Christmas holiday season seemed definitely not the time to hold one of our large tedious company meetings. Neither was this the place: a cavernous shabby-looking hotel that had long ago lost the luxurious luster of its younger days. As a reluctant homage to the season, tattered old sprays of holly hung dismally over our company sign, “The April May Beauty Collection,” belying its name.
As I walked the area, seeking an out-of-the-way place where I didn’t have to talk with anyone until the meeting started, I spotted a darkly lit comfortable-looking corner and made a beeline for the empty couch, sat down and arranged my things in a way that didn’t make room for joining me. Then I felt safe to look around.
Across the way was another couch like mine that I hadn’t noticed before, but it was not close enough for conversation – so I breathed a sigh of relief and looked up. A woman, in the same uniform as mine sat on the couch. She looked up as I looked up across the way and each of us gave one of those “nice to see you but I don’t want to talk” half smiles.
Every now and then I sneaked a look at the lady across the way from under the floppy brim of my April May chapeau. I definitely knew her, couldn’t recall her name, but from the look of her uniform, knew that she was my age.
My first overall impression was that she had really gotten older looking. Her shoulders were stooped and wisps of grey had escaped from under her hat. The weight she seemed to have gained was not at all attractive. And, as she turned the pages of her book, her lined hands shook a little.
I didn’t want to seem superior, but I was proud of my posture and the way I had taken care of myself over the years. As I mused, the chimes began to ring, signaling entry to the large meeting room, and we both started to gather our things together. Getting up from the couch seemed to be difficult for her, unlike my fluid easy rising.
She looked up, as did I, and we gave each other that same smile again. As I walked toward her, face down, I thought that even though she was much older, I should have remembered her name.
As I got closer, an uncomfortable feeling began to make its way from the pit of my stomach to my head. When I got there, it turned into shock. The older woman for whom I felt sorry, stared back at me, reflected from inside the large mirror.
It was me.
Ellen Van Houten is a Village resident. Contact her at email@example.com.