She walks in the door after a day of meetings, appointments, disappointments and challenges. Before she pours a glass of red, she puts on her favorite pair of jeans – the ones with the threadbare knees. The cotton has softened with many washings, and now the fabric covering her thighs resembles suede more than denim.
She sits on the couch with her legs curled under her. With each sip of wine, she mulls over the day. As she reviews the interactions she can’t help but think of how she felt during each exchange.
The meeting with her supervisor left her feeling stiff and tense – the same way she feels when dressed for work in a crisply ironed blouse and business suit. There never seems to be room enough to stretch her arms or take a deep breath. A day spent in that suit is a day spent as someone else.
The lunch with her sister was every bit as uncomfortable as the expensive wool sweater her sister had given her last Christmas. The style didn’t fit her. The colors didn’t match anything in her closet. On the rare occasion that she wore the itchy cardigan, she was reminded of how disconnected she and her sister had always been. The scratchy texture of the wool equaled her sister’s insensitivity.
On the way home she’d stopped to meet a friend and catch up on the craziness of their lives. With heels kicked off and blazers draped over the backs of their chairs, they talked and vented and barely remembered to catch their breath.
With this friend she could laugh without covering her mouth.
Between laughs they would talk of the painful parts of the week without apology or excuses. Each of their mistakes were accepted and dismissed.
She could rejoice in what went well with this friend, without feeling self-conscious, just as her friend would do the same.
She genuinely acknowledged her friend’s efforts at doing her best, in the same way her own efforts were appreciated.
They spoke honestly to each other, with tenderness and gentle humor.
“I really messed up at work this week,” to which the other would say, “It’s tough, but you are always do your best.”
“This being a mom is wonderful and hard and tiring and scary,” and the other would say, “I know, but we can do this.”
She’d complain about lunch with her sister and her friend would quietly listen and nod her head, even though she’d heard the same complaints for years.
Her friend talked of how absent her mom had been, how she only rarely asked of the kids. Her friend said, “I realize I complain about this all the time. Thank you so much for listening.” She said, “It’s okay. I know. That never gets easy.”
They looked at their phones and gasped at the time and wondered what they were going to fix for dinner. They tucked toes back into heels as one said, “Damn, I have to stop at the store.”
She said, “We need to do this more often.”
Her friend said, “I needed this. Thank you.”
She said, “We always pick up where we leave off. It’s always so comfortable.”
They got up from the table, hugged and walked out to their cars.
Back at home with dinner finished, legs outstretched, and bare feet up on the coffee table, she got to thinking about how the people in her life were like the clothes in her closet. Some she had to wear; some she never wanted to wear again; and some she’d choose to wear all the time if she could.
She rested her head against the back of the couch and fantasized about cleaning out her closet.