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Esther at the USO
I am living with my brother. He is my younger brother and we have always been closer to each other than the rest of our siblings/step-siblings. He and I have helped each other through some interesting life situations. We are sharing an apartment for a few months while I get settled. He offered this to me after I searched in vain for living quarters. He works full time and is a full time student (finishes his degree this year). He moved to a larger apartment in his building to accommodate me. He is appreciative of my housekeeping and I am appreciative of his busy schedule, his absence.
He is an unassuming type of guy. Very down to earth and friendly. He is tall, not very tall for my family, only about 6' 3". He has a goofy smile like me and children LOVE him. When he is at a gathering he is easy to find. Just look for where all the kids are. They always gravitate to him. It is almost like a law of physics? He has a heart two sizes too large. Cannot stand to see any human or animal hurting and is what I call a "cream puff." He has the soft spot right out front where you can see it. His expression, the look in his eyes says it all.
We are shopping. My brother and I. This is easy for us. We don't stock a lot and we basically have same diet, besides he eats about anything I cook. I can plan meals and he follows me around in the store. I command him to gather this, go find that. We take our small amount of groceries to check out and the lines are long. We are in no hurry and are comfortable being silent with each other. The pleasant silence is spent observing other people... always a treat. People are so interesting and fun, and to prove my point here she is.
I will call her Esther. If I had to put a name to her I think this one would do well, maybe she would like it also? She is in front of us in line with a basket full of groceries. She is seventy-five with bright hennaed hair and pink lipstick. She is petite and has energy. Little sparks fly off of her and her eyes have the slant of someone who smiles frequently and liberally. She turns to start the process of unloading her purchases onto the carousel, readying for cashier transaction. As she turns she catches my brother's eyes and he smiles at her. It is his automatic reaction to her sweet friendly face ' and guess what?
Esther is in love.
She perks up immediately, turns to him and says "Oh is that all you have?
Please go ahead of me?" Of course my brother smiles to her and says "we are not in a hurry, thank you though, that was very kind."
When he says "we" she notices me. She looks up to me and sizes me up. Am I worthy of this creature she has just become smitten with? Not likely. She gives me the hairy eyeball and brings her attention back to my brother. "I insist that you go ahead of me. I have so much here and your order will only take a second. Please be my guest" and rattles her cart out of the way. My brother and I look at each other and decide not to argue. He smiles to her again, thanks her and we move forward in line.
She looks to me again and says "my stars, he is handsome. Is he a model?" Of course I have to giggle because he is my baby brother. When I look at him I see scraped knees, peanut butter and jelly down the front of a T-shirt and a guy that all kids and animals love. I forget that he has that look to him. I am reminded when we are in public. There is always someone looking at him, and I catch this and remember, "that's right, my brother is quite the looker."
When Esther asks about him being a model he blushes. He is very modest and vanity is completely foreign to him. He doesn't perceive his initial impression on people. It is charming to watch him be bashful and boyish with Esther. I am really beginning to enjoy this. Time to get in on the fun now.
"I think he should be a model, however he is too busy with school. Such is the life of my baby brother" I say to Esther. The light comes on in her eyes. "Did you say brother?"
"Yes, he is my little brother. "
Now she is very happy. She scans our faces, looks us over carefully analyzing our genetics and affirming this fact to her visual satisfaction. I am tall like him, big nose like him, one of my eyes is the same color as his eyes, we both have long legs. She has affirmed this relationship and is about to confide in me...
"Yes, I see the resemblance now. I thought you were his girlfriend", and she smiles conspiratorially at me. We are now sharing the knowledge that she is actually telling me I am definitely good enough to be his sister any day of the week. "He should be an actor. My stars, he is so tall and handsome. He has that quality about him. He could be famous."
Now I am really enjoying this. My brother is blushing, staring at the supermarket tile floor and Esther and I are having a party. She is standing a little taller now and I can see that Esther is a firecracker. She is energy
moving all directions and she knows that my brother is helpless to her charms. She is genuinely a lady. This is as clear and bright about her as is her flaming red-orange hair. She says "I bet he gets told that all the time".
I tell her yes he does, and that really what I find to be his best quality is his kindness. I tell her that he is very sweet and loving, call him a cream puff. She is delighted. We have a common interest for this moment. We are both members of my brother's fan club. He is wanting to tell me to stop, doesn't want to interrupt and is liking his abashed situation.
Suddenly her attention turns my way. She looks up to me and says "You are very tall also. Do you find men that are tall enough for you to date?" I look at her and smile. I am used to these kind of comments. My turn to be conspiratorial. I let her in on my secret. "It is really not a problem. I am attracted to short men."
Now I have Esther's heart. She finds out this information about me and I have sent her to a place that she adores. Her eyes show the visible shift of returning to a memory, one that is dear and sweet to her. She is young again and her lover is there with her. He is dapper and stylish like her, fun and bright like her, young and romantic like her.
Not only is he these things to her right this moment, in her mind and memory, there is something else.
"Short is nice too. My children recently met my lover from long ago. He came and visited for a week. My daughter and her husband spent time with us and they liked him very much. My daughter is happy that he will be coming to visit again soon. She just had one thing to add. she had to tell me that it surprised her he was so short! To tell you the truth, it surprised me too. He used to wear shoes with heels. He told me it was because of his back. You know I believed him?" There is Esther's million dollar smile. She is dazzling. She is radiant. She and I are easily infatuated with cute short guys and for a moment, just for a moment I want to be with her there.
Where? This is my guess: at the USO. It is 1943. Esther and I have just returned from the ladies room. A fresh application of lipstick and we are ready to go dance and meet the short men of our dreams. We are friends of the highest order, would never undercut the other over something as silly as a dress or a man. Esther and I will dance the night away, fall in love over and over again until it is time to go home for a couple of hours of sleep before the alarm goes off. The lights are low, the dance floor is crowded, the big band plays a slow song and Esther and I are fast friends. Being Esther's friend is the VIP ticket, she is the belle of the dance floor, the social butterfly and the woman of the hour.
When I return from the USO I see that my brother has unloaded all of Esther's groceries from her cart onto the carousel. While I have been partying with her in our nonexistent past he has noticed that her hands are a bit twisted. Looks to be a bad case of arthritis. He doesn't ask to help. He just does. It his kindness again and she is so very grateful. She thanks him profusely to make him blush again and she enjoys every minute of it.
Yes Esther, you definitely still have what it takes.
Our transaction is done in a minute and we are back out into the sunshine. I wave good-bye to my dear friend and look to my brother. "My stars, you are so handsome, you should be a model!" And I giggle. He grins and tells me to shut up. He doesn't mean it. It is the quality that I tried to convey to Esther. He is there at the USO also. He is dancing with the quiet little woman who has sat by herself and not been asked to dance all evening. He is concerned that she is lonely and is smiling to her and bringing her out of herself, getting her to smile back.
It's OK. Esther doesn't mind. She likes them short. Just like me.
Hari Bol !
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