“Thirty-eight,” she says.
I can’t help the face I make, and the little hissing noise.
Thirty-eight? No way.
“Seriously! That’s how old I think you are,” she says, and I smile.
She’s been sweet and funny and I adore her bright blue nails with glasses to match. She’s making this process more entertaining than I anticipated, and very relaxing.
I couldn’t be happier.
“Try these,” she offers, handing me pink frames with curly-q patterns on the side and I put them on.
“They’re great!” she says, and I laugh.
Other than the psychedelic pattern that pokes through my hair, which would clash with, oh… everything – she’s right. Shape, color, Fun Factor – which I’m definitely going for.
“How old are you, really,” she persists.
I’m trying to remember how we got onto the age issue, but I’ve forgotten. It’s my doing, I’m certain. Some smart-ass remark I made about being an old broad, and an unwillingness to go for staid and standard specs. Not a matter of being noticed, mind you, but saying yes to who I am.
Infusing my days with a jolt of color.
I grin again. I’m old enough to be her mother I suppose, though I can’t imagine it. And mulling the answer I may give her – or not – there’s no offense in her question. We’ve been going through the store for at least twenty minutes, giggling like girls over neon hues and fantastical designs, and chatting like old friends.
I’m loving it.
She doesn’t seem to be suffering either.
She speaks Russian. We go back and forth with a bit of what we both remember. It’s like a fill-in-the-blanks game in which every sentence drops English into our respective vocabularies. All those words, MIA.
But her accent. Oh, her accent! It’s glorious. Tchaikovsky to my ear.
And I need this, whatever “this” is – this hour out, these two hours out, this banter as a break in the rhythms of my routines. I’ve been feeling washed out, worn out, burnt out. Still struggling with a long stretch of insomnia, my sleep – kidnapped, pillaged, ransacked; hacked into 60-minute morsels between bouts of cover tossing and frustrated fuming in the middle of the night.
I’m finding myself buzzing along on three hours of sleep and as many pots of coffee – running, writing, doing, reading, connecting, editing, writing, pacing, and looking up to see the clock strike midnight, hoping this Cinderella will turn into a pumpkin one of these nights.
A pumpkin that sleeps.
Maybe if I selected frames in orange?
Thankfully, I manage to write through the fatigue that is all too familiar, that I banish for months and occasionally for years at a time, adamant that its return will not beat me. And I wait it out. Stubbornly. But my eyes are paying the price.
Time to deal with my vision.
This visit to choose and order glasses is pure pleasure. My Russian-speaking cohort is young and clever and her frame picks are perfection – or at least, entertaining. I’m narrowing my options to the oversize, cat eye tortoise shell, and the skinny bright purple nerd look, and maybe the burgundy.
The cranberry red is irresistible.
Hang on. Where are those pink psychedelics again?
Ack. Love the psychedelic. Hate the pink. And the big round orange-speckled frames with the swooping floral sides? The funky ruby glasses with nifty little stripes?
I’m having a good time. I’m unusually silly. But I wonder how she sees me, how someone more than 20 years younger can think I’m amusing and she must, because she says “You’re the most fun customer I’ve ever had. We need to get coffee sometime. Really.”
And she means it. We’re dipping in and out of Russian. We’re talking about writing and music, language learning and Italy. I tell her about my mother who spoke Spanish and Japanese. I suspect we could ramble and relate for the next three months and still have topics to cover – in English and in Russian.
She’s jotting her name and number on a sticky note and slipping it to me. Delighted, I give her my card and tuck her digits into my purse.
“However old you are,” she continues, “You don’t look it. You must eat well.”
Ah, I think to myself. She is righter than rain on that score. I indulge in chocolate when I’m so inclined, but I’m very careful about consuming healthy foods and maintaining my regimen of walking.
“True,” I say. “And some of it is heredity. The rest is energy. There’s nothing quite like being face-to-face with someone to get a read on their energy.”
And saying that, I realize that my fatigue may not show as much as I think it does, and I wonder again who she sees, and if my perception of self resembles reality.
And when I see her?
She smiles easily. She’s quite beautiful, mid or late twenties. She’s ebullient. She’s quick-witted.
I wonder if she wonders how I am seeing her, as I wonder how she’s seeing me. I feel like Alice through the looking glass or the spy glass or in this case, the eyeglass, though none of that is quite right; what I’m experiencing is more akin to standing with mirrors placed ahead and behind, so you can see the potentially infinite views, examining reflections of reflections of reflections, and so on. Using what is ahead and behind simultaneously, to your advantage.
“My mother never looked her age,” I add. “Endless energy. Especially her mind.”
Before I leave she says “I’m not kidding about coffee.”
And I believe her.
I’m thinking again of my mother – so many legacies, so many lessons – both troubling and exemplary. So many ways to explore the world and embrace it, processing its possibilities. It’s inevitable that I would think of her this week. Mother’s Day is nearly here.
I settle on a pair of cheery red frames with a distinct but subtle slant upward. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re not outrageous. They’re certainly fun. Right now, that last seems like a good thing. And the gaze into the glass, forward or back, isn’t so bad.
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