News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: The Woman with A Dead Eye

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Woman with A Dead Eye

One of my coworkers is, by the best intention of the word, an odd looking woman. She has a right eye whose eyeball not only seems permanently skewed to the side but looks dead and is perhaps sightless. She has a set of bad teeth that jut crookedly in a bad overbite over her lips.

I often find myself irritated with her familiarity. She always acts as though she knows what I am thinking and feeling and appears to think that our friendship has been instantaneous from our first meeting. At times, she will say something in response to a statement I make and I feel anger welling in my gut at her presumptuousness tone and response. ...

In another time, another place, I can imagine this woman--with her blind, skewed eye and terrible teeth--being branded from birth as a witch or some other demonically possessed being. She would find life at the margins, perhaps persecuted and attacked when things did not go right in the community. People would cross themselves whenever she looks their way or say a prayer.

She seems to be one of those people where coincidence and happenstance intersect. The weird and odd, she tells me, are always occurring to her. Just yesterday she told me that she'd had to pay AOL double because someone else with the same number and the same street name, in a town thirty miles away, also had an AOL account.

Previously, she'd called me from the median of a highway and though she barely knew me began telling me that some kids had tried to carjack her vehicle as she sat in the median of the highway waiting for a tow.

The other day she was showing people photos of her son-in-law. I didn't think anything of it, though I was hoping she'd pass me by so that she'd understand how I disliked her overly familiar attitude. I was not able to get out of it, though.

The photos showed what appeared to be a wedding party. What she drew my eye to though was one person in particular, a black man in a tuxedo, her son-in-law. I said okay and expected her to move on. Yet, she continued to go through all the photos, always pointing out the young black man. Yes, he was he son-in-law but there were others there as well--like her daughter, whom I don't know either.

I recolied from what I interpreted as her fawning, strangely offensive dwelling on him. It seemed as though she was treating him like a trophy. African Americans are in very short supply in the part of the country I live in, so I could understand her behavior but it still irritated me.

At least once every time since when I talked with her, she managed to bring her son-in-law into the conversation. Each time she did, I tried to think of excuses for what I consider to be at best an ignorant parochialism, at worst some form of fetishistic tokenism.

But last night, I finally realized that all of my thoughts about her are baseless and sorely misjudged.

For some time I'd known that her son was causing her toruble. She'd had to repossess a car from him that he decided to give away to a stranger, though she was co-owner of the car. Things had gotten so bad with him that she called the police and put him in jail for a while. The office was informed that should he show up, we were to call the police.

This morning I got to hear the details of her troubles with her son. She described how after she had their car repossessed, he showed up at work and had cornered her while twisting her arm, threatening her all the time. Her son-in-law, luckily, had appeared and had pulled the son off his mother.

Now I know why she's so proud of her son-in-law. And I only pray that I will learn not jump to conclusions so cruelly again.

1 comment:

Kenneth Rufo said...

Nice. Theoretically it reminds me of that discussion of the slimy in Sartre's Being and Nothingness, that sticky sense of familiarity that just won't shake off... He thinks of it as the revenge of the being-in-itself on the being-for-itself, but the truth seems more that if we're open to it, we find that it's slime all the way down, and that cloying familiarity is the think that makes possible the risk of transformation.