CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The first thing I noticed when I saw her that morning was that her eyes weren't sad anymore. They'd been sad for so long.
Granted, there were many times before that I'd seen them lit with mirth. She was always easily amused. Quick to laugh. But that sadness was deep and constant, rooted from stem to stern and laced through every rib in between.
The sadness wasn't hidden to her. She was well aware of its presence. Joked of it even. Liked to say she was the happiest depressed person you'd ever meet. Some friends didn't understand what she meant by that. One even called her out, saying she was making light of depression.
But she wasn't. She knew it inside and out. They were intimates.
I could tell. Knew better than anyone. Had seen her every day of my life.
She was one of those people for whom nothing came easily, and, truth be told, I think she sort of liked it that way. She was proud of her toughness, of having endured in spite of stacked sadnesses.
So now, when I looked and the sad wasn't there in the way it had been for so long, it was like seeing her shadowless. She had detached herself from that constant, and now, was practically bubbling with life.
I caught her singing along with the radio, her head bobbling to the beat like a fast-walking pigeon, except her pigeon was a half-second off pace. This one -- she never had rhythm. Couldn't clap along with the simplest tune. Her hands were forever the last to smack after the rest of the audience stopped. One beat off. That was her.
Recently, she complained of this song being stuck in her head for days. But she knew only a few bits of the lyrics.
This is my life, it's not what it was before.