Strangers talk to me. The beautiful and the scarred; the healthy and the damaged; the brilliant and the addle-brained; the shy and the outgoing: it doesn’t matter who they are, strangers talk to me. Standing in the grocery store, waiting for a bathroom stall, in an elevator, in a restaurant: it doesn’t matter where I am, strangers talk to me. Embarrassing, droll, touching, lecturing, exciting, furtive: it doesn’t matter what they talk about, strangers talk to me. Yet, every conversation is as different as the person.
Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), Essays, First Series: Prudence, 1841
Since I am the common denominator, most people think it’s my fault. They tell me that people talk to me because I’m compassionate, but I don’t really care about them. Other people tell me that it’s because I ask too many questions, but many times I never get a chance to ask any questions. I’ve been told that it’s because I am the type of girl who looks you straight in the eye in a world of people who tend to look at their feet in public. The truth of the matter is that I like to hear stories. I think people can instinctively recognize a willing audience. Part girlfriend, part priest, I can turn any place into a confessional.
Confession of a Sister
We were at the now defunct Utah Fun Dome. When I was a kid, it was called The 49th Street Galleria, and it was home to the local arcade, indoor miniature golf, roller skating and bowling. She sat next to me on the bench outside the bathrooms. As we waited for our family members to come out, I observed the declining condition of my beloved childhood playground. The ventilation cover above our heads had dust and grime clinging to it like algae on the side of a dirty aquarium. A rogue balloon flopped helplessly against it. This time, it was my fault. I started the conversation. “Walt Disney would have had a fit if he owned this place.” She followed my line of sight and shook her head.
“My sister worked at Disneyland. She said they were the best years of her life. They wouldn’t let something get out of hand like that. Everything is clean. She had to move back here.” I nodded and she continued. “Now she stays at home with her kids. She said Disneyland was the best place to work.” My husband came out of the bathroom and I stood up and said goodbye.
She left me with the vision of a beloved sister. The heroine sister: the kind that gets a great job at Disneyland. The prodigal sister: the kind that returns reluctantly to the fatherland. She ended up raising children in the homeland and considers working at Disneyland better. This sister, who has offspring and the luxury to stay at home to make sure they get the best of care, would rather be cleaning vomit off a Doombuggy. I want to talk to that sister. I want to wake her up.
Instead, I politely say goodbye to the sister that always stayed home. The dependable sister: the kind that stayed here to quietly raise her own children. The loyal sister: the kind that cherished her homeland more than adventure. This sister, who took her children to the dying and decaying Utah Fun Dome and happily rested while they noisily went to the bathroom, told me a sad and disturbing story in just a few sentences. I didn’t need to talk to this sister. She was already awake.
Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live. Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850)