Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Extra

Today I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. As I pushed my cart past the deli, another shopper drew my eye. She had a long, blonde ponytail. I recognized her from my yoga studio. A couple months ago, she came to the Sunday morning class I normally attend. Her brother came with her that day. He complained about tight hips. She borrowed a studio mat, while her brother used hers. I've only seen her in class the once, but she chatted familiarly with our instructor, so I think she's a regular at the studio, just not at that particular session.
Carol! I'd recognize that smile anywhere. How are you, dear?

I circled through the produce department, collecting my carrots and tomatoes and green leaf lettuce, while this woman strolled through the fruits. I wondered if she recognized me, too. The Pringles and Coke in her cart surprised me. In yoga class, she was the student everyone envied, even though There Is No Competition In Yoga. If I'd spent any time picturing her life at home, it would have included a super clean diet, possibly vegan, certainly gluten-free. Shows how unimaginative I am. Now I knew two things about her, that she can do beautiful flying splits, and she eats Pringles. Also that she has a brother with tight hips.

All these thoughts tumbled through my head in the produce department, and still, she never looked my way. I spent some time at the bagged salads, pulling them out of the refrigerated case and scrutinizing them for the slimy brown beginnings of rot. At the same time, the woman from yoga class studiously considered the nearby fruit salad offerings.

I sort of wanted to walk over and talk to her. But what would I say? "Hi. I don't know your name, but I recognize you from yoga. We once shared space in the studio, and your brother was kind of terrible at pigeon pose. Not that I judge him for it; I know he has tight hips."

How strange would that sound? In the end, I didn't feel I had the right to speak to her. I realized I was just an extra in her life. If her credits had rolled that morning in the yoga studio, I would have been Yoga Student #3. Today I was Woman Agonizing Over Spring Mix.
Did you ever stop to think about the trio huddled in blankets in the back?
What's their story? I bet it's good. And the oarsman in red? Most
interesting guy in the boat.

I thought about that. Here I am, a fully realized human being, reduced to filler in another person's episode. Just an unremarkable face in the background. I considered the fact that I recognized her, but she didn't recognize me back. Rather than take offense, I wondered how often I'm guilty of failing to see the people around me, the bodies who serve as my own extras. Do they sometimes recognize me? Do any of them know I have a weakness for Nutella and children who incessantly tattle on each other?

And all of them, from Man Arguing On The Phone to Elderly Woman Ordering Tea to Yoga Student #5, they aren't really extras, any more than I am. We're all part of a glorious, ensemble cast. I have 7 billion co-stars. I know this, but sometimes it's good to be reminded. Next time I'm out, I'm going to try to pay more attention to people than I do to my produce.

8 comments:

  1. I just had that happen!!! It was at a birthday party - I recognized one of the parents as one of the five moms I took my childbirth prep class with five years ago. I pretty big moment in our lives, but it's not like we kept in touch afterwards. I thought about saying hi a bunch of times, but then I realized... what then? "Hi, I knew you five years ago." Fantastic. :D But it's nice to have the reminder that these people are still floating out there living full and amazing lives. Facebook is kinda like that, actually.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so relieved I'm not the only with these thoughts. :D

      Delete
  2. Love this post! I'm a big fan of movie-ish analogies (during the CR blog hop I posted about how I "see" my stories play out in my crazy head.) So nice how you see everyone as being part of an ensemble cast--you so sa-weet! I totally see most folks as the extras in my movie, not gonna lie. LOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're definitely a leading lady, Vristen! :)

      Delete
  3. Good post. We all need to be reminded occasionally that we're not as noticeable as we'd like to believe and others aren't as invisible as we pretend they are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A sage bit of wisdom, David. Reminds me of something one of my teachers had posted in a classroom... "You'd be amazed how many people AREN'T thinking about you."

      Delete
  4. I hope at some point or another we all have these thoughts...that we're just a drive-by to someone else's story. I would never go up and speak to someone in the scenario you described, but my dh would/does. He loves nothing more than chatting with strangers or people who he once saw in a yoga class...

    ReplyDelete