For Cafe writing, I chose Option One: Fiction.
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
- George Santayana
Write a flash-fic, scene, or short story about a happier state of mind.
As I walk along the street where I have been living since the past forty years, I am aware of at least a minimum of four pairs of eyes watching me and sigh ‘there goes the old maiden’. The old couple living at house number 42, a policeman adjusting his cap and walking stick and the vegetable seller across the street. On certain occasions a few middle aged housewives squatting outside their homes join the ‘watchers’ and at times I hear giggles from the young girls down the lane telling each other ‘you don’t want to end up like Miss Knit Brow, do you?’. I have never felt odd about the whole exercise of being watched, sympathized, blamed or talked about. It’s a cycle of responses that automatically sets in when they see me on my morning walks. It’s become a ritual since ten years.
Being a woman of forty years is not easy. Being a spinster is difficult. Having to look after the mother whom you don’t relate to anymore is absurd. Above all being the owner of a beauty parlor can be highly backbreaking at times. When your bread winning job is to make others look beautiful, you fall into the pressure of looking the best. All the time. I don’t step out without my make up. I take a lot of care for my skin, hair and body. I have all the time in the world! Why wouldn’t I? But every time I look at myself in the mirror I feel ghastly. Something seems to go wrong always. I know what my assistants call me behind my back ‘Miss Knit brow’. I must be sulking badly. I never socialize with customers. I believe in doing my job, that’s all.
On that Sunday early morning as I was on my way home after crossing ‘the’ four pair of scrutinizing eyes a football landed right in front of me, which for a moment shook me off. I looked hither and whither and a voice came from a distance ‘Mam can you pass the ball?’ I looked in the direction of the voice, a young lad in early twenties with a tensed look stood behind a mesh. On a different day I would have ended up shouting harshly at that boy. But not today, the ball had traveled a few distances I went behind it to collect with both my hands and handed it over to the young lad smilingly. ‘Thank you mam. You look beautiful’ the boy replied with the politeness of a gentleman.
I must have stood there for a long time, trying to live that moment again because when I opened my eyes the boy was gone. I was blushing like a young teenager; I could feel the flush in my cheeks. I must have looked like a red tomato. I continued my journey homeward, trying to recollect the last time a man called me beautiful. I checked myself in the mirror of a car, the reflection was beautiful. I swore to smile throughout the day. When was the last time a man called me ‘beautiful’? I was wondering.
‘Mam the customers are waiting for you’ my assistant at the parlor called for me. I was lost to myself looking at the mirror. I don’t know how many hours have passed since I last saw the boy but every moment seems wonderful now. I smilingly greeted my customers and my duty to beautify others seemed welcoming. Everything changed from that day. 'Maria, you have aged so gracefully' one of my customers noticed that day. 'Yea, I have' I replied proudly.