Connections

Susan - South Portland, Maine
Entered on November 27, 2008
Age Group: 65+

                             Connections     Her knees toppled over knotted nylons like double scoops of vanilla ice-cream.  The chipped buttons on her flowered house dress struggled to contain her sagging breasts.  Her hair was dull and uncontrolled, gray wisps floating about her face.  Her shoes were flat-soled and scuffed.     I met her while serving jury duty – tedious days of forced intimacy among strangers imprisoned in one room.  Industrial, gray walls.  Cracked, peeling paint.  A connecting bathroom where every sound carried.  We sat in stiff, wooden chairs waiting for the lawyers to finish playing in their gilded, scarlet-curtained courtroom.     She spoke quietly to me during frequent court delays about a lifetime of work on assembly lines.  About double shifts and night shifts.  Abour varicose veins and blistered toes.  And later, about her husband, who died an alcoholic.     I believe in connections.  I believe in a commonality that speaks and says,  “We are connected in some way.  I know you.”  As young children, we make these connections in grade school.  ‘Like’ searches for ‘like’, whether it is the clothes we wear, the board games we play, our love of sports, or the favored chocolate chip cookie shared with a friend at lunch.     But how could I know this woman who fought for survival in bargain basements and walk-ups, corns impeding her progress?  Our differences covered the distance between the coarse room in which we sat and the polished courtroom nearby.     I noticed one morning, however, that her eyes sparkled, crow’s feet cushioning their corners.  And her voice was soft.  She laughed often – a surprising, warm sound that bubbled up from her ample chest like soapsuds.  Her dimpled, calloused fingers deftly guided a small needle through the embroidery on which she steadily worked.     On the last day of confinement, she told me that when her work day ended, and she climbed the stairs to her flat, she would listen to music on her radio and eat dinner alone by candlelight wearing, she whispered, her “sexiest negligee.”     There it was.        The connection.  The shared chocolate chip cookie.  How many times had I danced alone in my living room, nightgown swirling to a heavy drumbeat?     I open myself now to connections when none readily appear.  And when I listen, really listen, find them everywhere.