I was standing outside the hotel lobby, holding on to the luggage carousel. Waiting for my traveling coworkers to untangle the mess of reservations, anticipating the rest I'd earned, after crawling under church pews taping down cables, assembling cameras, and trudging up and down stairs. And more stairs. In short, I was tired and intent on thwarting any thieves even contemplating sprinting off into the steamy night with my bag, holding all my bubblebath and also important items such as deodorant and clean socks.
She came through the sliding doors, a burst of icy air. I smelled her - a tiny older woman, later she would tell me she was 68, could I tell and no I could NOT - before she was within speaking distance, that distinct perfume of desperation and cocktails. I spoke to her first, as I was conspiciously taking up a lot of space whatwith the luggage, and her story spilled out all over the sidewalk.
"Did you see that nice grey-haired man? He's supposed to pick me up." I shook my head and said maybe he would be here soon, and she laughed. "I've been chasing him all night," she conspired, "and I did give him a little pinch." Then she went on - he had an English accent, oh yes, how lovely, and he was supposed to take her across the street for another party. The smell of alcohol was so strong on her that I seriously wondered how much more partying she could take.
"I'm from Yazoo City, " she volunteered, "but I've lived in Oxford for a long time, and I was an Ole Miss girl." She was perfectly put together, in a very boutiqued sort of fashion. There were diamonds flashing from her ears, neck, and one very large ring loading down her hand. I made appreciative mumurings about Oxford (which is such a beautiful town) and then her story became this crazy quilt of plot lines. Her marriage, which veered from wonderful - "I was a bride for ten years"- to disasterous -"I caught him gambling on the Internet, I had no idea until later how much money he'd lost, I'd been spending so much time with Daddy but now he's gone" - her eyes bright with tears, she had heart trouble, was supposed to go for tests on Monday. "At first I didn't want him there, but now I do, and I can't find him." Oh, you can't get in touch with him, I asked, sympathetic. "No, he's at this halfway house and no one's answering the phone." The words she said so jarred with her appearance, this woman who I towered over, hazy with drink, lost without love. She confessed that she was considering driving herself to him, but she tended to "get lost in a paperbag." I told her that she should be very careful, and take care of herself. In the midst of her story, I introduced myself, and told her that I would pray for her tests, and for her to find her husband. When I turned my head, she was gone. No car had come and gone, my memory is blank as to why I turned away from her. I just know that I blinked, and then she was no more.
I can't help but wonder if she was an angel, and if I entertained her well.