Friday, August 27, 2010
The Yin and The Yang of It
“A true redhead,” she would tell new friends, “all you have to do is look at my…”
We usually interrupted here because we understood that Kathleen did not censor herself, did not feel the need, did not get embarrassed about using such words as hoo-haw in front of a stranger.
Reserved and hating to be the center of attention, that's me. But Kathleen knew how to break the draconian rules the nuns imposed without ever getting caught. The girl who could say things the rest of us could not because we thought the world - as we knew it - would end.
Everything is described larger, better, longer in her world. She told me when she met her future husband at a party, it took just "one look" before they kissed for three hours.
“It was only fifteen minutes,” her husband said.
My shyness troubled her. Once, while on a shopping trip with us, her husband modeled a pair of trousers too small for him. We tried not to laugh.
"I just need exercise, dammit," he said and people turned their heads to us.
I walked across the aisles to allow Kathleen time to tell him that thinking is not the same as doing. But, really, I was pretending not to be here with those two.
A saleswoman came to help and he complained he did not need "two wives telling me what to do.”
From across the room, Kathleen winked at me. I worried.
"You need to listen to us or there won't be any sex tonight," she told him.
Handing him a larger size, the nonplussed saleswoman looked over to me. She called out that “the second wife should come and have a look.”
Shoppers stared as I tried to hide in an empty dressing room.
Through the years, Kathleen’s dinner parties were never oh-I-just-will-throw-something-together affairs, and her telephone invitations held breathy promise of something themed.
“Sister,” she said during one of those calls, “Please come to my loggia party!”
So on a balmy August evening, we sat beside a mural of an ancient Tuscan scene she painted that morning. A group of male friends walked up the driveway dressed in white toga-like outfits. They carried a pallet where Ferret Bob, called that not because he resembled one but because he owned thirteen of the mammals, perched regally, with silver-plated leaves festooning his head and silver makeup highlighting his face in the twilight.
I looked over at some friends and knew we shared this thought: How on earth can we invite Kathleen over to just…dinner?
Kathleen dyed her hair to a golden blonde sheen that day. It suited her. While chatting new guests brought by friends, Kathleen told them she wanted to travel to Ireland to meet relatives, when the talk inexplicably turned to beauty products.
“Oh, no,” I heard her say. “This is not my natural hair color. No. I am a redhead. A true redhead.”
She stopped, and turned to me, and waited. I stood a few feet away talking to the toga boys. I cleared my throat and said, “She can prove it. All you have to do is look at her hoo-haw.”
Kathleen smiled. The world did not end.
© 2010 Marisa Birns
Note: A year ago today, I wrote my first fiction piece for #fridayflash. This is it.