A Woman Walked By

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I was walking along River Road in the sun, staring at nothing. A little old woman with snow white hair, a blue blouse, and a pair of cropped khaki pants stood by the narrow road side, around one of the sharp turns by the narrow bridge. She regarded me with blue eyes that reminded me of my own. She said “Hello.”

I said Hello, and moved to trudge past.

She said, abruptly: “What would make you happy?”

I startled, visibly. “What do you mean?” My voice was trembling. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. They’d been shaking all day, since I’d been up most of the night with the fear returned to me so strongly that I thought I was going to die of it again. Or need to turn myself into a mental hospital for oversight to keep myself safe.

She waited, looking at me directly. “Honey, you know what I mean.”

I could feel the tears in my throat. “I just want to be happy.” I corrected myself, “But that isn’t what you asked me. I’m sorry.” I wanted to break down, just collapse onto the ground and wail until my voice gave out:  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Instead I whispered to her: “Why am I never good enough?”

Her facial expression didn’t change. “You’re always good enough.”

“I just watched Fellini’s 81/2 last night,” I told her “One of the characters said two things: ‘I feel like I’ve made a mess of everything in my life. And my work.’ and ‘I’ve always forgiven everything in the men I love.’ Both of those things are true for me.”

She nodded. “So what would make you happy?”

“To be loved by someone who knows how lucky they are to have me. I’m tired of being the only one who knows that.”

The woman scoffed: “You’ll always be unhappy so long as you’re waiting for someone else to make you happy.”

I looked at my feet. “I know that. But …”

“But you don’t feel it right now. I know, I know. But you need to focus on your soul. And your fate.”

I must have made a face unwittingly because she continued:

“I know, I know, you millenials don’t like to believe in fate anymore. But-“

“I’m 35!”

“Same thing. But I assure you, you have a fate. You have a destiny.”

“No, it’s not the same thing,” I cried. “I have made a mess out of everything. I’ve ruined everything. And I’m already 35 and I want a do-over.”

“Well, aren’t you melodramatic. You sure like torturing yourself, don’t you?”

“…”

“This mess you’ve made, you needed to make it in order to get to your destiny. Now you need to figure out what would make you happy, without involving any other souls, and do that.”

She turned to walk back down the gravel path to the farm house, while I stood there in the sun, listening to the wind in the leaves, shaking harder.

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