There’s a saying about turning heads when a person walks into a room. It’s supposed to indicate how attractive or magnetic a person is. I never liked it; most people will turn and look when they realize someone has walked into a room. They want to know what is going on. The real measure is how long a person is watched when they walk into a room.
I say that because I don’t think it does Josephine justice to say “heads turn when she walks into a room.” Of course they do. What’s exceptional is how long everyone’s eyes stay locked on her. Josephine always looks perfect. She’s in great shape. She dresses both stylishly and appropriately. When she smiles, her eyes light up. Her laugh is infectious, and she always know when to laugh, and for exactly how long. Everything about Josephine projects success, from her perfect hair and make-up, to her ever-changing wardrobe. She’s polite, she’s kind, but she is still formal and to-the-point. She’s the epitome of no-nonsense.
Josephine is always the queen of the room, and she knows it.
The room, in this case, is a small cafe that specializes in sweets and sandwiches. She comes here several times a week, as I do, though not from the same place. Most of the time, when I see her here, she gets a salad to go. She has never once stayed to eat. She walks in the door, makes a bee-line for the counter, where her food is already prepared, and she leaves. Josephine has never given any indication of noticing me. I don’t mind that. It’s probably for the best. What would we have to discuss? Something tells me she doesn’t watch Community or The Venture Brothers, and I’m pretty sure she’s never pondered the finer points of Final Fantasy VI. Her favorite bands are probably whatever’s on the Top 40 station at the moment, and her favorite movie is likely a romantic comedy, but not a good romantic comedy, like Stranger Than Fiction.
Speculation, I know.
Here’s the thing: I went to high school with Josephine. She was a beauty, even then. She was a cheerleader and a dancer, and she always dated the coolest, best-looking guys. It would be easy to believe she’d been bred from a tank for science. One parent an Olympic-athelete-turned-doctor, the other a marathon-running attorney. Something like that.
She was in my Theatre Workshop class freshman year. I think we had some other classes together, too, but with one exception my memory is foggy on the subject. We didn’t run in the same circles, you know?
We only really talked once. She probably doesn’t even remember it. Whenever our algebra teacher couldn’t make it in to work, a few of the more unruly students took to making disruptive noises whenever the substitute teacher turned his or her back. Most of them made animal noises, but one person made a hard-to-pin-down guttural sound that was something between a cat’s curious meow and a rubber band. Between the moos and baas was a doyoyoyoyoyoy that couldn’t be sourced.
“Come on, guys,” Josephine would chide. “Grow up.”
Toward the end of the year, as the cacophony was in full swing, she turned to look at me and smiled. Below the rumble of the mock zoo, she whispered, “Can I show you a secret?”
“Sure,” I said, shrugging.
She twisted in her desk to better face me. “Watch my lips and my neck.”
I did. Nothing happened. The audible chaos continued, that distinctive doyoyoyoyoyoy joining a chorus of pigs and wolves. “I make that noise, and no one ever guesses that it’s me. No one knows except you. Don’t tell anyone.”
Josephine smiled at me and turned back around, putting on a serious scowl. “Seriously, you all still think that’s funny? Jeez.”
I wonder if that Josephine exists anymore. The world would be a sadder place if she didn’t.