April 20, 2010
There is a woman I know at work, really only in passing, from occasionally seeing each other in the ladies’ room. Her name is Deborah, but she goes by Debbie. She is an older black woman, I have no idea what her age is – she could be 50 or she could be 75. She works in the other side of the warehouse, somewhere – we both work in a large, Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark military warehouse. I’m in a squat white building in the middle of the two-story structure, and Debbie is somewhere down at the far west end. She’s usually bundled up in a jacket so I suspect she actually works out in the warehouse itself. Her long silver-gray hair is always pulled back in a french braid or a tight bun at the nap of her neck; yet despite the stiffness of her hair, her manner is the exact opposite. She is missing a tooth (or two) in the front of her mouth and has the world-weary eyes I might associate with a woman in a Dorothea Lange photograph. Yet her smile is omnipresent, a glimpse of sunshine that never leaves her face.
Today on my way out of the restroom, Debbie was coming in. “Good morning, sexy Momma!” she greets me. She compliments me on my t-shirt, a graphic print with the words, “Cherry Cocktail” and a rhinestone-studded image of a cherry-garnished martini glass. I thank her, and she shrugs and smiles. “I used to drink,” she says, “not anymore. My boyfriend, he drinks. I figure someone in the house gotta be sober, so it’s me. Besides, I know why he drinks. And he’s not a mean drunk, he’s just a happy drunk. I can live with that. He takes care of me … but that man can’t cook! He tries, though. He’s always there – whenever I gotta go in for some test or something, and when my weight is up to here (she gestures with her hands to indicate, I assume, a waist) or down to there (gestures again – as I know her, Debbie is a slender woman) … he’s always with me. He’s a good man.”
I nod and smile back at her. “He is a good man. I could live with the drinking, too.”