Meeting Rosalee

It’s been a long time since I’ve given out my phone number to a woman I just met.

Wait. Let me back up.

I had quite the busy morning. I was downtown super early for a doctor’s appointment. And got back home right around 9:00 AM. Then I took a load of clothes to the laundromat, and while they were washing… I stepped over to the grocery store a few doors down, to get some veggies for the bunnies.

As I was browsing the lettuces, an older woman started talking to me out of the blue. She was debating between the Romaine and the Green Leaf, and started to ask me questions. Where am I from, she asked – which is usually a question that’s asked when there’s another question behind it.

I told her I was from Indianapolis originally, but that I was Chinese. I could tell by her accent that she was French, and learned she came to the US many decades ago (she was in her seventies).

I’m not sure how or why, but the two of us just fell to talking – standing there, in front of the produce. I told her about my job, and what I do for a living. I learned her name was Rosalee, and that she was an artist. She lived in New York for many years when she came to the states, and did a lot of painting.

She told me about a particular series she did, focusing on about 38 different birds of Central Park. Over the course of her early career, she lamented at how various places were open to showing her artwork… but offering little compensation in return.

“Artists are not valued,” is something she said to me.

She brought up Van Gogh, and how his work is worth so much now – but was not worth much during his lifetime. Rosalee then said something that really stuck with me. She said “I’m going to burn all my paintings, before I die.”

I asked if there was some way I could see her paintings, and she thought about this for a while… and asked what I was doing after my shopping. I apologized, and said I was nearby doing laundry, but it sounded like she was going to invite me to her place.

I found out she lived with her son, and though I felt a little odd at the prospect of a complete stranger inviting another complete stranger to their home… I was a little intrigued.

Unfortunately, this weekend didn’t sound like a good time for either of us (we were both busy). I think I said something like “Oh, well that’s ok. I’m sure I’ll see you around.” And we quietly let that moment pass and fade.

Another thing that stuck with me: at some point in her creative history, she mentioned wanting to try something new. So she started painting on silk. I know very little of what this entails, but the fact that she wanted to attempt something different was what stuck out to me. And made me want to see her work.

We parted ways, and I finished up my shopping, paid, and started to walk out. I thought briefly about giving her my contact information, but I didn’t have any paper on me. I thought about scrawling something on the back of my receipt, but decided it just felt odd/weird, and walked out.

As I was putting my groceries away in the car, I spotted a worker at the laundromat who was also putting away some things in the car next to mine. She said to me “I’ve got a surprise for you inside.”

Curious, I asked her what it was. She laughed and said “You’ll see when you come in. I was looking for you!”

Turns out, a bit of fabric got stuck in the doors… and water had leaked out in front of the machine. There was a mop and bucket near the machines, but just kind of sitting there.

The woman explained what happened, and said “I don’t even know how to work this” – motioning to the mop. Without thinking, I said “Oh I can clean this up.” She said thanks, and went about her way.

As I was mopping up the floor, I realized that wait – I’m a customer here. Should I really be cleaning thigns up? But I felt like this was my mess and my fault, so I figured what the hey.

After a few minutes and getting the area respectable again, I went back outside to the car. I had been thinking of Rosalee, and a part of me felt that I should have made a better attempt to connect with her. To try to see her paintings.

I found a piece of paper, walked back to the grocery store, and wrote my name/info using one of the pens at the checkout counter. I happened to catch Rosalee as she was walking out, and gave her my info. I said that I would love to see her paintings at some point, and kind of left it at that.

I don’t know if anything will come of this. Or if she’ll remember our conversation, when she finds the crumbled up paper in her pocket. But I’m hoping at some point I can get a glimpse of some of her artwork. And if she’s willing, take a photograph or two of her pieces.

And maybe then you could see them, too.

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