Sunday, August 24, 2008

Falling tears

On Friday morning, I went to early Mass and then stopped off at the grocery store down the street from the church afterwards to pick up a few things. The store is an innocuous looking Kroger, but it's the one I've written about before that the meth dealers in my city seem to frequent; it's not unusual to note among the clientele amped out people wearing cunning little crack pipes on chains around their necks. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a fashion statement or a subtle advertisement that they're in the market for some rock.

But then, I'm the one in there wearing a two inch crucifix necklace. People probably wonder if I'm a really big nun who has forsaken scapular, guimpe and wimple or a vampire slayer.

Anyway. I was pushing my cart down an aisle and there was another woman pushing her cart towards me at the other end. She was very noticeable because of her hair: It was parted in the middle and the left side was black and the right side was blonde, kind of like Cruella de Vil.

As she got closer, I couldn't help but notice that she had two terribly blackened eyes, like her face had met the dashboard in a car crash. I sucked in my breath in pity as she drew closer, noting her slouching walk and defeated air: her body language spoke volumes. Here was a person who seemed sunk in melancholy, weary and apathetic.

But then she drew closer still and I realized that what I had taken for two black eyes was actually a tattoo: She had a Lone Ranger-type mask tattooed on her face.

I like to think that it takes a lot to shock me. Or maybe that I'm unshockable. But it turns out that I am so capable of being shocked, it can make my hands shake.

She looked at me briefly, her eyes sliding to my face, probably to gauge my reaction to her appearance -- or her plight, it's hard to say which. I only had the smallest instant to make sure my mouth wasn't hanging open and my eyebrows weren't all raised up to my hairline. I have a problem with that, as I noted a few posts down from here. But I swiftly made a mask of my own face and her lackluster eyes, with a tiny ember of defiance burning inside them, slid away from mine like a water snake slipping into a stream.

I was dumbfounded, and I am not usually a person who is much fazed by tattoos. But this seemed to be so much more than just permanent, personal body art. This looked like a cry for help.

I wonder who she was, why she did that to her face.

I did the rest of my shopping mechanically, going throught the self-check lane and swiping my few items without paying much attention, feeding my ten dollars into the bill acceptor. I took my bag and went out to the van, where I surprised myself by sitting there for a few moments, quietly weeping for the woman in the self-imposed mask.

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