A re-post from 2012...
It is the dead of winter, and yet the woman standing in front of me in the grocery store check-out line has taken off her coat. Moments later, she removes the sweater she is wearing. Shortly after that she begins to useher crossed-off grocery list as a fan.
I watch a line of dark red pigmentation creep up from somewhere below her neckline and work its way into her fashionably short hair.
She turns 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 lock.
“Is that a hot flash?” I ask.
A bead of sweat runs from her temple to midway down her cheek. “Yes,” she says.
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, from the looks of things near the front of the bus, the need to wash one’s hair, even quarterly.
I was on fire.
I open my purse and dig around for my compact, hold the tiny mirrored oval up and examine my face. Funny, I think, you don’t look like you’re on fire.
I call my sister. Better get a second opinion.
I skitter straight into conversation, by-passing the social niceties. “I’m on fire.”
“You sure are,” she says, absent-mindedly, the sound of papers moving. “I’ve always said so.”
“No, smartie; I mean I think I’m having a hot flash.”
One can 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 says. “Do you feel cranky, too?”
“I heard you get mood swings.”
“I’ll mood-swing you,” I say, mock-angry.
“You’re kidding, right?”
The line goes quiet as I stare at the back of the head three seats in front of me. I imagine what will happen to the environment should this man wash his hair.
“So what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Go to work?”
“That’s probably wise,” she says, 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.