Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'd Like You to Meet Annie

I like people, in general. It's the things they do that make me completely bonkers. Which is why I'd like to do you, The Reader, a favor and introduce you to an amazing woman who can never sour my mood. I'd like you to meet Annie, one of the characters who fades in and out of my life, but one of the individuals I feel it is a monumental privilege to know.

I first met her at the hair salon. She was sitting in another stylist's chair -- I say "another," because I was in my stylist's chair right next to her. Now, I like going to my stylist, Marlene, because she is no nonsense. I think I've mentioned her before. She doesn't gossip. She's not a party girl. It's no drama; just a relaxing day being foiled, tugged, dyed, snipped, and singed. That is, until Annie. But I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Her stylist is younger. In her mid to late twenties, I would guess. And still looking for Mr. Right, or Mr. Right Now. Ally, I think her name is. Well, the two of them make an unlikely pair. Ally is white, blond, as I said -- in her twenties, and a little "edgy" in her sense of style. Annie is black (apologies, if you prefer "African American," but Ally isn't exactly "white" either), with graying hair, sixty-six, and somewhere between "beach" and "Bohemian." And Annie too, is in the market for a man. Despite obvious differences, these two ladies played off one another wonderfully; though not to discredit Ally, I think Annie could play off of anyone with even a thready pulse. I left the salon absolutely doubled over in pain, my stomach ached so much from the laughter.

Annie has this incredible zest for life that can never be anything but contagious. The sound of her voice is unmistakable -- somewhere between a lullaby and the sound you get when you suck helium from a balloon. She wears costume jewelry and accessories as though everyday was a garden party. And though I know she would never shy away from an invitation to such aristocratic affairs (and has I am sure, received many), she would change the definition of "lively" in a way no one at those things would ever admit; there would have to be some sort of blood oath that what happens among the petit fours, stays among the petit fours. She is simply at home among people, and thoroughly committed to the notion that all the world is a stage -- her stage.

The next time I saw her heard her, I was in the produce department of a local market. She was explaining to someone that her Nana had great genes, and lived to her nineties, so she probably would as well. I laughed right out loud, knowing the woman Annie had shanghaied was not going to leave the Pathmark unaffected that day. As I made my way to the onions, I saw her -- larger than life, and a sun hat larger than that. She was wearing a flowing leopard print dress, and beads, lots of beads. Her hair was down -- wiry and silver, perfectly suited to her ensemble, and just like her -- a little crazy, but in an attractive and gentle way. She briefly engaged a young man walking through the entrance.

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible; it was a hot day, and I had milk and eggs from a previous stop sitting in the car, but by the time I hit the register, who was there telling her audience about Nana? I couldn't help it. I mean it, she is thoroughly contagious. I laughed and allowed myself to take the bait. She was now disclosing her plans for an upcoming lunch -- flying to see an old roommate from college, now a millionaire. See, I knew it!

The cashier says, "So, what, are you going to someplace like Tavern on the Green?"

"No, this place is actually a little nicer," Annie replies, as if comparing Pizza Hut and Maggianos. She then talks about her first experience flying First Class, courtesy of her friend, and a trip to Neiman Marcus -- "Needless Mark-Up, I call it," she says; "She goes there like I go to Dollar Tree."

As she was leaving the store, I heard someone yell from halfway up an aisle somewhere, "See ya, Annie, have a great day!"

Letting the bags slide down her arm, and lifting the brim of her enormous hat with the back of one hand, she waves with the other. "You, too! Have a great day!" she yells back.

In the parking lot, I rushed to assess the damage inflicted on my awaiting Dairy. The loud protest of an old door hinge caught my attention. There was Annie, loading her groceries and her celebrity into a rusty, multi-colored Old Mobile. She fired it up and drove away. Every head turned, but I refuse to believe it was entirely the hole in the muffler -- the way she sat behind that wheel couldn't have been anymore regal in a Rolls Royce.

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