On the 125 bus this morning, I locked eyes with a woman in a short, green dress. She glanced back, a crease between her brows and a slight look of “Who do you think you are?” crossing her face. I was staring. The diamond on her left hand flashed, even in the dim light, rivaling the reflection of the river on Merchandise Mart, as we drove down Wacker.
My own hands display no such light. I look even younger than my 23 years today, with jeans and a striped tee complementing my already youthful face. As I peeked again at her ring, her furrow deepened. Why was I staring? I couldn’t help it. The stone was so bright. With each turn it sparkled, and my looks became more and more frequent.
Perhaps her frown was meant to intimidate. Her late-20s confidence bolstered by a ring the size of Saturn surely gave her license to look down on me, a kid in sandals ogling her on the CTA. More likely, it’s because I was staring. But who knows?
Unbeknownst to her, I was hiding my own secret. Palms and fingers painted in festive swirls of mehendi, or henna, remind me of the wedding I attended this weekend. As I checked out the souvenir from her wedding, I thought of the mementos I brought back from my best friend’s: two temporary tattoos that will be gone by next week. With them will go the feelings of elation and relief (because my friend is so happy and the wedding went well) that are carrying me through today. We will file our memories into Facebook albums and Gmail threads, subject line: Planning for AA’s wedding.
Today, my coworkers coo over the chocolate swirls that stretch over my skin. Between meetings and competitive reports, I tell stories and explain customs. Today I returned to Chicago, and my normal life, but it seems I am not here yet. While my feet pass through the streets of my home city, my hands remain in Paducah, KY, where I watched through tears as my friend linked her life to that of her love. I should have let the lady in green see my palms.