The Lady in the Towel
Steadily walking and deep in thought, I was well into what I thought was the men's locker room at the gym, when my mental state seamlessly transitioned from tranquil, quiet thoughtfulness into a gripping panic.
I realized that there was a good chance that the naked person I'd just seen in my peripheral vision, standing in the shower, was that of the opposite sex. So, not looking up, and steadfastly maintaining my focus on the linoleum floor tiles under my feet, I made an abrupt and immediate about face.
I was several steps into my beeline drive for the exit door, when right in front of me, feet away, to my horror, walked a naked lady from the shower, drying her hair with a towel. In a desperate effort to avoid eye contact, I spontaneously ducked into an adjacent toilet stall. The next thing I remember, is seeing stars as I bounced off the closed stall door.
Dazed, I staggered backward and just as she looked up, ran directly into her. We were eye to eye. "I'm so sorry," I said. I knew I'd been slipping a bit in my old age, and what with the bang on the head, I suddenly wasn't sure whether I'd spoken out loud or not.
She wrapped herself in her towel, took my arm and began slowly walking, leading me toward the exit. My face began throbbing, and I was having trouble seeing. She began calling me by name, and she spoke as if we knew one another.
That was when I pulled my arm away, walked passed her, out of that steamy place and back into the cool, quiet hallway. I knew I'd find my way if I just kept walking, searching.
Warm light emanated from open doors as I passed, illuminating the dark, glossy wooden floorboards that creaked under my feet as I walked. I could hear voices, clear and distinct. But no matter how I struggled, I could not extract a meaning.
Feeling very tired, I stopped walking. As I stood turning my handkerchief over and over, looking for a clean spot to wipe the blood from my eye, I felt someone take my arm from behind. It was a lady, wearing a towel. She then walked around in front and looking into my eyes with a wrinkled pretty smile, removed her towel and gently pressed it against the side of my, bleeding face. I began walking again, but then stopped, turned and face her.
Slowly shuffling along, she made her way over to me, and tenderly rested her head against my chest. I felt her frail warmth nestling against my heart.
Wrapping my arms around her, I rested my chin on the top of her head, and in a moment, she was gone. I knew then that my journey also was over. But I'd found what I'd lost, if only for a moment. I lowered her to the floor, and whispered goodbye, to the lady in the towel.