Monday, December 6, 2021
The show was Hairspray.
Intermission was almost over so there was no line for the restroom. I thought I was alone until I heard a flush from another stall. I came out of mine and saw a woman behind a walker (the kind that has a seat and hand brakes), holding one of her shoes.
I recognized her. She was the woman that had been sitting in the seat in front me in the theater. She wore a beautiful black coat that was fringed in fur as her nearly bald head was fringed in wirey wisps of red hair.
Her eyes implored, “I need help.” I wasn’t sure if she actually said those words or if I only saw her lips moving. She stood with one foot bare and pointed at a plastic cap. She asked if I would get it for her. Meanwhile, she was able to retrieve the canister from the floor of her vacated stall. I guided her to a chair that was in the restroom. I’d always wondered why there were chairs in the ladies room. Perhaps for a moment such as this.
The woman was in pain. She sprayed her bare foot with whatever was in the canister. I don’t know what comfort it brought her. She had no toes, only a knob where her big toe should have been. I knelt on the floor and helped her put her shoe back on, loosening the Velcro straps as much as they would allow.
She grimaced as I tried to get her foot back in her shoe but she didn’t cry out. Her pain was inescapable, her endless reality, and she was handling it as best as she knew how. As she got back to her feet a theater usher appeared, ready to help her back to the theater and I wondered why this usher didn’t appear two minutes ago.
I wished the woman a merry Christmas as the pair left. Alone now, I washed my hands. Twice. Back in the theater, the second act had already started but I found an empty seat near the back and that was good enough. Easier than climbing over a row of people to get to my own seat, the one that had been behind that woman.
That moment of kindness for a stranger was both sad and beautiful. It was, no doubt, humbling for both of us. If I had only one gift to give this Christmas, that was it.