Daily activities may be seen as mundane, mindless bits of things we either need to do or are required to accomplish. We go through them with our eyes glazed and our ears shut, but just maybe there’s something we should be more attuned to and I had one of those moments yesterday.
Walking around a large, recently renovated super market, my eye was caught by another woman shopper. Very, or should I say extremely, thin, she had nondescript blond hair pulled back into a pony tail. Her rail-thinness was highlighted by the lack of any breast development showing through the inexpensive tan raincoat she wore. No, it wasn’t raining and, in fact, it was sunny and a warmer-than-expected day in the area.
Her cart wasn’t even half-full but there was a large box of Pampers in it and a small package of fresh corn, some other vegetables and a loaf of bread. No milk, no cake, cookies or sauces of any type, nor any type of meat, eggs or any of the other items a shopper might pick up on a trip to the market. And there was one other thing I noticed; her face. A sad, painfully depressed expression was on her face.
Where was the child for the Pampers? No children were with her. She was completely alone and I didn’t get the impression she was a nanny. Why was I looking at her? I’ve never been blatant in my observations of people and this time was no exception; I was careful in my glancing at her. I didn’t want her to feel that I was, in any way, making a judgment about her and yet I was. I had the distinct impression that this was a woman who was depressed, possibly a victim of domestic abuse and she had an eating disorder.
How did I come to these thoughts? Sure, I’m a psychologist but, despite popular beliefs, we do not go around diagnosing everyone who comes across our paths. For sure, I’ve always been a keen observer of people but I don’t recall doing it in the super market. I could be wrong, but this time was different.
The sunken chest, somewhat sunken cheeks and the closed-up raincoat on a warm, sunny day were factors in my thinking about her and her condition. And, when I say “condition,” I am using it in the broadest sense possible.
Then, the shopping cart with few items in it might have been a sign of a careful, health-conscious shopper, but the lack of milk and the Pampers seemed odd. Even if a child has a milk allergy, the person caring for the child will purchase some other form of milk substitute. Perhaps there was no child after all and the Pampers were for some other purpose. But what?
Twenty minutes later, I found myself waiting on a checkout line near where she was standing. She never looked up at anyone. No sign of animation, no casual glances around her. It was as though she were on a mission and she had to complete it quickly without interruption, yet there wasn’t a hurried air about her.
Possible scenarios flew through my mind and one familiar one came to mind. When I was a young child, a woman in the neighborhood was never seen leaving her home because her husband felt she was too beautiful and men would be attracted to her. Sound familiar? Yes, she was an abused woman and I never did see her but for that tiny bit as I flew past the house.
The only hint of her existence in the home, as I said, was when I went by an alleyway near the corner of the home and a shade would be pulled back a sliver to reveal one finger and an eye. As a child, I was terrified and used to run by the house as quickly as possible because I thought a witch lived there. One of my older sisters told me the woman’s story when I was an adult and I understood.
Was this woman abused? There was no way for me to know. We were like ships passing in the night and neither of us would have a word for each other. She put her items on the checkout belt, as did I, and we completed our purchases. After all of mine were out of my cart, I looked up and she was gone.
There were so few items in her cart that she quickly paid and left the store. I didn’t even see a hint of her in the large parking lot outside the ceiling-high glass windows that fronted the store. How did she disappear so quickly? Not for me to know.
Hopefully, she doesn’t have the life I was imagining and that I was completely off-track on that one. But I have my doubts.