I see your smile, and its meaning penetrates my heart at last
Isit in the waiting room, awaiting instructions from the nurse after yet another failed treatment.
My black slinky skirt is old and dingy, and my hat fall has seen better days. There are black marks under my eyes from the mascara that runs down my face. I try to stem the flow of tears, but they escape unbidden.
I look exactly as I feel: a complete mess.
You walk out of the examination room into the waiting area. We are a study in contrasts. Your makeup is carefully and skillfully applied. Your sheitel is long and wavy and natural looking. Your outfit is designer, and so is the handbag that hangs casually from your wrist. Your high-heeled boots complete the ensemble; you look like you’ve stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine.
I hear you speaking to the receptionist about sending your records to another doctor. I hear her congratulating you on your good news.
And then you turn around and notice me. Your eyes take in my disheveled appearance and the telltale sign of tears on my face. Our eyes meet and you smile at me.
It’s a smile of shared suffering. It’s a smile of understanding. It’s also a smile of sympathy and concern. It’s a smile that speaks many words, words which flow from your heart to mine.
But my heart is closed to your words. My heart sees an endless black tunnel, with no end in sight. My heart is bitter at my plight.
My heart is angry that my salvation is yet to come while yours has already arrived. That you’re a porcelain doll, chiseled to perfection, while I’m frumpy and fat. That you’re poised and self-assured, while I’m a shadow. That I’m broken by my pain, while you exude strength and vitality.
I turn my head away from your smile, averting my face from your gaze, and as soon as I speak to the nurse, I quickly leave. I don’t look again in your direction. I escape.
I run home as quickly as I possibly can. I hurry inside and bolt the door. I sink into the couch and cry my heart out, grieving for the dreams that are fading with the years that slip by me.
Yet in my mind’s eye I still see your smile. It follows me as I go through my daily routine, tickling me with the whiff of the message you were desperately trying to share with me.
A message of hope for the future, hope for a happy ending, hope for a miracle. A message of strength to persevere, to continue trying without giving up after failure. A message of living life to its fullest, rather than just existing amid challenges. Going forward, instead of stagnating in place.
I look into the past and ponder the half-finished projects, the plans put on hold, the endeavors postponed. The goals, the aspirations, the hopes and dreams shoved to the corner, pushed to the side by this all-encompassing desire that takes over my being. By this single-minded passion that controls my every waking moment. By this yearning and longing that conquers my soul… transforming the person I used to be into an empty shell.
As I envision the long and difficult journey that is yet mine to traverse, I see your smile, and its meaning penetrates my heart at last.
It impels me to search within the recesses of my being to find the strength buried deep within. To flame the flickering embers of my soul. To hope again, to dream again, to live again, as I continue along the path to my destiny, yet unknown.
After much thought, introspection, and soul searching, I’m able to internalize your message, and finally… I’m able to return your smile.
The Other Woman in the Clinic
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 778)
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