Life is truly a blessing,
a gift not to be squandered on days gone by or lost opportunities.
Everyday is one of self discovery,
letting your inner beauty shine its brightest.
Your capacity to love is unlimited, and in every moment we seek
our own truth!
Sister Mary stood up from the bus stop bench and pulled at her dress that had been sucked in between the lips of her healthy buttocks. The heat was fierce, and she could feel the slow building of moisture under her arms, inner thighs and the back of her neck. She searched the heavens and silently prayed the bus would arrive soon. Her pacing only made the sweating worse, so she stood still for a moment, but now the strap from her purse seemed to be digging deeper into her shoulder. Feeling like she was carrying a bag of bricks, she placed her purse on the bench. Bittersweet memories flooded in. JoAnn made that bag for her, just before she left home. Nearly a year had passed since she had seen her daughter, it was her birthday last year when JoAnn came by, they argued as usual and when JoAnn left she took with her three-hundred dollars from her purse and a diamond brooch she received for her 25th year anniversary at work. The three-hundred dollars she was planning on giving to JoAnn anyway, but the broach signified a benchmark of accomplishment for Mary, having her daughter steal it from her was a kind of hurt that just wouldn’t go away.
Every Sunday no matter what dress she wore to church, she always took that purse, she held onto it tightly as she prayed that her God would protect JoAnn, cleanse her body of drugs, and bring her back home, but today, the heaviness of the purse brought pain both in her shoulder and in her heart.
Whispering to herself,
“If I knew it was going to be this fucking hot today, I would have stayed my ass at home!”
In the same breath she asked the Lord to forgive her. After all, the weather
was God’s work, who was she, but a servant of the Lord. She’d considered herself “saved” for 20 years now, which is about how long it had been since she had given up on men. She spent most days in praise and prayer being thankful for the blessings bestowed upon her by the Lord, consequently, her faith in mankind had diminished over the years.
She was two for two. In her lifetime there were only two people she had loved completely, and both of them had left unhealable scar tissue, her reservoir of compassion for her fellow man, was nearly bone dry. The promise of never being hurt again manifested in her physically. Shortly after JoAnn left home, she gained about fifty pounds, the additional weight affected her balance and now she walked slightly loopside, mainly because she tended to bear most of her weight on the right side of her body.
The scepticism she often felt listening to people complain or make excuses for their behavior showed up on her face, a downturned mouth, and squinting eyes were becoming permanent markers. She rarely allowed people to photograph her, and when they did usually the photographer would say something stupid before snapping the shot like,
“Say cheese, or smile Sister Mary” and without skipping a beat she would respond,
“You got five seconds to take this picture”
The changes were noticeable to her, and she began to try to cover them up with makeup and clothing to hide the extra pounds. It didn’t seem that long ago, that the world considered her to be a beautiful woman. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, at least that’s what her mother continuously told her, and that it was a sin being too pretty. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be a joke, when she was younger she spent much of her time hiding her beauty, and now she spent so much time trying to find that lost beauty. What was the lesson the Lord was trying to teach her in this cruel experience?
In any case, People were sinners first, and whatever redeeming qualities they had would have to be proven to her. Today, her own faith was being challenged. God’s heat beamed relentlessly, she imagined herself snatching the wig off her head and throwing it in the middle of the streets, but then, the forever-present Christian voice that resided in the forefront of her consciousness raised its righteous head to remind her, moments of weakness like this was when the devil could tempt you, she told herself, not today devil!
Damn bus was already more than 20 minutes late, when a convertible Jag pulled up at the bus stop. The driver was some Billie Dee-looking brother with dark sunglasses and a tank top. Sister Mary noticed his huge muscled arms as she leaned slightly toward the car to get a better look. Her eyes widened seeing his thick thighs burst from the shorts he was wearing.
“Yo baby, you need a ride?” he said.
She looked around thinking he must be talking to someone else, but there wasn’t anyone else there but her. She found herself feeling some-kind-of-way — a young girl’s shyness when a handsome man smiles, and in that moment, she remembered how the callused hands of a blue-collar brother touching her felt and the smell of male musk after a long day in the sun. She slightly pulled the loose strand of hair from her face, unaware of the sensual gestures her hand made moving slowly across her face, over her lips, down her throat to her breast. The man gently snapped,
“I’m talking to you lady, you want a ride?”
A knee-jerk slap back to reality, unattended dripping sweat from her forehead, she slowly backed up placing the heavy purse on her shoulder again, not knowing what to do next, her mind still racing. She wanted to jump in the Jag. Was this fine brother really offering her a ride? Her voice trembled slightly,
“I don’t know you.”
The man pulled down his sunglasses so she could see his hazel eyes.
“You right about that, I pass by here every Sunday, and see you at this stop,” he said. “Plus, I know you don’t live far from my house. Now, don’t you want to get to know me?”
She couldn’t remember the last time a man had said anything to her that remotely resembled flirting and certainly not from a man driving a Jag. Hell, it had been years since she even thought of a man in that way, or maybe she just hadn’t noticed when men were interested in her, why today? She started pacing back and forth all the while looking at the handsome man in the Jag. Whenever a situation made her nervous or she doubted herself, she immediately conjured up an attitude. It was a coping mechanism she learned many years ago, and it had saved her from having hope in a hopeless situation. This attitude helped her to control impulses and desires of the flesh. The Jag man, was just another temptation from the devil, what could he possibly want with her, a woman whose better days were far behind her.
She moved closer to the car thinking this fine man would just drive off and look back laughing as he rode into the sunset; but he didn’t. She reached for the car door, but then snapped her hand back as if she had stuck it in fire.
“Oh, you think you know me, ‘cause you know where I live? You don’t know nothing about me. Look mister, I don’t know who you think I am, so you need to stop playing with me and go on about your business”
She wanted him to say something to convince her to get in the car, something that would give her insight of what to do. What if he didn’t like her once she was in the car, what if he could then see her awful makeup, the streaks and blotches from the sweat running down her face, he might even notice her wig sitting too far back on her head, or the extra rolls of fat on her stomach. Surely, he would silently make fun of her many imperfections. She backed up again, feeling somewhat vulnerable and frightened, but not quite understanding why.
He looked at her with a new face a bit longer than necessary, pulled his glasses back on his face and spoke in his most sincere voice,
“Lady, I was just trying to be nice and get you out of this heat; sorry I bothered you.”
He then drove off as quickly as he had arrived. Mary stood there for a long time looking at the back of the Jag as it disappeared over the horizon, then turned slightly and sat down on the bench.
Suddenly, she felt as if she was standing in a great room filled with beautiful furniture accented in gold leaf, walls lined with self portraits of herself in different stages of her life. There was one portrait of her as an innocent child excited about the world, curious and ready for adventure. A second painting of her as a young woman with beautiful hair that had been cared for and styled just right by her mother — in this portrait, her smile was seductive and sensual, she was confident. The third frame was empty, the portrait was missing, this is where her focus stayed, wondering what was missing. There was no light in this room, only the occasional reflections of the massive crystal chandeliers that hung from the ceiling. Anyone entering this room was immediately engulfed in darkness and couldn’t see the beauty in her portraits, they could not see the beautiful furniture, or the intricate designs on the plush carpets, the darkness hid all of the wonders of this great room, and while Mary often reached for the light switch, she always hesitated snatching her hand back quickly just before turning on the switch. The two people she had loved the most in the world had never been in this room.
“Hello, you been waiting long?”
Sister Mary hadn’t even notice the woman approaching the bus stop. It took her a minute to refocus, this new traveler was fresh, she had not been exposed very long to the sun’s heat, in fact, she was pretty and her white-laced-sun-dress was unstained. Before she could answer, the woman’s cell phone ranged, and she became engrossed in the call.
The sun’s rays became even hotter and by the time the bus came, she was soaked in sweat, her makeup had run something awful and stained the front of her dress. She flashed her bus card to the driver, he didn’t even try to make eye contact with her, he was too busy looking pass her to the fresh traveler. Thankful for the fact there was an empty seat at the front of the bus, so she could sit with her back to everyone, she started wiping away the sweat from her face, but it was no use, because now she was crying more than she was sweating.
by Terry Sidney
This story is an example of the kind of self-discovery stories that will be featured in my upcoming book. An exploration of moments in life where we are enlighten in our own truth. Sister Mary is first introduced here in, "AM I Worthy" but continues in the stage play, "A Birthday Wish", to be produced later this year.