It was friday at the Farmer's Market. The One with Petuala the large live size swan. I made my way over to the healing soap lady. We both sell at the same market's and I had not introduced myself before so I thought it would be the time.
She was placing all her soaps out in ther varying displays with the words " Healing Lotions" written everywhere. A large canvas sign hung above her tent display. "Healing lotions and soaps". She smiled and I shook her hand and told her my name. She is a tiny woman who has a large head, with wiry unruly hair. She reminded me of a pez doll.
We had only spoken for a few moments before she asked me "are you a christian?" I froze immediately. This is nothing new the statement or my reaction to this type of statement. I am always taken aback, for me its such a personal question right up there with sex. "I um well, kinda of sometimes" she looked at me funny and said "well, I was but I am giving up that shit. I have been born again and again and gone to church and have read the bible back and front and screw that religion shit!" I laughed loudly watching her move about like a hummingbird. "What makes you say that?" I said. "Well, I will tell you what. I am 52 years old (which she didn't look) and I have 10 kids (which I could not fathom) and I cannot stand my husband."
"So, why don't you leave him if you can't stand him?" "Cause I am a christian and christian woman don't do such things so I am gonna stick it out in spite of him." "why do you hate him so much?" I asked. "Because he stalks me, checks my voicemail messages, follows me, and tells me what to do all the time." I cannot keep living like this, ya know I started drinking beer and smoking recently and guess what I LIKE it!" This was a bit more than I could take, listening to this woman go on and on. But I stood and observed her displaying her lavendar bottles filled with "Healing Lotions", and displaying her brightly sandlewood soaps. "I am sorry you are having such a hard time." I quietly say.
"The fact of the matter is that we should have never been married, and I regret it and its not right but what can you do?" I was quiet for a moment weighing all the things I could say in my mind. I responded "You could start living for yourself. " She stopped at that moment and became very still and quiet. Her eyes were narrowed in on mine. "I have no life there is no living for myself, I gave that up 10 kids ago."
I bid her adieu and wished her well for the market. But I have thought about this exchange for many days. Wondering why she stays. What keeps her from stuffing dollars from her sales in a box planning for her getaway. Maybe she does but she didn't let on. I could feel her sense her being trapped. There are days when I look back and think about how much of my ownself I gave up for love. But never have I ever gone to such an extreme, in such desperation as to live a good life and assure my place in heaven.
Fear, fear of her husband is what made her move like a hummingbird. Fear of never living, maybe never enjoying that beer and smoke. It saddened me to think about this woman who had dreams, I know that we all do. A woman trapped in a small town making Healing lotions desperately trying to live herself into a better situation. Having another child to see if this time it will be better. Going to church and getting dunked in water again and again like a carnival attendee. Extreme, going to extreme trying to make it right to get it to fit. But nothing does. Here she is making beautiful healing lotions yet she will not let herself go and heal. Staying in spite, losing her life and spirit a bit more each day.
How many of us do this, settle or sell ourselves for safety of someone's arms or comfortable lifestyle. How many times have you stayed quiet when you should have stood forthright, or said loudly "fuck off"
I saw her husband there shortly after this exchange, he seemed to be a mild manner man. But she had warned me of that too, letting me know that it was all a show. We had a longer exchange than the one I spoke of , but there are some things I am not ready to divulge. It occurred to me that her stand was next to Petula the life size swan, whom at the moment is being refurbished and looks like a crime victim with yellow caution tape wrapped around her head and body. Its funny, but swans mate for life and they are such effervescent creatures. Her the healing soap lady was right next to Petula who clearly is in the middle of healing. It struck me as such a crazy juxstaposition. Will she use her soaps and lotions? who knows.
Later on, on the ride home I daydreamed that she let it go broke free. Out into the world humming about and laughing and relaxing. Worrying not about the shadow that had trapped her for twenty five years, hovering about her like a rain cloud. I imagined her living really living. Of Making choices on her own and smiling enjoying life and its temptations.
The next day she came upon my stand. " I love fish, I wanted to get some Halibut but I have to call and ask my husband." "Will you save some for me?" I told her that I would and I watched her walk away. There was a sadness that came over me. I thought Petula the swan would be so disappointed. But there is hope there is always hope that one day the sun will break through, and all the lotions she uses will sink inside her soul and heal her right out of her situation.