It was the dead of winter, and yet the woman standing in front of me in the grocery store check-out line had taken off her coat. Moments later, she removed the sweater she was wearing. Shortly after that she began using her crossed-off grocery list as a fan.
I watched a line of dark red pigmentation creep up from somewhere below her neckline and work its way into her fashionably short hair.
She turned around in an agitated, how-much-longer-do-I-have-to-stand-here kind of way, the red moving up her neck and onto her jaw. Our eyes locked.
“Is that a hot flash?” I asked.
A bead of sweat ran from her temple to midway down her cheek. “Yes,” she said.
That was at least 10 years ago, and I’ve thought of that woman many times since then.
And I thought of her again this morning, when I spontaneously combusted at the bus stop.
I was surprised, frankly, when I got onto the bus fully engulfed in flames and no one noticed. Of course, at that time of morning there are many things that go unnoticed, including, apparently, the need to wash one’s hair, even quarterly, by the looks of it.
I was on fire.
I opened my purse and dug around for my compact, held the tiny mirrored oval up and examined my face. Funny, I thought, you don’t look like you’re on fire.
I called my sister. Better get a second opinion.
I skittered straight into conversation, by-passing the social niceties. “I’m on fire.”
“You sure are,” she said, absent-mindedly. “I’ve always said so.”
“No, smartie; I mean I think I’m having a hot flash.”
One could almost hear her sitting up straighter. I am two years older than she is, and much of my life has served as a warning.
“Really? What’s it like?”
“It’s like no one else in the room has noticed that the joint’s on fire.”
“Wheeeee!” she said. “Do you feel cranky, too?”
“I heard you get mood swings.”
“I’ll mood-swing you,” I said, mock-angry.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Right,” I said.
The line went quiet as I looked at the back of the head three seats in front of me, the man who needed to think about what washing his hair would do to the environment.
“So what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Go to work?”
“That’s probably wise,” she said, audibly nodding. “You’ll want to keep building that social security, old lady.”
“Why do you hate me?”
She sighs. “Why do you make me hurt you?”
“Fair enough,” I mock grumble. My sister: my friend, my nemesis, my secret weapon against the world, has once again put my life in perspective.
What do you do? You go on.
Even if you might be in flames whilst doing it.
8 hours ago