Who is Mrs. Potts?
Good question. Who is she indeed.
Mrs. Potts is very old. I do not know her real age, but to my knowledge, she is the oldest tenant in my apartment building.
Perhaps through no fault of hers, no one really know much about her, except that she lives alone, has for years now, way before I rented my own apartment at the building. I have only stayed at my own apartment for a little over two years.
About the only thing I know about Mrs. Potts, as I say before, is that she lives alone. There is no husband, no children or relative that we know of. The only person who ever visit her is the cleaning lady who lives across the street directly from us – Mrs. Mem is her name – and she leaves as soon as she has finished her work for the day at old Mrs. Potts’ place.
Anyway, on this particular day in the diner is when I see her again.
It seems that she has just returned from wherever it is she will go to every day that requires her to leave early in the morning to catch the 5 a.m. bus, and to return just in time before lunch.
The bus stop is just a block away, but I wince in sympathy as I watch Mrs. Potts slowly make her way back.
She is old, no doubt, probably in her late sixties. She walks with the bent back of someone who suffers from chronic back-pains, her arthritic fingers clutching her worn bag close to her chest.
I can’t begin to guess what she has to be doing every day, or where she goes to. Maybe I should have asked her. But how can I ask without coming across as nosy?
…in spite of my usually open nature, I do worry a lot about what people think of me. It can be a shortcoming, but that is how I am. But anyway…
We can come up with lots of excuses – and many valid reasons, admittedly – when we are not feeling particularly inspired to do something.
Mrs. Potts hasn’t been the most talkative or friendly neighbor, choosing to stay in her apartment when she isn’t out on her daily mysterious trips.
I remember Mrs. Tang once confided in me that she had met Mrs. Potts in the hallway of their shared floor after she returned from one of her trips. Mrs. Tang said that she tried to talk to the elderly woman, but Mrs. Potts just ignored her and went inside her apartment without talking to her. After which, said Mrs. Tang, she won’t bother speaking to Mrs. Potts again if her attitude is to pretend that nobody is worth her time or energy.
Mrs. Tang might have used the words ‘rude’, ‘snob’ and ‘proud’ too.
I surmise that Mrs. Tang was feeling offended, thus the strong words, but I kept my thoughts to myself.
She is usually not one for name-calling, anyway, and I hope she will get over the perceived offense soon.
Personally, I think that Mrs. Potts isn’t exactly endearing herself to anybody with her attitude and refusal to talk or socialize with anybody.
Surely she isn’t that old, that she can be so jaded and so done with the world.
Perhaps, speaking of myself, I have a judgmental attitude regarding Mrs. Potts.
It might have been in small doses, but it is not the right approach to take when dealing with someone, especially when I can admit that I know nothing about her to begin with.
Certainly, in this situation, there is no basis for a drawn conclusion.
Sitting in that diner long after Trey and Chris have said their goodbyes and left, it occur to me that even someone as reclusive as Mrs. Potts might have a story to tell.
It is true that she seems to have no one else in her life – except for the cleaning lady who probably hardly talk to her anyway – but that observation is based on my (and everyone else’) first glimpse of her obscured life.
She is always alone, and coupled with her reclusive attitude, we assume that she wants to be alone.
Now though, the thought comes to me that it is possible that she might have needed someone to talk to. She might have yearned for company.
It boggles the mind to think of someone so reclusive that she would have chosen to be alone and lonely for the rest of her life.
Come to think of it, I knew someone like that once, but that’s a story for another day. Besides which, that person chose to be alone, but he was not lonely.
I decide that Mrs. Potts is lonely.
Maybe I am wrong and simply projecting my own rife thoughts unto her situation, but I figure that in light of everyone’s generally negative opinions of her, Mrs Potts can use a listening ear.
At the very least, I feel like I owe it to her to be approachable and friendly, and not to keep on judging her as a finished story.
And so what if she is alone. Being alone by choice won’t have meant being lonely, not when you find contentment in your own company and the quiet. But being lonely could kill a person’s spirit, and sometimes we the neighbors are at fault for letting this happened in the first place, is my thoughts regarding Mrs. Potts.
….I guess I am maturing. Huh, imagine that.
Or I guess I am projecting. We shall see.
There is one other thing which makes me doubt that she has always been a lone being, and that is her name, “Mrs. Potts” as opposed to the singular title of “Miss Potts”.
“Mrs.” would have meant that she is married at one time, no? Or so I deduce anyway.
So I go to visit with Su and my favorite little person, Bea. After Su put Bea down for her nap, we sit down for a bit of chit-chat.
I bring up the subject with Susana, casually asking her opinion without making it look like I am being intrusive. No one likes a neighbor who meddles too much in other people’s business.
It turns out that once I bring up the subject, Susana is just as eager to talk. But all she can come up with is,
“You know, I just don’t know! I mean, she’s been living here long before we moved here, and to my knowledge she has always been Mrs. Potts. I just assumed she is married at one time.”
“A widow or a divorcee, do you think? No kids? No relatives visited her even once that you could see?” I ask.
“No. No kids, no friends, no pets, that I know of. Nothing. Well, her plants are there, but you know this. Why the sudden interest in her, anyway?” Susana looks at me, her eyebrows drawn up in that way she does when she is trying to figure something out.
“Well, you know, it’s just that she seems so lonely at times, so, well, I is just concerned, you know” I say, which as far as I am concerned, is the truth.
“Do you think I’m being nosy?” I worry.
“No, no. You bring up a valid point. She does seem very alone, doesn’t she? You’re right, Nys, and she’s so old. If she is really alone than it is only right to be concerned about her, that she might need someone to be close by should something happens, you know?” Yeah, Su just makes my whole argument for me, good woman that.
I nod in agreement. “So what? Should we do something? Ask her about her family or next of kin, in case something happens? Is that neighborly?”
“Neighborly, in this context? Yes, I think so. Hmm, maybe you should investigate. Or better yet, go talk to her!” Su’s eyes twinkle slyly as she looks back at me.
“And how do you figure I do that, since I never, you know, talked to her before! I mean, it’s been months, literally, and to suddenly have a conversation with her in the hallway is just not as easy as you might think!” I protest halfheartedly. “It will be so awkward!”
Su demurs, “Yeah, you have a point. I think we are to blame for that, living here literally for years and never really talked to the poor woman. I mean, years! The most I did was say ‘good morning’ or, you know… Even if she never said anything back. Really, Nysa, it’s good that you brought this up, I feel so ashamed of myself!”
“Me too.” I admit. “Better late than never, I suppose. Still, how do we do this? Like I said, awkward!”
“Tell you what, just go talk to her. I mean, I’d do it, but statistically it has been proven that you have a better chance of running into her the most, than me,” Su advises and theorizes at the same time.
Easy for her to say, she just hands the whole responsibility of befriending Mrs. Potts to me. Not that that is an impossible chore, mind you. It is, like I mentioned, just really awkward.
My reluctance and doubt must have shown on my face, because Su says again, “Just talk to her the next time you see her.”
Reluctance aside, that sounds do-able, and the best advice under the circumstances. I am not about to admit it to Su though, she already thinks that she is wiser than me just because she is older, ha. I like to be contrary just because of reasons.
“Maybe I will .” I reply.
Su snorts. She can see right through me, drat that woman.
In all seriousness as befits the situation though, that is when I make the resolute decision to try to talk to Mrs. Potts the very next time I see her.
The opportunity comes sooner then I expect.
…to be continued…
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