Back in the late 70s, after I graduated from high school, I worked for an insurance company whose offices are on the edge of a small historical downtown area.
The particular building that I worked in occupied one city block and was six stories tall, and having been built in the post-modern era, it had windows all the way around, top to bottom, which meant you could see all there was to see. Which wasn’t a whole lot.
However, on most days you could look out the windows and see a middle-aged woman wearing a tattered wedding dress hurrying down the sidewalk. She always walked briskly and with purpose as though she were late for her own wedding, her long dingy veil trailing behind her, floating in the wake of her own pungent breeze. It was a haunting image, and oddly beautiful in a bizarre sort of way, and one that remains vivid in my mind almost 30 years later.
She was known among those who worked in the building as The Bride Lady. Everyone had seen The Bride Lady from the windows but no one seemed to know anything about her, what her name was, where she lived or how she became a perpetual bride.
In all the years I worked in that building and walked in and out and around that building, I never once encountered her face to face. Like a ghost, she just sort of seemed to appear on one end of the sidewalk in a cloud of wedding finery and then seconds later, disappear at the other end. I never saw her anywhere else but from the windows of that building.
I have not thought of The Bride Lady for a long time, but today as I was driving, I saw a dirty and fraying piece of delicate fabric that had caught on a fence post. It was captivating the way it would lift and waltz in the breeze and then suddenly go limp and rest when the wind disappeared. There was something about the way the fraying fabric floated and fluttered in the breeze that made me think of The Bride Lady and her veil.
From six stories up, I was afforded the luxury of participating in her fantastical reality without the burden of confronting her humanity. From where I stood I did not have to consider that she had unmet needs or a name and a mother — I could simply enjoy the romantic and somewhat comedic notion of a bride speed walking to her wedding.
From six stories up, she wasn’t crazy and homeless, missing teeth and sharply aromatic.
From six stories up, she was a beautiful bride in a hurry to meet her groom.
I often wonder what ever happened to The Bride Lady, if maybe somehow in her fantastical crazy world, she did live happily ever after.
Or maybe that only happens six stories up.