Dear Friendly Book Store Sales Lady,
I want you to know that your words are on repeat in my mind, going around in circles, lapping like waves, just swirling around in there. They have been ever since we spoke. I may have been the fifteenth or fiftieth person you spoke to yesterday, ours may have been one of the many interactions you participated in, one of many snippets of conversation that you may or may not remember. But I tell you this because I want you to know that our meeting was significant for me. I will not forget you, lovely book store lady. Your words came at just the right time.
Our exchange went something like this:
Me: “Hello”, placing the book on the counter which you pick up and scan, looking momentarily at the cover.
You: “Oh you’re much too young to know about her, aren’t you? She was around when I was younger, you’re just a baby”. I pass her my bank card.
The book was Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”.
Me: “I’m not really a baby. Actually, it’s birthday today. Another year older”. Tapping my fingers on the counter top after entering my pin number. Feeling awkward.
You: “Oh happy birthday, love! How old are you?”
Me: “Twenty seven”, sighing a little.
You: “Really? Oh you are a baby then! Only twenty seven!”
Only twenty seven, I thought. And then you proceeded to dispense the following advice, which I had read somewhere before or heard someone talk about or seen somewhere on TV, yet now that it was coming from the lips of a stranger to my own ears, live, as it were, it seemed suddenly real and true and important.
You told me this: to enjoy my twenties, look forward to my thirties, relish my forties and embrace my fifties and all the years hereafter. You told me to have fun and be happy and smile and love my twenty seven year old self, because years from now I’ll look back on photos and wonder why I thought I was ugly or overweight or unimportant or inadequate, or all of the above even. I smiled as you offered me the words, feeling slightly embarrassed but thankful all the same.
And then you said it. You, a complete stranger, as I picked up my paper bag package and left the store, gave me this: “Keep smiling.” You said. “You’re beautiful”. Beautiful. The word ebbs and flows.
You, lovely bookstore lady, you are beautiful. I have written it down. I won’t forget. I will try and remember when the photos are taken, when the comparisons are made, when the world around me turns dark and tinged with blue and heavy. I will remember one year from now and a year after that, I will revisit our chance encounter. I will bring back the words and let them wash around me as they have done today. Thank you. You made my decade.
Yours truly, (and gratefully),