I've seen her three times now. The first was at the doctor's office. We are waiting in a sort of haphazard line at the window where you arrange for referrals or your next appointment. She is ahead of me, and this is annoying.
A lot of things annoy me at the doctor's office. It's my age, I suppose. It's assumed we get grouchier as we watch our youth fade and find it harder to deny the alternative's approach. I am, anyway. I'm living up, or down more accurately, to the standard assumption. It's worse at the doctor's office because of all the reminders. The stink of latent dread is everywhere, the more noticeable the older you are.
My annoyance at the angel is marginal. She is simply there, ahead of me, not pacing and chattering impatiently on a cellphone like the much younger woman who asks me if I am the end of the line. The chattering woman is vaguely attractive, physically, so, instead of glancing around dramatically to emphasize the duh factor that there is no one else near the window except the angel and the silently enraged old fart ahead of her, I reach deep into my ragged bag of charms and assure her I am but that I hope I'm not at the end of the line. She doesn't laugh. She either doesn't get it, the possibility of which annoys me, or she does but is annoyed that I haven't pulled out of my disgusting bag of charms the expression, "You go ahead. I'm in no hurry." The latter possibility really annoys me, not that I have entertained any serious notion of opening the door to perhaps sharing intimate nothings over latté capo di tutti gràndes, or whatever the hell they're called, at the Starbucks following our unlikely introduction.
Fuck her, then, I resolve, and concentrate on the silently enraged old fart at the window, ahead of the angel, wondering what the hell is holding things up. He and the woman on the other side of the window are either frozen, and the Rapture is underway—stay the hell away from the window if this is the case—or they are waiting for someone to respond to a phoned or emailed inquiry.
Must be the second possibility, as the logjam eventually scatters freeing the silently enraged old fart to shuffle away, green-tinted clinical document in hand, toward the waiting room and I hope out of the building before he has a stroke or a heart attack and really bottles things up.
I focus on the angel. Up to now she's registered on me only at the periphery. Her thinness—no figure, buttwise or boobwise, baggy jeans, skeletal hands--was most noticeable at first. Caught in my impatient sweeping glances she seemed frail, probably near the end of the road, grasping to escape or at least deny the inevitable progression of some debilitating infirmity, although probably not cancer or she would be at the window of an oncology clinic instead of here. Her feeble appearance earns her my “elderly” label, which I realize is premature as I as yet have no circumstantial age clues such as hearing a thin, raspy voice humming something like “Yes We Have No Bananas” or “When the Red Red Robin Goes Bob Bob Bobbin Along”. I still can't tell you what her hair looks like, which means it must be unobtrusive either in color or style, probably discreetly dyed and modestly done.
Her seriously wrinkled face concludes this inquiry when she approaches the window for her turn. She's been standing to the left of the window. As she moves to succeed the silently enraged old fart, she presents her profile. The wrinkles are first to reach my critical faculties. Ordinarily such obvious geriatric evidence is my ticket to disengage from all sentient involvement with the person save those boilerplate sympathetic platitudes of civility. This distinction seems increasingly important to me the nearer I draw to the cruel light of truth I fear already mocks my pitifully inadequate veil of denial.
Are there odors of death on her? Can I smell the futile ointments and the inadvertent emissions of withering glands, the seepage of incontinence? Will my nostrils cringe from the cloying artificial sweetness that merely magnifies the putrescent horror gaining traction underneath? Perhaps, to all of this, were the ever-present ambient mix of pharmaceuticals and industrial antiseptics not so dominating. Another reason I hate the doctor's office, yet in this instance I should be grateful for the olfactory distraction.
The shift comes somewhere in my three-second delayed reaction to this flash glimpse of terminal joie de vivre in her profile. Something at play between the eyes and the mouth, a collaboration among the laugh-lines at the corners of each that signals the game is still afoot.
Somehow I'm losing my definition of ill. Sublime's now more than a word. My heart warms, aches remind me I live, blood equations be damned. All I need, want, is right here.
She turns gently, green document in hand. Our eyes meet. We smile. I am well.