I just had the most surprising of interactions with a stranger.
Fatigued after a trip to the gym and seven hours of class on six hours of sleep, I trudged through the thin winter air of Evanston to ACE Hardware on my way home to finally purchase some long overdue nails. I'd been putting off the errand for a while, with the end goal of hanging various frames up on my wall in an effort to make it homier, but it was just one of those I Can Always Do This Next Week things. So despite my exhaustion and despite the tundra that has been the Midwest, this translady at last went to ACE.
To be fair, I had made an effort that morning: my olive shoes matched my olive shirt matched my olive eyeshadow, I had worn contacts instead of glasses to really do the mascara justice and worn a sparkly jacket over a sparklier sweater, and so forth. But by the time I made it to the register to buy my $2.29 pack of 1.25" nails, I was surprised to receive the following comment from the similarly fatigued cashier:
"I just really have to tell you that you're beautiful."
Taken aback, I thanked them.
I smiled to myself as they rang me out and counted my change. Eyeshadow or no, it was clear from my vocal range that I wasn't a lady in the traditional sense. I couldn't help but interpret their remark as a show of solidarity.
The store was almost closing, and since there were maybe only one or two additional customers, I delayed for a few minutes and chatted with my new friend. The conversation never returned to where it had started, nor expanded upon the significance of their compliment, but it was enough to know without acknowledging.
"What was your name?" they asked me when it was getting time for me to go.
"Bea," I said instantly. I internally congratulated myself for not thinking of my old name first.
"Good name," they said. "I only knew one other Bea: she was an old lady with silvery white hair and these enormous circular silver glasses. They were just so perfect for her, you know? I met her in a small town, just passing through. But I guess she left an impact."
"We have a habit of doing that," I wanted to say, but didn't.
They told me to dream sweet for them and I told them to get some rest before another long day at ACE Hardware. We smiled.
And with that I went home.