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Thursday, January 21, 2016

You're Still There & I'm Still Here

Her hair was glossy black and hung in perfectly spiraled curls down her back. She was standing in front of the full length mirror in the Ladies Room at the hip, new restaurant where we had chosen to celebrate our anniversary.

"Are you waiting?" I asked, gesturing to the stalls. 

"Oh, no," she giggled, "Just checking myself out!"

She juggled her phone in one hand and used her other to touch up her dark, red lipstick. Her skin was flawless. Her black skirt skimmed her figure perfectly. No weird bumps, underwear lines or saddlebags to be seen. Her shiny, sky-high leather black boots gleamed in the low light of the restroom.

I, in my shiny, leather black boots of reasonable heel height and significant arch support, my after-Christmas (aka: one size up, please) jeans, and flowy top slumped by her, making sure not to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I slid the door's lock closed and sighed. 

When we had left for dinner, I'd felt okay. Sure, my hair was due for a highlight, my skin was due for a facial, and my butt was due for a long run.  But my nails were manicured, my makeup was on, and um . . .my teeth were brushed?

As I exited the stall, there were more of them. Young and taut with dewy skin absent of dark age spots. Long, straight hair, tight dresses and push-up bras. I made my way to the sink and waved my hands under the automatic faucet, startled to see that somehow my grandmom had shown up behind me and shoved her hands under the water.  What's with the veins and the spots and the creasy knuckles?

"Just don't look up into the mirror," I thought, "It will only get worse."

Holding their phones up to their ears or to their faces, the pretty young things fretted.

"Do you think he'll come here?" 
"Should we try to find them there?"
"Maybe one drink here and then we'll catch the metro to there?" 
"Well, he said they'd come here."

I walked back through the bar, past the hostesses and their cleavage and the guys with their spiky, gelled up hair. They were passing drinks, checking phones, making plans. Not a one turning his head toward me. I continued around the crowded tables ticking off my inadequacies.

As I made my way to the other side of the bar, he saw me and raised his eyebrows with goofy, feigned surprise as if to say, "Oh, there she is! She's here!", and I shook my head and laughed.

It's the exact same face he used to make when I walked into the elevator at our office building on Capitol Hill over twenty years ago. It's the exact same face he used to make when I drove up to a Little League park in Vienna, Virginia in my 1989 Volkswagen convertible with my ponytail blowing behind me. He was a twenty-three year old baseball coach who had banded together with his buddies to volunteer for the league and I would lean against the fence and wonder about what kind of dad he would be. It's the exact same face he made when we held the last of several EPT sticks showing two distinct lines and he shouted, "We're batting a thousand!" It's the exact same face he made when he looked at me after all three of our own Little Leaguers came screaming into the world. The eyes might be a bit more wrinkled, the hair a bit more grey, but the expression is exactly the same.

I scooted on to the bar stool next to him and leaned my head up against his familiar shoulder. I don't have to wonder where he is now or where he will be later. We don't always light up with a smile and excitement when we see each other walk into a room. In fact, there are many days in a row that we forget to extend grace to each other - our faces showing annoyance or anger. But it seems to me that the exact same expression he gave me all those years ago still seems to light up his face at the exact right moment when I need it.

"Are we getting dessert?" he asks, holding the menu up to me.

I grin at how after twenty-one years I can tick off infinitely more blessings than inadequacies. I thank God for the face that shouts, "There you are! Here I am! What a ridiculously fabulous coincidence!" I thank God for the familiar shoulder.  And I definitely thank God for after-Christmas jeans.

"Of course, we're getting dessert,"  I say, grabbing the menu out of his hands and holding it as far away from my eyes as I can. "Just let me get my reading glasses out first."

There you are, Here I am (in 1995)


1 comment:

Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

This is beautiful! Love it!!!