The Woman with the McDonald’s Bag
She was probably ten years younger than me, but she seemed older. Maybe it was the extra thirty pounds. Her long blonde hair hung almost to her waist, but it bounced a little (along with her middle) as she stepped out of her car in our parking lot. I watched her place a McDonald’s bag on the Chevy roof, followed by a drink carrier.
McDonald’s. Lord, it had been years since I had seen one of those bags near CrossFit.
It brought me back to the time that Tooner had brought a Big Mac and a large Coke to (the old) CrossFit Watertown, thinking he could eat his lunch and watch the noon class tackle the workout. He looked surprised when I kicked him out. I said, “These people came here to get away from bad choices. Don’t be flaunting that stuff in front of them.” Tooner limped off like a kicked dog. He really had meant no harm.
I tried to imagine who this woman with the Mickey D’s bag was, and why she was eating this food that I knew was death. It seemed like she worked in the church downstairs. I imagined she had a job, four kids, and a husband named Ed, who was (of course) balding and fond of short-sleeve dress shirts. Ed loved sports on television and bowled on Tuesday nights with his old high school buddies. He still had a hard time saying he loved his wife, and he often called her “Mother.” She had learned not to mind. She was a mother, after all. Even with his paunch and his hair loss, Ed still thought he was a catch. This woman, she didn’t think that anymore about Ed, and most certainly not about herself. Life had worn on her, but society had worn on her more. Taught her conflicting messages for her entire life: you can be whoever you want to be, but you should be what we would like you to be. Servile, subservient, a worker in the “caring” professions, a mom, a second chair, not “too much” and certainly don’t cut your hair too short because we all know what women with short hair really are. “Did you get ketchup for the fries, Mother?”
All this from ten seconds of observation. I was so full of shit. How did I know she wasn’t a surgeon? How did I know she wasn’t a software developer? Maybe she was a confused, slightly manic writer, just like me. How did I know those McDonald’s meals were even for her? Maybe she ate Paleo and went to CrossFit. Maybe she had just changed to the green band on pull-ups. Maybe she had volunteered to do the lunch run for her co-workers and she planned to eat none of that crap. Maybe she had a perfect Zone meal (3 blocks) waiting for her in the refrigerator. Maybe she was looking at me and thinking, “What is up with that short-haired chick in the Mini?” Maybe she was imagining I had a hot girlfriend and a published best-seller. I often imagined those things too. Or maybe she just thought I was a judgmental asshole and the thought of people like me scared her away from trying the workout that could change her life.
She walked inside. I followed, smelling the hot fries all the way up the stairs.
“The only thing that we can know is that we know nothing, and this is the highest flight of human wisdom!” – Leo Tolstoy, “War and Peace”