Today I saw a woman that I’d known a little when our children were young. She was a serious woman, even though she rode a bicycle. But that was a European thing, embedded in her upbringing. She was the kind of person you slowly realize won’t break through whatever shell they’re in, and that maybe there was nothing on the other side anyway, nothing to be patient for—so you edge away until, over a few years, you can even let the hellos-in-passing fade away.
But maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about. Maybe you don’t know the strange equation of pettiness, meanness, anger--why did we even meet, it’s not MY fault she’s a bore, she never asks about me, etc.—and liberation that complicates what should be simple chemistry, those elements that don’t form bonds, the noble gases.
Anyway, I hadn’t seen her in a number of years, and there she was, on her bike, paused at a Stop sign at an empty intersection, thinner than she’d ever been. Ten years had passed, and she was thinner.
I can’t remember much about her child, a girl with bangs and short, straight hair—who I genuinely hope is happy somewhere, across the country maybe, a lightness in her, the yeast of generosity. If so, I imagine she’d struggle with one of those—rare--the reports are exaggerated, an act of sexism—complicated mother-daughter relationships. It would be worth it.
There was a seriousness in all our exchanges that never lifted, and even felt dangerous, like quicksand. She was the type of person who would have been on top of her compost—whose turnips, if she grew them, would have been in perfectly straight rows. Though honestly, I don’t think she would have had the imagination to grow turnips. Certainly not in Canada.
Ultimately, I decided she was impenetrable. That her spirit lacked the desire to breach. Though of course no one is truly impenetrable. Still, you can only spend so long offering flowers--maybe she’s a rose person not a cosmos person--or throwing pebbles, waiting for something to crack.
This is the blessing and the curse of living in a city for so long, that you witness, right on the sidewalk, or in grocery store aisles, people move through life, marriage(s), work, fashion—and also learn that some friendships have a limited number of seasons.
She was thinner, yes, but also aged beyond her years—into another generation, even. I felt equal parts sorry and vindicated.
I have chosen vindicated.