Nadia dropped her jacket and purse just inside the front door and headed straight for her room. In a sort of desperation, she changed out of her business suit into shorts and a tee shirt, trading her stilettos for running shoes. She grabbed her iPod, swept her hair back in a pony tail, and, in a matter of minutes, she was on her front porch stretching her legs. The air was cool, and there was a slight breeze, but she was about to create wind. She cranked up some fast-paced music, and seconds later, her feet were pounding the pavement. Step after angry step, breath after desperate breath, she fought the tears that threatened to spill onto her cheeks.
She turned south and headed out on Lake Road. She wanted to get out of town and the path around the lake was one of her favorite places to run. The fresh air cleansed her lungs, but her legs were already burning. She pushed through the pain. Her heart ached, but it had less to do with the run, and more to do with the encounter she’d had on her way home from work tonight.
Her mind replayed the scene at the gas station. Nadia had recognized her immediately, but she turned away hoping Amy wouldn’t see her. She just didn’t feel like chatting. It was too late, though.
“Nadia? Wow, it’s been a long time.” Amy seemed genuinely glad to see her. “How’ve you been?”
“I’m doing pretty well. How are you, Amy?” Nadia listened and did her best to keep up the small talk until the pump shut off. She glanced at her watch before looking back to Amy.
“Hey, Nadia? I know you’re in a hurry, but before you leave, can I tell you something?”
“Sure.” She began to mentally tap her foot.
Amy took a deep breath and looked at the ground for a brief moment. “Well, there’s something I want you to know. Back in high school, you were the only person who was ever really nice to me. Truthfully, you were probably my only friend. You were the only person who ever invited me to church, and I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t found my relationship with the Lord.” Amy reached her fingers up to wipe tears from her eyes. “So, I just wanted to say thank you. It was really good to see you again.” She leaned up and gave Nadia a hug and turned to walk back to her car.
Nadia was speechless, her eyes full of tears, as she watched Amy get in her car and drive away.
Now, as she took her frustration out on the pavement, Nadia thought about the person she used to be. There was a time she’d cared about others more than herself; a time when she actually took the time to really see someone. Not just look at them. Somewhere along the way, it had become easier to stop caring rather than risk being hurt by caring too much. Little by little, that woman had retreated and all that was left was her shell.
She was tired of wearing a mask, though; tired of pretending that everything was ok. It was a typical exchange of words. Someone asks, “How are you?” You say, “I’m fine. How are you?” That’s how life was, but she’d grown tired of the mundane. Her pace slowed as she climbed a hill. She groaned in disgust. Once, just once, she’d like to be honest. The mock conversation played out in her head.
Someone would say, “Hey, Nadia. How are you?”
She pictured herself replying nonchalantly. “I’m terrible actually. I feel like I’m dying inside and no one has a clue. How are you?” Okay. So, maybe that was overly dramatic, but isn’t that what some really felt like saying?
As Nadia approached the beach area, she slowed to a walk and put both hands on her head. The setting sun cast an orange glow over the murky water. She made her way to the water’s edge and watched as the breeze made ripples dance across the lake.
She thought it ironic how one moment of one day could change a person. Now, as she stood alone, staring across the water, she hated the person she’d become. The only thing she wanted was for God to help her be a friend. She didn’t want to look at people anymore.
She wanted God to help her see them.
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