She seems to be avoided each time I am there, even if her line is shorter than others. I noticed it months ago, and look each time she happens to be working to see if it is still so.
It always is.
So I always choose her line and make a point to look her in the eye, smile and make as much friendly conversation as I can. At first, she never met my eye, keeping her head down as she rang my order up.
Eventually, probably sensing that I was looking straight at her, she started flitting her eyes toward mine here and there as I chatted or asked questions.
Finally, though with a fairly puzzled look, she started standing straighter and looking at me frequently as we chatted about ink or the weather or whatever else came up. It took her awhile to lose her tense posture, though. . .she usually looked as if she was ready to run at any moment.
"Beth" has a very feminine name, but is, admittedly, slightly physically unusual. I think she is female, but has a beard and an unusually low voice. I'm not sure whether she is transitioning from male to female, female to male, or is just comfortable with a little more facial hair than most women typically are.
Whichever it is, it doesn't really matter to me. "Beth" is a person, created intentionally and loved unconditionally. She doesn't make me uncomfortable. Though her sadness does.
I'm not so naive as to think that no one notices her unusual appearance, nor so optimistic to think that is probably doesn't matter to most people. But I am disappointed. "Beth" may have troubles or pain that has nothing to do with how people respond to and treat her, but given my observations in the store, I think how she's treated has a great deal to do with her generally sad and withdrawn demeanor.
I don't know what else to do except to engage her and look her in the eye and show her as much warmth and respect as I can in the few minutes we spend together. I know it's not enough, nor does it probably make much difference. But I hope it does. I really, really do.
She is more valuable than she clearly believes.
(photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net and can be found here)