A few days ago, Nancy at Spirit Lights The Way did a post about ego. It made me think of a story I had written a couple months ago. – when the character’s ego doesn’t get fed, things get “messy”. Note: It is in first person, but is 100% fiction 🙂
Notice Me (a short story by JannaTWrites)
Here I sit, in all my middle-aged glory, at a table in the outer fringe of the mall Food Court. I watch packs of giggling girls breeze by– not a one gives me so much as a glance. It’s summertime and with no school to interfere, the teenagers fill their afternoons with shopping and boy-watching. I feel invisible. Maybe I am. I don’t know anymore.
I glance down at my capri-length gray yoga pants. At the time I got dressed, they seemed like the perfect balance between comfortable and socially acceptable. The desert heat made the thought of blue jeans unbearable, yet the varicose veins and pallor of my skin ruled shorts not suitable for public attire. I stare at my lap with a satisfied smile because there are still at least four inches of blue plastic chair seat not smothered by my thighs. I credit Miss Gina and her torturous spin classes.
In my peripheral vision, I notice a spot of salsa just above my left breast, compliments of the supreme burrito I just ate from Habanero Hal’s. I snatch an ice cube from my Diet Coke and press it onto the spot, then dab at the saucy stain with a napkin. Of course, the stain smears, doubling in size. I brush my fingers over the white flecks of napkin fibers, but they refuse to let go. Oddly enough, the now large –and wet – tomato stain on my periwinkle blue Under Armor shirt doesn’t elicit a response from the man who just passed by, or the two grandmotherly ladies several steps behind him.
I don’t have a mirror handy, but I assume the chilled conditioned air has preserved my “made up” face. The fine lines around my forty-four year old eyes should be sufficiently filled and covered. Surely if my lipstick has drifted past my lip line, someone would look at me, even if to laugh and think “thank goodness that isn’t me”. Even though scrunchies went out with new millennium, a shiny green one holds my red hair into a loose pony tail on the back of my head. I am a bit disappointed that I took the time to smooth my frizzies with gel and no one has paid any attention. A mother with three noisy young girls walks by, but her eyes are fixed on the ceiling, not on me.
I look to my left and see a curious sight: a young brunette, maybe in her late teens, walks solo. There is no troupe of giggling cohorts around her. I decide it’s just as well, because she needs her concentration to balance on the high-heeled black wedges strapped onto her feet. Her legs are unfairly long, and her shorts are short enough to present problems if she should drop something and need to pick it up. Her shirt is low-cut and tight. Her whole outfit screams, “please, look at me.” So I do.
Suddenly, the girl stops and fishes for something in her purse. I wrinkle my nose in disgust at the glow that surrounds her. I nurse my sour mood with a long drink of my Diet Coke. As I set my cup on the table, I notice the skylight above her, which explains the illumination of her shiny hair. I tilt my head and watch the girl apply a coat of fuchsia lipstick. She’s probably fifty feet away, but I can see her lips just fine. A glance to my right explains the show.
Two young guys, possibly in their early twenties are at a table nearby. Their mouths are open but their conversation is halted, as they are both entranced by either the glowing aura around the woman, or the siren of her bold lipstick, or her clothes which beg to be chugged by the eyes, like a drunk would down a shot of whiskey.
I take another sip of soda and wonder if the bitterness is the remnants of saccharin or something worse.
The woman tosses her long hair over her shoulder and drops the lipstick tube in her purse. With her chin up, she continues walking in my direction. Soon, she will pass through – I mean, by me.
The boys sit motionless, staring. I don’t know why this annoys me so much. Perhaps it’s because no one notices that I have salsa on my chest. Deep down, I suspect it’s because no one has ever looked at me that way. I know that I’m shrinking into my body with each day, hour and minute that passes.
I slide my chair back, with an echoing scrape on the tile floor, and bolt to my feet. I grab my Diet Coke, fling my purse over my shoulder and turn to escape in the opposite direction of the approaching woman. In an ever-present display of grace, my toe catches on the table leg, shaking my
balance and tumbling me to the floor.
Sprawled belly-down in a pool of Diet Coke, I hear silence, and then restrained snickers, followed by hearty laughter. I lift myself onto my elbows and look to my left. The two young men have indeed shifted their gaze from the beautiful woman to me.
Seconds ago, I had wanted someone – anyone – to notice me, and now that they do, I want nothing more than to be invisible again.