Thursday, February 9, 2017
An Unexpected Adventure
Jean placed her book down, and glanced around the commuter train. She loved observing people,
especially during the morning commute. She adored viewing the habits of everyday folks on the train. She caught sight of an older gentleman, head cocked, fast asleep and snoring. Next to him sat a young, corporate looking man, excessively typing on his smartphone as he tugged at his tie. Across the aisle, sat an uptight looking woman whose over sized bag was planted on the seat next to her. The woman pinched the bridge of her nose and frowned, drinking her coffee as it was water.
The woman looked familiar. Jean wondered where she knew her from.
Jean became drowsy and closed her eyes as the train barreled across the tracks. She fell into a deep slumber until her eyes popped open and her head jerked forward. She heard an alteration. “Can you move your bag so I can sit?” asked a man. The uptight looking woman glared at him and looked the other way. ‘Excuse me are you paying for two tickets?” he said as he waved his arms. The woman snatched up her bag and moved it off the seat, scowling at the man. Jean studied her profile-the perfect button nose, nicely shaped ears, clear skin.
Thirty years ago, fourteen year old Jean walked down the hall of her junior high school, pushing her glasses up her nose. Heidi, a popular girl with a vicious mean streak, pushed her to the ground and yelled out, “I hate you and wish you would die, metal mouth!” These random bullying attacks on Jean lasted three years. Jean wished she had perfect teeth like Heidi, and didn’t have to wear braces. Being called metal mouth and four eyes took a toll on her self esteem.
One day, Heidi grabbed Jean’s house keys, and threw them around the cafeteria.
“Stop, give them back,” cried Jean. Finally, Heidi returned them, and then proceeded to slap her across her face.
Another time, Jean approached Heidi’s house on the walk home from visiting a friend. Her heart beat rapidly as she passed Heidi sitting outside her house with her older obnoxious brother and all his friends. The boys barked at her while Heidi laughed. She sobbed into her pillow for hours that night.
One day, as she sat on a bus, Heidi pushed her off the seat, and yelled, “ You’re so ugly, you probably make mirrors crack.” Jean’s school books scattered all over the floor. Jean crawled on her hands and knees, picking up papers, as Heidi laughed. Jean wished Heidi would get run over by the bus.
The next day Jean’s mom made her a really nice braid. And Heidi snipped part of it off. When Jean’s mother complained to the school principal, he rubbed his grubby hands across his fat, shiny, forehead, and said, “ Kids will be kids.”
Throughout her life, Jean wondered how she would feel if she bumped into her. She hoped Heidi had a miserable life, and was fat and ugly. Jean looked at her-she was slim and beautiful. Jean squinted to see if she had a wedding ring on. She was blinded by a giant diamond. Jean fantasized that the coffee spilled in Heidi’s lap and burned her.
The train stopped at Grand Central. As all the passengers departed the train, she obsessed about her, and began to follow her trail. She kept her distance behind a group of young women.
She was bored at her dead end job as an administrative assistant. Her boss was a cranky accountant. Jean had no confidence in herself to look for a more fulfilling job. To this day, she blamed Heidi for her poor grades in school, which led her to a nowhere job.
She never called in sick, nor did anything wrong. Her husband called her a “goodie goodie.”
Jean furrowed her brow and decided to play hooky and spend the day stalking Heidi. She would pretend she had a stomach bug. Heidi was dressed in 6 inch heels, and a short skirt. Jean frowned as she thought about how good Heidi looked.
She lagged behind and dodged the puddles. She didn’t sleep well last night due to the torrential rain beating down on her windows. As she continued pursuing Heidi, a truck drove by and splashed a huge puddle of water all over Heidi.
“Wow, karma wins,” said Jean out loud with a smile.
Heidi looked pissed as she cursed out the driver, and angrily stomped away. Jean concluded that Heidi was still a bitch. They continued up the street. Jean hoped Heidi would get pick pocketed, or fall and sprain her ankle.
Heidi entered an upscale designer clothing shop. Jean wondered if Heidi breezed through life without a job.
As Jean waited across the street, she checked Facebook, news reports, and e-mails. An hour later, Heidi left the store, and then continued perusing other stores.
As she continued her pursuit , she imagined Heidi was happily married with several kids and obviously a rich husband, since she was spending the whole day shopping. Jean wished Heidi would have explosive diarrhea. A pigeon flew overhead and pooped right on Heidi’s shoulder.
Jean felt guilty as she witnessed all these bad things happening to Heidi, then chastised herself for feeling that way.
Heidi looked like she was going to cry. She took out a tissue and vigorously wiped her jacket. She entered a restaurant, weighed down by shopping bags. Jean was close behind, wearing giant sunglasses, praying Heidi wouldn't see her.
Jean peeked through the window and saw Heidi seated at a table . Across from her, sat a handsome man. Jean entered with her head down.
“Can I help you miss?” asked one of the waiters.
“I need a table for one,” she muttered .
The waiter walked towards Heidi's table when Jean exclaimed, “No!” The waiter looked at her with his squinty eyes. “Excuse me?” he asked.
“Can I sit over there?” Jean pointed to a table that had a perfect view of Heidi’s table, but not too close that Heidi would recognize her.
She opened the menu and almost fainted when she saw the cheapest entree was $40. She glanced at her choices. The cheapest thing was a plain house salad for $10.
“I’ll have the house salad and a glass of water.”
The waiter grunted, “OK”.
Jean watched Heidi and her companion. They were holding hands and engaged in deep conversation. Heidi had hunched shoulders, and her eyes were wide open, almost in shock. The man was shaking his head. Jean’s salad came and she slowly munched on her lettuce while staring at them, as if she was watching a good TV show. Suddenly, he let go of her hand and slammed his fist on the table. Jean could see his veins throbbing in his neck. Heidi’s lip quivered as the man yelled at her. Jean wished the music in the restaurant wasn’t so loud. She strained her ears to hear what he was saying, but all she could hear was Adele belting out a song. Heidi twisted her ring, as she bit her lip. She wiped her eyes. The man yelled something, shook his fist, then stormed out. As he ran out, the waiter brought over 2 lobsters. Jean salivated. The tiny salad she just gobbled down did not fulfill her appetite at all.
She imagined the shock on Heidi’s face if she sat down at her table and reminisced about their miserable school days while enjoying every ounce of that scrumptious looking lobster.
Heidi rubbed her eyes, grabbed a tissue, blew her nose, and sat with a confused look on her face. As Jean was engrossed in her stalking adventure, the waiter dropped off her check. Jean watched Heidi pick at her lobster. It looked as though tears were streaming down her face. Her hair glistened, like a model in a shampoo commercial. Even though Jean hated Heidi, she felt sorry for her. She was such a pushover.
Jean sipped her water, deep in thought, when Heidi knocked her chair down, jumped up, and made a strange noise. Jean noticed her hands were on her neck. She was choking. Jean was CPR certified so knew the Heimlich maneuver. She hesitated, thinking about the pros and cons. She only practiced on a dummy. Medical emergencies made her queasy. She could potentially kill the girl. She hated Heidi. There was no time, since the few people dining in the restaurant looked panic stricken. She ran over as she felt her salad unsettle in her stomach, grabbed Heidi from behind, and pushed her fist into her abdomen and prayed. When nothing happened, she took a deep breath, and inhaled as she jammed her fist into her as hard as she could.
When food shot out of Heidi’s mouth, everyone cheered. She felt like a hero. And then she felt like she was going to pass out. She saved someone’s life. Someone who made her life miserable for many years.
She wanted to call her best friend Bonnie. She wanted to say, “Hey Bonnie, remember that bitch Heidi who tortured and terrorized me in school? Well, I was stalking her today and after a bunch of bad things happened to her, she choked on a piece of lobster that I wanted, and I saved her life but I really didn’t want to?”
People were congratulating her and checking to see how Heidi was doing. After all the people scattered, it was just the two of them.
“Thank you so much,” said Heidi as she wiped away tears.
“Um, yer, sure, so, how are you doing Heidi?” asked Jean.
“How did you know my name?” asked Heidi , tilting her head.
“We went to high school thirty years ago together. Jean Evans. You hated me.”
Heidi turned white. She stared at Jean open mouthed. “ I, uh, I was not a nice person back then.”
“You were nasty Heidi. But that was in the past. So, forgive and forget, right? I’m glad you’re OK,” said Jean as she abruptly turned around and walked out of the restaurant. Her legs shook and her hands felt clammy.
The phrase “move on” and “be forgiving” were floating around Jean’s brain but she felt empty. Yes, she saved a life. She felt proud of herself, but also sad. Then she heard her name being called.
“Jean!” She turned around and saw Heidi wobbling in high heeled shoes at a fast speed. She caught up to her.
Jean turned and Heidi looked at her and started to cry. “I’m a terrible person, I was then, I am now. My life sucks!”
Jean inhaled, then exhaled. “ That’s too bad.” She then walked away.
Heidi shrieked, “My husband wants a divorce, that was him in the restaurant. This was supposed to be a reconciliation lunch. We had a fight. He hates me. My twin boys hate me. I have no job.”
“I don’t care Heidi,” said Jean as she turned to face Heidi.
Heidi cried, “ Growing up,my parents had no time for me and made it clear I was a mistake. My older sister Elizabeth was their love. I don’t even talk to Lizzy anymore. She has three kids that I have never met. I’m the estranged aunt. My parents live in Florida and call me on my birthday.” As Heidi rambled with the speed of a runaway train, snot and mascara ran down her face. She looked like a raccoon with a bad cold.
Heidi continued, “I’m sorry for being mean to you. I’m sorry you saved my life, you should have let me--”
Jean cut her off. “Stop. It’s OK.”
“That’s your problem, you’ve always been too nice. I terrorized you, you’re forgiving me now, you want to be my friend---” said Heidi, as she wiped her watery eyes.
“Whoa, wait, hold on. I do forgive you, sort of. I do want to help you, but not sure about the being your friend part,” said Jean, as she looked around, praying for a sudden thunderstorm so she could escape.
Heidi looked away. “I deserved that.”
“Listen. I don’t need to know any more details than what you just told me. But, you need help,” said Jean.
“I don’t like therapists and---”
“Maybe you should write letters of forgiveness to all the people you were mean to? That list is huge , I’m sure,” said Jean.
“Neh, I --”
“Heidi, do something good and stop wallowing in self pity,” said Jean sternly.
Heidi looked down at her feet. “You probably should have let me die in there.”
Jean was about to give her a hug and say, “ You deserve to live. You really are a good person inside.”
Instead, Jean stared her down. “You made my life a living hell. But you still deserve to live. I hope you get help, and I hope you can turn your life around. But I don’t want to be part of it. Good luck Heidi.”
Jean turned around and walked away. Her legs were shaking, and sweat dribbled down the back of her neck, but for the first time since junior high school, Jean felt confident.