Feeling Alive

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Fly

I told The Wildcat I’d go to the store for some chips to dip into the avocado salsa we’d gotten at the farmer’s market earlier in the day. As I turned left off of our street I nearly cut off a black SUV coming from the right side, as I tried to scoot out before a wall of cars came from the left side. The SUV passed while I waited in the middle lane, a woman in the back seat pointed at me and mouthed some words my way. Assuming she was upset with my decision to pull into the middle of the street before they’d passed, I put my hand up, offering the universal signal for, I’m sorry for being a jackass.

The SUV turned right, which happened to be my route to our neighborhood grocery store. The car then pulled off to the right as if to park, and the honking began. Oh, great, here we go, I thought, until I noticed the other women in the car now all frantically waving their arms out the window at me. Then I wondered if something was wrong with my car and pulled over, still cautious, ready to gun the gas and speed of if I sensed any danger.

As I peered behind me, I saw clearly the woman now walking toward my car, and felt immediate relief. Recognizing she was a softball buddy from years past, I rolled down the passenger window as she approached. She was doing a scavenger hunt to raise money for the cure for MS, and wanted to know if I had a tattoo of a butterfly or other insect she could take a picture of. I did not; only dolphins and yin/yang and fire and waterfalls permanently grace my skin.

We chatted for a moment, vowing to get together soon. I told her I’d keep an eye out at the grocery store for anyone who might have a butterfly or insect tattoo, and then pulled away without gunning the gas, sensing no danger behind me. In fact, I felt kind of excited. Even a little challenged.

I have coaching friends who get clients at the dog park or standing in line at the grocery store because they just can’t help talking to strangers. Not me. Remember, I’m the politely-look-away type. I prefer to give people their space, assuming if they need something from me, they’re fully capable of asking. Now, I’m sure I could have gone to the store, not asked a single soul, and my friend would have been none the wiser,—and probably wouldn’t have cared. Still, I kept a vigilant eye out for someone who looked like they might have a tattoo. Until I realized, umm…this isn’t the 50’s, Dian, anyone could have a tattoo in here.

Not a chance in hell I was going to ask everyone I saw in the store if they were hiding a butterfly or insect beneath their clothes. I did, however decide to ask the next person I saw who wasn’t in a white button-up short-sleeve shirt, tucked neatly into his khaki dockers. I found a woman with reddish hair in jeans and a t-shirt, looking for a carton of eggs, and asked her. Well, I stumbled over my words, with, “Excuse me, this is going to sound like a strange request, but I’m trying to help a friend raise money for the cure for MS…” I could tell the woman was like, Fuck off, I’m not giving you any money lady, and took up a defensive stance, putting her left foot a little closer to me to create some spacial distance between the two of us. “… we’re on a scavenger hunt, and I’m looking for someone with a tattoo of either a butterfly or insect I can take a picture of … ” She immediately loosened up and came in a little closer to reveal that in her twelve tattoos of dragons and tigers and other wildlife, she had not a single insect or butterfly to help me.

I felt anxious and awkward, and strangely alive in a way I hadn’t expected when I set out for chips and soy milk. I didn’t feel rejected or like an idiot for asking in the first place, and still, I couldn’t find the courage to ask anyone else in the store if they had the tattoo my friend was looking for. Part of that may have been that the store was oddly empty for a Saturday afternoon, or maybe that I only needed two items and my shopping was over just as quickly as it had begun. Regardless, I was sheepishly grateful for both.

I thought about how I’d text my friend and tell her I gave it a shot, but no dice, and good luck with the rest of their hunt. I went through the self check-out lane, and opted out of using a bag for my carton of soy milk and bag of chips. I picked up my loot and headed for the stairs. As I hit the top of the stairs I saw a woman and a man walking to their car in the parking lot—not just any woman, but a tatted up woman, sleeves and all.

Without a thought, I pushed through the double doors, chased them across the parking lot, and just as they were dipping into the car, I waved my chips and soy milk in the air and panted: excuse me … strange request … out of breath … umm … scavenger hunt … butterflies or insects? I mean umm…tattoos of either?

The woman said no and I sighed, feeling slightly defeated, just as the guy on the other side of the car piped in with: Does a fly count? Hell yeah it counts! Still out of breath, I thanked them for the contribution and walked over to my car, just a few spots away. I pulled my car key from my pocket, hands shaking from the adrenaline.

At first I thought it strange that I was out of breath, given all the running I’d been doing, and then I realized it wasn’t because I was out of shape: it was because I was feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I realized it was because I’d stepped out of my comfort zone and found myself kind of enjoying it.

I realized it was because I felt … alive.

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