Portrait of a Stranger

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She takes another sip of her raspberry Snapple as her baby cries in the stroller next to her. She hushes the child and goes back to texting on her phone. Her teal tank top doesn’t match her floral shorts and white plastic flip-flops but it’s all she had that wasn’t dirty today. These colors wash out her fair skin even more than normal as she tries to enjoy her day out of the house. Her shoulder length hair sticks to her neck on this hot September day. She didn’t brush it before leaving the house and the curls are looking more like a mop than hair. She sighed and threw it in a half up half down style. She ends the phone call she was making as the child begins to cry again. Setting the phone on the counter, she finally feeds him something to keep him quiet. Her eyes stare out the big glass window onto the street, lingering there as the baby continues to cry. She places her hand in a fist on her forehead, her elbow resting on the counter. “Not even once can I catch a break”, she thinks. “It seems like things are only getting worse and worse rather than better”.

The child is left to cry for a few minutes as she sends a text and checks her email. Her big round sunglasses stick in her hair and don’t even shift a bit as she bends over to hush the small boy again. Her curls fall to the side revealing a tattoo of a small baby’s footprints on the back of her shoulder. Words are placed underneath, the child’s name perhaps as well as the date he was born. More tattoos cover her upper arm but are unrecognizable from a distance. Her children are all she has. “Not marrying before having children worked out so great,” she criticizes herself. “How am I supposed to raise them alone?” There is no ring on her finger, showing her single motherhood. “It’s not like their father has been much help anyway,” she acknowledges. “He would have made an awful husband”. The dark circles under her eyes show the lack of sleep she gets from working extra shifts at the supermarket and being kept up all night with a little one. Makeup isn’t even in the back of her mind, as trying to find time to put it on would be a moot point. Her complexion is surprisingly smooth for not having anything covering her trouble spots. For being in her mid 20’s with three children, her figure has maintained a youthful shape. What most people don’t see are the stretch marks and C-section scar she covers with her oversized tank top.

The small baby has finally stopped crying and she has enough time to rise up from her seat and dispose of her leftover lunch. The Snapple bottle goes into the recycling bin next to the trash and she shuffles back towards the stroller. Her slow walk personifies her exhaustion and the bags under her eyes seem darker the more exposed to the light she is. She grabs the handle of the stroller and turns it towards the door. “Back to reality”, she tells herself. Holding the door open with her backside, she tries to pull the child and the stroller through the door. Once again, she is alone in trying to take care of him, even here in the presence of strangers. “Maybe some things will never change”, she mumbles under her breath. Struggling out the door, she makes it to the street where she pushes the stroller in what seems oblivion. From here she will return to her exhausting life and her small apartment. There two other children will wait for her to cook them dinner and bathe them before she falls asleep on the couch. At least until her alarm wakes her up at 6am to go to work, that is.

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