The Company We Keep

She was of slight build and too much lipstick. A light-skinned woman of about my age approached me in the parking lot of the shopping plaza this afternoon. I had gone there seeking refuge from the strange reaction I’d had to the ramped up efforts to solve the uneven and extreme temperature issues we’d been having in my wing of the building. My nose got sensitive and my head got light. I shared my concerns with the administrative assistant whose desk was outside my door, and the two gentlemen who’d greeted me upon entering my office this morning and who’d met me at my classroom as the bell rang at the end of the period. No, we don’t have bells any more. It’s just a figure of speech. At any rate, they avowed no possible connection between the pneumatic system and the gas lines, so I prayed and left to get lunch and some fresh air.

She angled her way in my direction after coming up $22 short at the window of the next nearest motorist. Admittedly, her story was compelling. It involved blowing an engine, a ticket for being improperly parked, and a failed attempt to get something off a credit card at Walmart. Her enthusiasm was palpable, her plight not quite so much. She seemed a little too rehearsed at maintaining a stiff upper lip. Though experience can do that to someone well acquainted with adversity. The old adage, ‘never let ’em see you sweat’ seems out of place somehow in the desert yet she was doing her level best to do just that. In the end the $4 I gave her was not so much an affirmation of faith in her tale as an inoculation against my own rising sense of desperation. After all, aren’t we all next?


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