Nancy was in group therapy when I attended, for weekly sessions, some three years ago. We were there for depression, anxiety, you may know the drill. About twelve of us would sit at a large round table, as our psychologist Karen encouraged each of us, in turn, to speak about our lives and what things had led us there.
One thing that I took from the group was that fellowship was a comfort to many of us. Some were naturally hesitant, at first, to open up with their stories, and there were occasional tears and gestures of comfort as well.
Nancy was young, I think perhaps around 21. When it came her turn to speak at each of the meetings, she would pass, usually just wanting to listen or make the occasional remark. She had attended all but two of our meetings. On her last day there, the subject up for discussion was something like “What do you do, or what have you done, in your life, that has brought you joy?”
I could see her fidgeting as the discussion point came around. With downcast eyes and budding tears, she quietly said “I cannot remember the last time I had any fun.” She could not sit there any longer, and Karen took her out into the hall and spoke to her for a few minutes. We resumed, but my heart wasn’t in it, after Nancy had left. Once the meeting was over, I asked Karen if Nancy would be alright. She thanked me for the concern, but said she could not repeat anything said in confidence to her.
So, for the last two meetings, Nancy was not there. About a year later, I was at a fast food drive-through getting coffee, and she was the cashier. She looked different, a little changed somehow. Face thinner, eyes open a little too wide, missing a number of teeth.
She went through the motions of getting my order, and showed no recognition, and I said ” I know you”. When I told her who I was, it was clear that she remembered then. She gave a wan smile, and said “Thank you for your order”, so I moved on.
I’ve been in that restaurant many times since then, and have seen her busying herself, dashing around, instructing trainees, and, for all the world, having the appearance of self possession and confidence. A couple of little things bothered me, though. Some of her co-workers would secretly roll their eyes as Nancy kept the ship afloat, and would shake their heads and make offhand remarks to each other. Then there were her eyes, those staring eyes, present but far away.
What kind of a life has she had, and where is her future going? I don’t know why, but I think about this quite a bit, and try to catch her eye when I’m in there, perhaps just to give a little smile, or get one back.
As I write this last note, it’s been another year on or thereabouts. Nancy is still working at the same place that I go for coffee every day. As a matter of fact, she is now a shift manager. I glance her way from time to time, and sometimes she serves me at the cash. She has a shy way of glancing, but I know she remembers me. We just exchange pleasantries, and sometimes I do not see her for a week or two at a time, depending on what shift she works. Funny thing happened the other day. I was out for my evening walk in the twilight, and a black pick up truck was driving up the hill towards me. I saw the driver was a female, and for some reason she was waving at me and smiling. I was embarrassed because I could not make out who it was in the moving vehicle, so I just waved back and continued on. Couple days later, I was in the restaurant again, and this time Nancy gave me a big grin and said hey I am seeing you all over the place these days! Then she averted her eyes once again. I chuckled, and said let me guess, you drive a black pick up truck, right? She gave a smile once again, then turned away and busied her self with the crew.