Sometimes you can tell a lot about a person simply by listening to their voice.  Just as eyes are “windows to the soul,” voices can be impressions of the heart.

Visiting a friend in the hospital not long ago, I needed to go to the tenth floor.  Pushing a square glowing button of golden orange with an arrow pointing “UP,” I waited for the elevator.  Shiny doors of silver opened, disappearing into wall spaces on either side allowing me to step in.  Two men huddled near a panel of buttons to the left, chatting like old friends.

Trying to appear occupied, I looked down at a dotted steel floor where I noticed scuff marks of white on navy blue boots.   In my hands, I held a small potted plant.  Waxy green leaves rolled unconsciously between my thumb and forefinger.

The two men seemed to have reconnected after a chance encounter elsewhere in the hospital.  A family lounge?  The cafeteria?  “I still can’t believe it’s you,” one of them said!  “Yeah, it’s been a long time.  Man, its great running into each other,” responded the other, with a pat on the back!

As the elevator lifted up, pitches and tones of the men’s voices took twists and turns within our 5X7 generic space.  Pauses, sigh, sadness and laughter suggested important changes had taken place for each of them.

One of the men had a lilting sound to his voice.  Notes of anticipation that rose higher with each passing floor.  The other sounded resigned yet hopeful.  His voice disguised suffering, I guessed.

Not much time left.  The elevator wall panel told me so.  Glowing buttons highlighted floor numbers soon-to-be.  They hinted farewells were about to take place.

Nervous laughter trickled among the small of our spot.  An air of tension suddenly weighed heavily as we neared the first floor to open.  When doors slid wide a large sign on the back wall read, “Maternity.”  The first man out brushed back his hair nervously to say, “You take care of yourself.”   “Sure will!  Tell your wife, congratulations,” the other man called out.

It was only then that I truly looked at the other man who stood in the corner.  He pushed a lit button with one hand while gripping an IV pole with the other.  Dressed in an oversized hospital gown with very loose jeans, he glanced at me with a slight smile.  Shiny doors closed, silently.  Seconds later, when they opened, I read a different sign.   “Oncology.”

After the man stepped out he turned, whispering familiar words to me.  “Take care of yourself.”  His voice gave me the impression of kindness, sincerity and gentleness.  In time and space of small, my heart had grown large.  He left me feeling like I had known him for most of my years.


The ‘Model’ Girl

While shopping for a gift for my son’s birthday, I stopped at one of our major department stores.  You would recognize its name if given here.  It’s one of the mall’s Anchor stores.

Bending down to peer inside a case of clear glass, I was awed by its riches, a medley of valuables in all sizes and shapes.  I was quite intrigued by an array of special ball point pens.  Most were made from artful mosaic glass, with cases to match.   Lying next to them were sleeping lead pencils in beds of deep blue velvet.  Together, they created a beautiful display.  Like a painting that should have been hung on someone’s wall instead of hidden behind a case for the likes of you or me to see.

A trio of young women soon swooped by, nearly knocking me off my wobbly feet.  I was still low to the ground to see the unique treasures inside the glass.  None of the women stopped to apologize, instead they giggled and laughed, moving on their merry way.  Instinctively, I grabbed hold of the nearest thing to break my fall, leaving my DNA upon the showcase.  The police did not have to be called to dust for finger prints.  There they were in plain sight.

Quickly, a tall dark ‘model’ girl came rushing from behind the counter, her designated sales spot.  “Don’t touch the glass,” she scoffed at me!  “I’m sorry,” I answered back.  I was just admiring your pens.  A gift for my son,” I went on to say.   I thought about mentioning the three women who nearly knocked me over, yet I didn’t bother.  This ‘model’ girl’s main priority seemed to be cleaning the glass.  She sighed.  Clicking her tongue, she rolled her big brown eyes.  Quickly, she grabbed a white cloth together with her blue cleaner.

When the the ‘model’ girl finished her task, I was about to ask to see one of the beautiful pens behind her spotless, clean case.  It was then that I noticed her eyes glistening with dampness.  I sensed something in her and in return she sensed something in me.  “I’m truly sorry that you’re having a bad day,” I said from behind the counter a few feet away.

Holding her head high, this lovely ‘model’ girl brushed back falling tears.  From behind the counter, a soft, pink tissue appeared.  Somewhere deep inside, she regained her composure, her strength.  I don’t know how.  Reaching across the counter, she gripped my hand looking for comfort then, “I have breast cancer.  My surgery is tomorrow.”