get together.”
I know that she doesn’t really want to get together either.
She heads toward the bath towel section.
I head toward the check out.
I am not sure why we won’t get together; we just won’t.
It’s complex, but simple at the same time, as adult life tends to be.
Are we each proof to the other that the past is as lost as our youth, which was supposed to rock out and party on dude, forever? Or is the effort too much? Is it too overwhelming for each of us…that we are what the other one cannot, or will not be?
Our worlds are different now. Back in the day, our roles as best friends were set in that proverbial stone, and as solid as our hard, tall hair. Our bestie bond was built on who we were at that time. And who we were, is gone.
I want to quickly glance over my shoulder and take one last peek of who I was back then, because seeing her does that for me, no matter what she looks like now. She is my portal back to the me before the me now.
But I don’t.
I continue on…pushing my cart one way while she pushes her cart another.