I hardly knew you. I knew your name, of course, and your face. You knew me well enough to say hello when we crossed paths. But aside from the basic facts about you – where you came from, your occupation, how many kids you had – you were a mystery to me.
But there is one thing I knew about you. I knew it before anyone told me. I saw it in your melancholy eyes – eyes that were quick to sink toward the floor. I saw it in your tight movements, your hesitant voice, your guarded body. In your mind, you didn’t deserve the space you occupied.
I also saw him – the man who made you look down, grow quiet, and guard your body. Despite the contained exterior he wore for the public, his intensity seeped through. He reminded me of a downed electric wire throwing sparks on the pavement. All he needed was fuel – fire, water, an unfortunate gust of wind – to cause an explosion.
So when I heard what he was doing to you, to your children, I wasn’t surprised.
I was, however, furious. I quietly made a call to someone who helps women in your situation. They said the story was not new and that they would do their best. But, really, it would only begin when you decided you were done.
So I did the only other thing I could: I prayed for you.
Then, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think about you for a while. I assumed if something changed, the news would find me somehow.
One day, as I was waiting at the hair salon, I watched a woman getting a blow dry. Her hair had just been dyed a gorgeous blonde, and I took satisfaction in watching the stylist brush it into supple waves around her shoulders. Then the woman stood up, waved to me, and smiled.
It was you.
I didn’t recognize you – and not just because of your hair. Your whole being was lighter, your movements freer. Like you’d cast off a debilitating weight.
“You look beautiful,” I said.
“I needed a change,” you said.
I was desperate to tell you what I knew, to commend you for what you must have done to look this way. Instead, I touched your arm and said, “May this change flow into the rest of your life.”
“Amen,” you said. “Sometimes you have to go from the outside in.”
And then you left, smiling and hair swinging free.
I hardly knew you, but I was so proud of you.
You had begun.