the eggplant is not afraid

The children stare at me in the pool because I have bright pink athletic tape across my shoulder for support, thanks to my inventive RMT, Michael. Apparently there’s an upper body muscular disaster going on from years of maid work that causes me chest pain. I’m not allowed to swim with my arms so I do a bunch of paddling, like a wingless duck, and then submerge into the hot tub. Middle-age is just plain sexy, all the time.images

Oh good! The adorable woman sits beside me and leans her back into a jet and closes her eyes with bliss. (I saw her in the dressing room all polka dotty and dubbed her the adorable woman.) She is all roundy squat: could be a wench pouring wine upstage of a Shakespeare play. She is wearing a bow in her hair. In the pool. I have to talk to her. She is way. too. adorable. But the airspace is being taken up entirely by a man at the other end of our steaming circle.

He is sort of like a Bruce Willis with rage issues. his loud voice and flailing pink limbs are incongruent with the general sense of peace and relaxation that the hot tub brings. It’s kind of wrecking my image of Bruce Willis, whom I always found hot. This guy is two middle-aged men away from me. The men have their eyes closed and eventually both leave for the steam room because this guy is ramping up in volume. I am angry at them for just walking away. The loud dude is directing his tirade towards a grandmotherly Indian woman, made up entirely of eggplant shapes. He rants on and on to her about moving out of his place to live in his car so he can save up and spent the next winter in Mexico. She listens for a good ten minutes and then asks in a very thick accent, “Family in Mexico?”Unknown

This throws him for a curve ball. What? No. No. Did she not understand anything?! There’s no family. There is hot weather and an escape from Christy Clark and his stupid boss and taxes and – she nods. Then he’s onto Trudeau and the lack of real change in the country. He stands and waves his arms very close to her face in his passionate political outrage. I have been watching this the entire time on high alert, ready to protect the grandmother if I need to. Even Adorable woman opens her eyes to see if the grandmother seems safe. She does. She is honestly listening, her head tilted, a little amused, almost tender with him. She nods. Once in a while she agrees. He empties himself of all the words he’s had rattling inside his brain all day and then gets quiet and sheepish and empty. She smiles at him. He doesn’t quite know what to do, so he hops out of the hot tub and walks away, his bobbing bald head red red red. Grandmother sighs, pulls at her dark brown saggy suit and heads for the change room, well pruned.images-1

The adorable woman says, “I was just waiting for him to get racist and then I was going to step in”. I am so delighted she is speaking to me, I am a little eager when I say, “Me too! You know, I was in emerg the other day – ” She interjects “the shoulder thing?” “Long story. Anyway, there was a woman in the waiting room, obviously in mental/emotional distress who kept crying out to see the doctor. I understand that this would be irritating after a while but the nurse said to her, “You know your behaviour is really childish and selfish, because there are other people waiting here too” and the weeping woman walked out and never came back. Next up was a grumpy old man who was given the wrong medication. He got immediate attention and he had a non-stop loud rant about the immigrants taking all of the jobs, and pretty boy Trudeau cow towing to the lazy Indians and – it was horrifying. Nobody stopped him. Nobody shut him down for what he was saying. They called him sir and served him. If I wasn’t in my cubicle with a bare assed gown on, I would have said something.”

Adorable woman nodded. “We have to speak up in times like that. Because this, like the hospital, should be a safe community environment where all should feel welcome and racism should never be tolerated, no matter how sick and old you are.”


“Even if it’s just political conversation, it can be upsetting for people. We don’t know who votes for what.”

I jump in, “I know! Like – people actually voted for Trump! Oops – I just did it -”

The adorable woman goes on to share with me a story. She went to Disneyland with her boyfriend (of course she did, bow and all) and they wouldn’t let her walk out the gate for lunch, it was blocked. The street was lined with guns and security and helicopters overhead. It was a Trump rally right next door. “The happiest place in the world, apparently, right next to THAT.” Unknown

“Wow.” I say. “Scary.”

She nods and leans back into the jet. I want to stay in but I’m so hot I’ve noticed I’ve become inarticulate, so I wish her adorableness well and head out to do a few more armless laps. As I cling to the paddle board and try not to get water up my nose from the quadra-limbed swimmers, I think about the grandmother. She was not the least bit afraid. Astonishing. She was so gracious with that raging Bruce Willis man. I would have left right away or started an argument with him and really, not because I would be so offended, but because I would have been frightened. Frightened by his intensity, half naked there in the pool.

I catch myself out of breath in the slow lane. Ah. Yes. The RMT told me I breathe shallow. Like a scared rabbit. I was offended by this, of course, because I know how to breathe properly. On stage. I play big strong women. On stage.

I roll over on my back, kick my legs, look up to the ceiling, relax my neck and wait for the coloured flags. I imagine I’m eighty years old and an eggplant and nothing can scare me now.Unknown-1


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