The woman approaches the counter. She is an ordinary woman. Middle aged. Not quite comfortable with her face becoming older. She wears makeup to try to hide her lines. But what those lines indicate is the fact that she smiles. Often. What she doesn’t know is that experience is beautiful and you can’t have that without age. Her short curly hair was graying and she was obviously in love with her husband. They had a daughter together. She was older than I am. She just had open heart surgery. They are taking her out to eat in celebration of her survival.
They are all feeling delicate. Delicate to time. But invincible. Invincible to its end.
They are all feeling grateful.
This mother feels more mortal than she has ever felt before. Being threatened with the loss of a life you created is hard to comprehend. This woman understands. She lives better for it.
“Do you have any low sodium pastries?” she asks assuming that many have asked before her. I say “just a moment I need to ask my supervisor.”
The woman returns after consulting her daughter who is now a whole different kind of significant to this mother and father. She is life. But more than that, she is the possibility of death. The mother orders one of every kind of macaroon.
“What does your tattoo say?”
“Once you are real you can’t become unreal. It lasts for always.”
I am busy getting the lavender macaroon when I notice them.
“That just made me tear up” she tells me as she is holding back the lump that is desperately trying to escape her throat. “That’s a good choice. Live by that.”
And with that she walks away to enjoy her five macaroons with her daughter who survived and her husband who loves them both.
Two women approach the counter. They are dressed elegantly. One is older than the other, but she is comfortable, if not adored by age. She wears a slim fitting floral dress that has a knot where her belly button would be. Her hair is swooped into a messy up do, as to say “I am beautiful, I don’t need to put a lot of effort into it.” And she didn’t. She was beautiful, in an effortless kind of way. She wore a shawl with fine fringe. She was particular. She didn’t expect the world. She simply expected you to listen and so I did.
Her friend tried a little harder. I could smell her across the counter. The sweet scent of her perfume consumed her presence. She wore makeup and a tight lace dress that showed her enhanced chest.
They ordered. “A Cobb salad with the bacon and the avocado on the side… and could I taste a bit of your egg salad?”
“Oh that’s delicious. So instead of the hard boiled egg, could you toss in some of that egg salad? I’m sorry I’m making this so complicated. And could I get a big cup with ice in it for the water? So I don’t have to keep coming in for more.”
This entire time I am focused on the freckles on the cleavage she wants people to look at and wonder how much time she spent out in the sun without any sunblock to get those age marks that young.
“Oh what does your tattoo say?” She asks.
I tell her.
“Oh my goodness she would love that. Come with me outside to show her.”
We go outside. Her big cup of ice for water is empty. She takes me by the wrist with her empty hand. The older, elegant woman is on the other side of the fence.
“Oh. I’m just exploring.” She says in her casual drawl allowing smoke to escape through her lips.
“That means she’s smoking. Laura, come look at her tattoo… On her arm.”
Elegance holds my wrist delicately, “Once you are real you can’t become unreal. It lasts for always.” She lets my arm go and turns away to exhale her Camel breath.
“It’s true she says to me.” Now looking me straight in the eyes.
She is genuine. I really adore her for this.
“I know from experience, It’s true.” She repeats one more time as her fine fringe waves as she turns to take her seat at the yellow table.
It was brief and vague butI believe that she does. I go inside and clock out with a touch more Elegance and some enthusiasm.