With this admission, I realized that there was so much more that I didn't know about her.
Everything was red and big. Red lipstick was drawn just passed the natural curve of her lips. Hair dyed, twisted into a tight bun, morphed by the bow clip that loomed like wings of a great bird ready for take-off. Earrings made of shiny metals and ribbons rocked at her lobes looking weighty as she shuffled around the halls in shoes that were slightly too big and would not stay on her feet. All this warned us of her approach. She yelled as she walked. She never apologized for her booming voice and explained that she was Italian, as if that excused it all. She always talked over everyone. Her presence was made known right from the beginning.
"I have to find another job," I confided in my friend, a fellow teacher. "I can't work with that woman!" I swallowed hard, not really sure what I was going to do.
There was no way of missing her in the halls of school or on the road either. Her cars through the years were big, large tanks. She always insisted on driving. Her oversized hands gripped the wheel seconds at a time. Sometimes both hands were off the steering wheel to emphasize a point. The tank seemed to drive itself. "I can't look at the road," she began to explain loudly, "It distracts me!"
"For goodness sake, hang onto the wheel, would ya," I screamed. My eyes darting left, right and ahead in a futile attempt to control. Nothing about this woman was controllable, and I often wondered why her husband retired, kept opposite hours.
Spending time with her at the beginning was out of professional necessity and then over time, it was by choice, I realized that she was often a misunderstood woman with a big big heart.
"Come to my house for supper, " I offered.
"I can't," she answered without much forethought, then added, "Do you still have cats?"
She knew I had cats. "Ya, why?" I asked.
"I can't come," she stated firmly.
"You're not allergic to cats are you?" She had a dog which offered her company and wild chasing when it got loose. She was used to pets.
She didn't answer and there was an uncomfortable silence. I was dumbfounded and couldn't think of why she wouldn't be able come to my house. I was the one to always visit her at her house. She had never come to my house, although we had been friends for years now.
"I, I am..." oddly she stumbled over the words, "I am afraid of cats. I can't come."
I thought that I was the one that wrestled with irrational fears. This fearless woman who I thought I knew so well was afraid. I couldn't believe it.
This admission only opened the way for more honest talk.