Sunday, June 1, 2008

Go hide your shame

There's a really sweet woman here in the neighborhood who used to work at FreshPlus grocery story. Then, she moved across the street to be the checkout at Pronto (a gas station). For a few years now, I've called her: "Cancer Survivor." Or, on occasion, "Chemo Patient."

Now before you go getting all horrified, let me explain. Without fail, this lady always wears a scarf on her head. And not in a Nicole Richie, ooh look at me I'm-a-haute-couture-hippie way (think bandana, not Herm├ęs). She also wears long sleeves and pants all the time, as if cold - even in summer! - and doesn't wear any makeup, ever. Plus, she just has the look of a strong, indomitable spirit. You know what I mean? Like, "child, I seen things you never should."

Now, taken together, these observations clearly do not diagnose someone with cancer. But when I first met her, my fanciful mind got to working, and...well. It was a private observation. A ridiculous jump to more absurd conclusion. And thus = "Cancer Survivor" was born.

I never really told anyone, until I told R., and now he views her with the same (perhaps unwarranted?) admiration I do. Sometimes, when we see her at Pronto, we exchange knowing looks that say, "what a courageous, unyielding soul."

(Sidenote: Cancer Survivor actually got held up at gunpoint in Pronto last summer, if you can believe it. R and I's first reaction to the news: "but she's already been through so much!")

So anyway, this pillar of a lady, this beacon of hope in a world so dark, is totally not the type to chit-chat about, oh, day-long male erections. Or so I thought.

I'm at Pronto yesterday, filling my car up with 1/10 a tank of gas or something - OPEC, can you hear me? WTF? - and walk inside to pay for it.

"Hi there, honey!" Cancer Survivor, suppressing a giggle.

"Hey! Just $10 on number 5, please."

Giggle. Sideways glance at female coworker. Giggle giggle.

"Honey, question for you. How would you react if a man, a man you knew and had been hanging out with, had an erection. For - hold on, let me tell her! -six to eight hours?"

Furrow brow, really consider it. "Run?" I offer.

"See, exactly Honey!" Turning to coworker, presumably the one with the, er, "situation."

"I would tell that man to stay indoors!" Finger is up and wagging now, scolding this invisible man with the offensive penis.

"No, 'oh WOW this is so amazing' about it! No! I would tell that man to get away from me. To get out of public, and to go hide your shame."

You can't put a price tag on sage wisdom like that.

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