By Sari Edelstein
In the public library, I saw a woman who looked exactly like my mother, or how my mother looked about fifteen years ago. Except my mother would never have been in a public library fifteen years ago and certainly not today. She is not much of a reader, and when she does read, she’ll buy the hottest new bestseller in hardcover and let it sit on her nightstand for weeks, a little pedestal for her Klonopin and glass of water. She is more likely to be thumbing through Architectural Digest or watching reruns of TV shows from the early 90s. She can’t fall asleep without the television on. The low drone of the laugh track a soothing kind of ambient noise machine; the glow of the screen, and the Klonopin, gently lulling her into slumber.
This woman in the library was like my mother, had my mother grown up outside of a major city in a home with a yard and a maybe an older brother. This woman was a reader and a free spirit. She looked like the kind of woman who had a big dog at home, a faithful dog that gave her sloppy kisses and wagged its tail in the front hall. Oh, yes, certainly, she had a front hall and maybe even one of those organization stations that they sell at Pottery Barn, with the coat hooks and the mail tray and the little box for your keys.
This woman was my mother, had my mother played high school volleyball or become a teacher or married her college sweetheart, never had a divorce, never took diet pills, or did juice fasts, or chain-smoked at a health spa. No, for this woman, health was not about weight but a truly balanced life full of whole grains and soy milk and dark leafy greens. This was a woman who could be affectionate, a true communicator, someone who would write you letters that expressed genuine sentiments rather than serially reporting the events in her social calendar in a stream-of-consciousness rant. And when she listened to you practice the violin, she would probably look up from paying the bills or chopping an onion to tell you how beautifully you play.
I watched her weave her way in and out of the non-fiction stacks. She had nice posture and good walking shoes. She seemed clear-eyed and focused, not flighty, not the type of woman who changed the subject before the subject was ready to be changed. She was the sort who most certainly made eye contact and her face bespoke a kind of emotional intelligence.
I ran into her on my way into the ladies’ room. I tried to catch her eye, to see if perhaps she recognized something in me, some unnamable psychic connection, but she was blotting her eyes and readjusting her glasses, and I noticed that tucked underneath her arm was the library’s copy of Healing Self-Hate: A Personal Journey.
Sari Edelstein teaches in the English Department at Skidmore College. She is at work on a novel in upstate New York.