Helen would, if she had the money, get plastic surgery to make herself look extra-ordinary. But because she has an ordinary job, she has an ordinary paycheck that does not allow for extravagance.
Helen takes an enormous bite of her cheese and peanut butter sandwich and chomps, peeling the sticky mixture from the roof of her mouth with her tongue. She stares out the fogged over window of the train, wondering how she can become someone people notice. She is tired of being one of the crowd. She wants heads to turn, even if they don’t know her name, Helen Hobowitz, and want to talk to her because she is so out of the ordinary.
Hefting herself to her feet she steps off the train and buttons her coat tightly to her neck, absently holding out her hand out to steady the old woman stepping off the train behind her until the woman gives her a semi-grateful nod and shuffles on her way. Walking through the city center, she hunches against the cold, her scarf creating a sort of hump in the back of her coat. After stooping to pick up a bottle cap for a woman balancing a baby and bags, she continued to duck and dodge and step aside as people passed in a holiday rush.
Helen stood staring for a moment at a glamorous CK1 ad in a shop window. The woman in the window was everything Helen was not. She seemed to be tall, although the picture cut off her legs and most of her head and arms. Her stomach was flat, and she didn’t seem to mind the snow flurries fluttering past her tanned bosom. A man passing stumbled as he moved past her and she grabbed his arm to steady him, acknowledging his thanks with a slight incline of her head, even as she continued to stare at the woman she wanted to be.
Turning the corner, she pushed her glasses up on the bridge of her nose and stepped into her favorite coffee house. Digging in her enormous floral printed canvas bag, she dropped two cans of food into the Food for the Homeless box by the door before ordering her skim milk, no foam latte. Dropping two dollars in the tip jar because it was the holidays, she patiently waited for her drink, stepping out of the way and letting two young women take the drink that was meant for her and taking the next one instead.
Climbing the stairs, she found her favorite comfy chair occupied. Upset by this unexpected slight to her routine, she went to the other side of the room.
The big comfy chair there, although not nearly as comfortable with not nearly as good a view, was empty, and she sank into it gratefully. Piling the persons plates and dishes together for the server to pick up later, she tidied her area and then sank back into the chair, her hot coffee warming her large, cold hands and the steam fogging up her glasses.
She stared out the window while sipping, the last light of day fading as the holiday lights flashed on, their reds and blues highlighting hanging plastic presents high above the street center. She watched the people below scurrying like ants with enormous food packs on their backs, wrapped in bright bags with store logos all over the place, their faces flushed, their mouths in thin, hard lines as they battled through.
As she watched, a woman stumbled past below, and Helen grunted when a black glove fell from her coat, unnoticed as she struggled with the huge box in her arms. Heaving herself up, Helen left her coat and things upstairs, went outside, picked up the glove, hurried after the woman, tapped her on the shoulder, showed her the glove with a slight smile and gently tucked it in the woman’s pocket to the sound of the woman’s rushed thanks and happy holidays and such.
Back in the coffee house, Helen finished her coffee, gathered her things, buttoned her coat to her neck and went out into the cold night air, crisp with fresh snow and the sound of carolers over the din of sales clerks ringing up purchase after purchase.
Standing at the train stop she gently pulled the little boy back by his shoulder as a car raced past. His mother scolded him and dragged him away. Helen continued to stand there, wondering just what she could do that might make her out of the ordinary.