“The girls need a break–tonight we’re gonna take / The chance to get out on the town / We don’t need romance, we only want to dance / We’re gonna let our hair hang down.” -Shania Twain
She was my first pool-side interview. We walk to the pool from her apartment, holding bags of towels and fumbling over flip flops. An interview near a pool? Why the actual heck not? I ask about her lyrics and she couldn’t make up her mind.
“Well, what’s the last song you listened to?” I ask her.
She laughs loudly, “I Feel Like A Woman by Shania Twain.”
I laugh with her. “That’ll work.”
It’s a Thursday night, late August and I’m dragging her off to do another crazy, uncomfortable thing. She doesn’t like talking about herself or her emotions and I’m always up for a stroll down emotional lane. She walks down the steps of the pool and tells me the water is freezing cold–meanwhile, I’m sitting crisscross at the edge of the pool, keeping my phone carefully away from the ledge. I begin the interview while she bobs up and down in the shallow end, trying to warm up.
We begin the interview and what strikes me is how she’s always herself, reminding me of sunflowers and the shade of cobalt blue that’s always been her favorite. She’s the type that loves laughing and has dedicated her life to being a drama-free zone. She loves weird music and comedies and colorful leggings and going for drives–one thing her and I have in common. What I find in talking to her and listening back to the recording is that a lot of people like to put up a facade and look extra impressive, but she doesn’t. She’s just herself.
She grew up in Greenville, just like I did. She has a cat she loves dearly. In her day-to-day life she wakes up on time every morning, showers, straightens her hair, puts on her makeup, throws on some scrubs, and grabs the lunch she made the night before. As a kid she wanted to be a ballerina and then a veterinarian, before finally deciding to major in psychology in undergrad. I ask her why she gave up on those other dreams, immediately correcting myself and asking if she had found something better. But she answers my first question anyway, saying she doesn’t see it as giving up–she views it as changing and psychology was something she found interesting. Right now she’s a nurse’s assistant at a local doctors office, responding to voicemails from patients. “We’re basically the in-between between the patients and the doctors,” she explains. While it’s not her dream job, she views it as a means to an end.
“What’s the hardest part about what you do?” I ask. She answers immediately that the hardest part is talking to angry people frequently. “A little thing about [doctor’s offices],” she says into the recording, laughing, “…people are always angry. It tears my nerves up. I’m a very anxious person and I hate confrontation. So why I’m in this job, I don’t know.” The way she says it is so her–emphatic sarcasm paired with giggling in spurts. We laugh and she swims back away from the ledge. “I digress,” she says.
“That’s quotable,” I say, chuckling.
One of my favorite (although one of the most difficult) questions I love to ask is what each person’s five favorite things on this planet are–it can be anything, from objects to things that aren’t something tangible you can hold in your hand. For her, she loves hiking in her spare time, going on vacations to Virginia, and spending time with her family. “I guess I’ll throw those suckers in there,” she laughs, sarcastic, when she’s listing off her favorite things. The last two things on the list are her cat and living on her own. She likes the way being alone feels–like the weight and stress of everyday life kind of melts away when she finally puts the key in the lock and turns the knob to an empty apartment she’s proud to call home.
She’s always been the sort to feel a bit disconnected from her own generation, preferring to be around older people even as a kid. She tells me the story of how she used to walk down to an older neighbor’s house and they’d sit on the porch and talk. Even now, she visits her own grandmother as much as she can and they go to lunch. It’s one of her favorite routines–always checking in on someone who might need her.
In her day-to-day life, she feels like she’s seen as a pretty chill person, but the biggest thing she wishes people would understand about her is that she likes order. Though she’ll never ask for it, she wishes people understood how order functions. We chat about a lot of different things, her floating around and wading to the deep end because she thinks she sees a bug. “Oh, it’s just a leaf,” she laughs, wading back towards me.
We talk about God. He’s something we’ve both struggled with, but she thinks that God is everything. She says he always does what he says he’ll do, saying that if he says he’ll be with us then he will be. I nod and make a mental note that he’s a big part of her story, but we don’t say any more on the subject.
“And um, I’ve got just a couple more questions for you,” I say, looking down at my lap, searching through questions.
“Are we almost done?”
“Yes,” I tell her, laughing.
“You know I don’t like being serious,” she groans, swimming up closer to the side of the pool. “This is taking a lot out of me—I need to be alone,” she giggles, speaking directly into the recording again. It’s her fifth round with the recording, speaking directly into the speaker.
“Where do you feel safe?” I ask.
“Honestly, when I’m home alone. That’s the safest I feel. I feel like everything kind of just goes away—I could’ve had a hard day at work or a stressful something or whatever and then as soon as I get home it’s just kind of gone.”
I ask a few more questions, digging to get to know her more. “I don’t know the answer to this,” she laughs. She goes on to tell me it’s not that she doesn’t like opening up, but that she honestly doesn’t know the answers to some of the questions because she doesn’t think about it. With her, what you see is what you get–funny, orderly, drama-free, and adventurous.
“That’s okay,” I tell her, “We’ll just end with what’s your favorite color?” She confirms that it’s blue, stating that it’s subject to change at all times but for right now it’s blue.
“Okay, and that’s it,” I say, shutting off my iPhone. I turn off the recording, forgetting my final question. “Wait,” I say, looking down at my notes. I ask her what her epitaph would be, if she were able to choose it.
She doesn’t know, though, what she’d want to leave behind as a legacy. “Honestly,” she says, “Just to be remembered would be enough.”
I nod and wonder if she knows how well she’ll be remembered for the kind, giving, fun-loving person she is. She’s already explained more than enough of herself and I know I have my story : the story of a girl who doesn’t know quite how important she is and isn’t sure where this ride is headed, but she’s here for it. The sky is a velvet blue, dotted with bright stars. I do the only thing there’s left to do–I hop in the pool. We spend the next two hours floating around and chatting.