Today I was stuck in an elevator. That was bad enough considering I’m claustrophobic. But when the heavy-set woman in front of me turned around, I was mortified. She wasn’t someone I ever wanted to see again. It’s not what she did to me, it’s what I did to her.That was the worst part.
When we were in high school, she was my friend which considering she was very popular and the local beauty queen, kept me off guard in the beginning days of our friendship. I figured she was playing with me and that eventually I’d catch on that it was all a big joke. But nope. We remained friends. Maybe it was because underneath her charming appearance she was just like me. From the wrong side of the tracks.
I was the only friend ever invited into her home. Once I had been there, I realized why. Her mother was an alcoholic. Her father had vanished years ago. The place was a mess. Her mother was a waitress and did her best to dress her daughter fashionably so she could enter one beauty pageant after another. They both knew it was the only way she was going to have a better life than her mother’s. No one but me ever knew what her home life was like. I always wondered how she kept it a secret.
She convinced me I had a shot at not only entering the next local beauty pageant but possibly even winning it. I figured she was kidding. She wasn’t. She found a
couch coach for me and then gave me a “make-over”. From hair to make-up, to the way I walked. It was the make-up that was my journey into sin.
She bought me a lot of it.She had a part-time job by then. I protested and told her I couldn’t afford it. She was generous and said I could pay her back in the future. Whenever I got a job.
I did well in the pageant making it to a runner-up position. No, I’m not bragging. It’s just what happened. Remember, I didn’t win. Anyway, she went away to college telling me to take my time paying her back. Well, I did. A lot of time. In fact, never.
Our paths simply didn’t cross again. I could’ve found her if I’d wanted to. Her mother would certainly have given me her address. But I never even tried. I heard about her over the years. She had made it kind of big in California. I remember seeing her in a commercial once. She was only in the background but at least she was on the screen. Someone said she was performing in dinner theaters. I could see that. I was glad to hear she made something of her life. I know how important it was to her. She always wanted to “shine”.
Years passed. High school reunions came and went but I didn’t. Go to them, I mean. What would I have said when I saw her? There was no excuse for my behavior no matter how young and stupid I was.
She turned and looked at me. “Is that you, Rebecca? I can’t believe it. After all these years!” She was as kind and generous as she’d ever been which was just about the worst thing she could have done. I so needed her to be mean so I would feel properly chastised and could put it to rest. But no. She had to be nice. Just when I really wanted to be kicked in the butt. Apparently she had long forgotten or simply forgiven the debt I owed her.
The elevator doors suddenly opened and she got off, giving me a hug before she went on her way, saying how great it was seeing me again. I wanted to hit her and hug her at the same time. I did neither. I returned the fond farewell, knowing I didn’t mean a word of it. I felt like I was in high school all over again and had just been made a fool of by the prom queen.
I thought of the things that I’ve begrudged others, debts that haven’t been paid me. Hmmm, maybe what goes around does come around after all..