I Still Don't Know Who She Was...Written by Stepper McCrery
There was something striking about the woman sitting in the plastic chair by the edge of the pool. I remember being struck – something emanated from her that went so far beyond the pink and red scar that pulled an angry line up from the neckline of her bathing suit, dividing in two her freckled chest—a chest that, even at my tender age of naiveté, I understood was abnormally flat.
I knew nothing about breasts, but I knew about different. And this too-thin, bald, flat, and striking woman was different. My eyes kept traveling guiltily over her, searching for the reason – I felt I was trespassing on holy ground, but the obvious things about the way she looked just didn’t add up. I felt a tremendous hunger to know.
I waited, standing in my bathing suit and hugging my towel against me. I had not yet been in the water, but this tiny woman leaning back into her chair felt so large to me, I felt I had to hide; had to have some kind of barrier I could sink away into.
My mother stood next to the woman, talking to her in hushed tones. I watched the woman nod slightly, mouth something I couldn’t hear. Smile slightly at the edges.
Then she looked at me.
Her eyes locked onto mine – and I saw it.
Now, as an adult looking back, I wonder if she had felt raw and wounded by all of the eyes—just like mine—that moved over her body. The visible scars laying bare all of the private scars she carried with her. No towel barrier against all of the knowing she must have seen in all those eyes. Unable to keep intimate this thing that had taken so much from her. Total strangers knowing so much at one glance about such a personal war she waged.
Now, as an adult, I wonder how anyone can survive such robbery.
Now, as an adult, I wonder if when our eyes met, she felt pain at the shameless curiosity she saw in my face. I wonder if she saw my wide and searching eyes as a mirror against all of her many wounds.
But as a child, when her eyes snapped to mine, I had my answer. This woman was different because there was a fire burning behind those eyes. When she looked at me, I was looking into the eyes of a wild creature. A White Stag. Her frail and broken body was a farce. This woman was a warrior. She had fierce and unyielding fight flowing through her veins, and there was something in me that melted away beneath her gaze so that I, too, was laid bare under the stare of a strangers eyes.
Then she blinked, and looked away.
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Stepper grew up in the desert, but is a child of the rain. She lost her heart to Seattle (both to the place and to the boy who grew up there). She loves to write and draw, and used to get in trouble for doodling all over her homework. She graduated with a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Utah State University. She loves to sing, play the violin and guitar, and is learning the mandolin. She bakes a mean spice cake with pinoche icing, hates caramel, and has a real thing for old keys. But her very most favorite thing in the whole world is her cute husband and three amazing kids.
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