For I May Never Pass This Way Again

She was behind the counter as I breezed into the hardware store. I was glad to see her, and when she glanced up I smiled and asked "How're ya' doin'?"

She nodded and returned the obligatory, "Alright, and you?"

"Good, thanks," I said, then asked her to remind me where the electronics section was, even though I knew perfectly well. She looked across the store and named a couple of aisles, and I went to look for my item.

As I stood in line at the till, I wondered--not for the first time--what her story was. I knew very little about her--just that before she started here a few weeks ago, she used to work at the grocery store. I had once seen her in that same store as a customer with a young child in tow--a daughter, I think. Something about this woman told me that the father was not a prominent part of her life, at least not anymore. Perhaps it was the thin line she set her lips into whenever she had to do, well, anything. Perhaps it was the lack of a ring on her left hand. Or perhaps it was the fact that she never smiled.

I had tried to get her to smile. I had made a point of commenting on her unusual, but pretty name. I had used said name every time I had seen her since then, even when her name tag was not present or visible. I shared my own name with her, making small talk about the weather, the season, the busy-ness of the store. But not once had this woman with the flame-coloured hair and serious eyes broken into a full, genuine smile.

I wondered what had happened to this woman to give her such a serious outlook on life. (And if perhaps, she would still be working at the grocery store if she had been a little friendlier with the customers.) I also wondered if today would be the day when I would reach my goal--to see a beautiful smile crinkle her face, and see if maybe the lines were not so uncomfortable there as my experience would suggest.

"Would you like a bag for that?" Her query interrupted my reverie. I looked at the small item she had just rung though.

"No, thanks. Save a plastic tree, and all that."

And then I saw it--the slight up-turn of the corners of the mouth. I was close, I could feel it!

It was like the smile just kept growing. The few remaining comments in our conversation were not particularly humourous or entertaining, but before I left, she was wearing--albeit briefly--a full, glorious smile.

As I got back into my van, I knew what my new goal was:

If possible, I will be her friend.