« The Dump Truck | Main | Grab a Pen-It's a War. »

September 03, 2004

A Little Person in a Big Person World

I am very tall.

About 5'9 and a half.

That's pretty tall.

But did you know that my height changes? That I get taller or smaller quickly? Not just with the 2 inches that a high heel can add, but in really noticable ways. Just like that, my height can change.

Wednesday morning I felt awful. I felt like I had been run over by a truck labelled "Guilt and Responsibility", I had been mowed down by wheels with mud on the relationship mudflaps. It was raining and chilly outside, and I had to go to London for the day, and standing at the edge of the train platform I felt so small and sad, so alone and depressed. My mood overspilled onto my face and I started crying a bit, standing on the platform in my skirt and with my briefcase, looking like a little girl playing at being in a big girl's world. I looked down at my feet and realized how small I was.

I had shrunken to about a foot high.

I was so small that I was disappearing.

When the train arrived I had to battle with the steps, which were half my height. I sat down on a seat, leaving acres of space, and a man in a pressed pin-striped suit tries to sit down on me. He hadn't even noticed me, my little legs swinging and hitting the edge of the seat, one high heel dangerously dangling off my foot.

"Excuse me." I squeak. "I'm sitting here."

He snarls at me in annoyance and moves away.

I shrink a few more inches in response.

The train ride goes quickly enough-I feel too inadequate to get out my book which is half my size. I feel too small to check my phone, which even though the train had been dipping in and out of mobile coverage, I knew it would be silent and unloving. I felt so tired and so alone, sitting in my little space on my great big chair, a chair whose pattern and fabric is cutting my legs into scissor-pattern shapes.

When we get to London the battle out the train doors makes me even smaller, as men with pointy umbrellas and unfurled attitudes push me out of the way and out the door. Some of them even open the train doors and start running before the train has stopped, and it makes me feel so forlorn. I have to fight my way down the grooved train steps, looking at the ash and dirt and stickiness that graces the gaps in the steps. People's detritus from a life less lived, a moment less loved.

I make my way to the tube, getting jostled by people and feeling as large as the specks on the concrete floors, painted with that flecky affect people use to disguise the filth. Gum becomes a ticking time bomb waiting to trap a little person like me in the teeth-combed concrete edges. A cigarette butt becomes a building I have to hold my breath around.

Waiting for the tube, I stand in utter exhaustion and look to my right. A man in a camouflaged T-shirt and olive green trousers is standing on the edge of the tube platform, openly crying. He's not embarrassed, he doesn't care that a room full of commuters is around him. I would offer him a kleenex but I know, somehow, he just wants to be alone. He's collapsing inside of himself on the edge of the platform, angrily wiping his running eyes, and I realize as I watch him that I have grown a few inches.

I have grown, maybe because I am the only person in the room that has seen him, and that knows how he hurts.

Even so, the voice announcing "Mind the gap!" at the tube is ridiculous-truthfully, it's more like "Mind the Grand Canyon!"

I get to work and am so tired and small still, that going through the turnstiles at the office means I bang my head on the silver bar and annoy the security guard. I walk into the meeting room and must have a face like thunder, as the group regards me and offers me coffee or a smile. A new vendor representative walks in and introduces himself.

"Hi, I'm Mark Elmo."

This piques my diminuative interest, and I chime in like Ralph Mouse: "As in, 'Tickle-Me'?" I chirp.

The room laughs. Mark does too. He nods. "I rue the day that toy came out, my mates did nothing but refer to that damn toy."

One of my colleagues, Alan, is laughing, and he says. "That's our Helen. Most people would only think things. She'll actually say them."

And I grow another six inches, feeling part of a gang. A crowd. "Our Helen". I made people laugh. I made people laugh.

The meeting commences and my phone comes to life-a nice text message oozes in from Mr. Y, and I thump my head on the table as I grow another foot. I rub my noggin for a while, pleased to finally see over the table, at the expanse of laptops (except mine, still ill) and a projector that illuminates each little piece of dust in the room. Another text an hour later comes in from Mr. Y which is even kinder, and I ease up again in size, no longer stressing about losing a shoe from my teeny feet.

During an afternoon break, I dash into an empty conference room and make a phone call to one of my oldest friends (we go back almost 6 years, which I realize makes me a bit sad and pathetic that this is the oldest friend I have). He lives in Atlanta, and we once were so close that we could finish each other's sentences. We have inroads of personal jokes, and I miss him a great deal. I call him Mighty Mouse. He calls me Shmoo. I have no idea how we got these nicknames, I only know that they are definitely the fruit of one of our drink-ups. I talk to him, laughing with him, and find out that he's coming to England in the next week or two, so I will get to see him. And even more so, Mr. Y will get to meet someone from my life, and I can't wait for them to meet. It's so important to me to link my worlds together-proof that I can outrun the crazy relay, that I have a past, a present and a future that can and will be meshed.

I grow so tall I can turn the lights in the room off and on with ease, easily able to reach the light switch.

As I head home, I still am only about two-thirds my height, but I have bought things to make a nice meal of moussaka for Mr. Y and I, and I am hopeful that we are going to be good and loving. A man on the tube catches my eye and smiles, and I smile back. As I exit the tube, swinging my Sainsbury's bag, he stops me with a tap on the shoulder.

"You have a beautiful smile. I'd really like to see you again, can I have your phone number?" he asks, juggling a briefcase at his side.

"Thanks, but I think my boyfriend wouldn't like that." I reply, smiling.

He apologizes and I head for my train, and realizes that I have grown again-at the flattery of being told I have a nice smile, and the fact that I do have a boyfriend, one that I care about very much.

I get on the train, nearly whole-sized. My feet reach the ground with ease, my long embarassing colt-like legs spilling all over the floor. I can't see the grooves of the train steps, I can't stress about the gaps. I have spent a day feeling so utterly small and horrible, but things are getting better. Things are improving. And soon, that night even, I would be fully-grown again, thanks to a very sweet man in my house.


PS-Beth's Carnival or Recipes is continuing again, so read below for my moussaka recipe. I like to up the weird factor on the recipe collections :)



1 can green lentils

570ml/1 pint water

4 tbsp oil, preferably olive

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

110g/¼lb celery, washed and chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes

30g/2tsp dried oregano/parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

350g/12oz or 2 medium aubergines, washed and sliced

For the sauce:

20g/¾oz butter

1 tbsp flour

225ml/8fl oz milk

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 small egg

2.5g/½ tsp mustard powder

salt and freshly ground black pepper

75g/3oz grated cheddar cheese.


1. preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, celery and garlic gently so that they remain translucent.

3. Then add the canned tomatoes and canned lentils (with their juices) and cook for a further 15 minutes, mixing well. Season with oregano, parsley, salt and pepper. Remove to a seperate bowl.

4. Add 2 tbsp of oil to the frying pan and fry the aubergine slices until soft, turning them over constantly. (You may need a little extra oil for this.)

5. Put the slices onto a piece of kitchen paper to drain and let them cool.

6. Grease a 1.75L/3pt ovenproof dish and put in a layer of lentil and mushroom mixture, then the layer of aubergines.

7. Next make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes.

8. Pour on the milk and bring the sauce to the boil, stirring constantly.

9. Simmer for 5 minutes and then allow to cool.

10. Beat in the egg and season the sauce well with mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

11. Pour the sauce over the top of the casserole and sprinkle over the grated cheese.

12. Bake for 40 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Serve piping hot.

Posted by Everydaystranger at September 3, 2004 09:39 AM .

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 'A Little Person in a Big Person World' from Everyday Stranger.
Carnival of the Recipes #3
Excerpt: This week, we have a lot of great recipes to choose from. I am adding a rule, though – The Carnival of the Recipes will not link to any recipes involving household pets or horses, I don’t care if you...
Weblog: She Who Will Be Obeyed!
Tracked: September 3, 2004 04:30 PM
No, That's ME!
Excerpt: I don't know how she does it, but Helen, over at Everyday Stranger, manages to write the stories of my life. From the yo-yo that is my age on a daily basis to the fluctuations of my height that can...
Weblog: WildScorpy
Tracked: September 8, 2004 01:09 PM


Excellent post. I completely know the feeling.

I grow several inches when I enter a room with my wife and 1 year old daughter. I'm damn proud and happy with them.

Posted by: Almost Lucid (Brad) at September 7, 2004 06:27 PM

Sorry (for myself) it took me so long to find your blog. Linked to it through Marie at Blueridge blog. Reading the other comments, (to which I subscribe completely), you must feel very, very tall right now.

Posted by: BethW at September 6, 2004 09:06 PM

I should have taken Simon's hint... link didnt work


Posted by: Dane at September 5, 2004 05:09 AM

ANother example as to why everyone says you need to submit your writing for publishing. Too darn good not to share =)

A quick side note from the geek in me, btconnect has web mail, lets you get your email from any web browser anywhere
should be able to get it here


Posted by: Dane at September 5, 2004 05:08 AM

Dear Helen, I read your life on the page and I understand, I know, just as you know me :).

You're beautiful honey! and so incredibly talented. I'd be following the advice of the others... fame awaits you :).

Posted by: goldie at September 5, 2004 04:33 AM

What a relatable piece. I myself have felt 6 inches tall at times, for a myriad of reasons. I loved the imagery of you regaining full stature - a harder act to perform than the incredible shrinking woman experience, in my opinion. The tearing down of a thing is always so much...simpler...than the buidling back up again.

But it's that reconstruction side of you that I've come to adore.

Posted by: Jennifer at September 4, 2004 03:32 PM

I often find it amazing just how much is tied to *body language*.

Funny how often I have seen people grow taller by other's downfalls. Given the situation, I have been known to grow in a much darker form.

It's those who shrink I empathise for.

Posted by: Curator at September 4, 2004 12:56 PM

You've put into words exactly how I feel alot of times.

Posted by: rachel at September 3, 2004 09:40 PM

I have to confess, I never have days like that, but I enjoyed the imagery. Most -- if not all -- of us would agree you should submit this and other samples of your writings to publishers.

Don't put it off another 20 years and then wish you had tried 20 years ago. There's no time like the present (I know it's a cliché, but it's also true:).

Posted by: Solomon at September 3, 2004 06:03 PM

Loved this, Helen! Ditto on the magazine entry idea. Thank you for sharing.


Posted by: Amber at September 3, 2004 04:57 PM

It's one of those roller coasters that makes all of us sick now and then I think.
It's like order in chaos - it happens to all of us no matter how we twist things.

Posted by: croxie at September 3, 2004 04:54 PM

What a delightful piece of writing! Tidy it up a little (redirect to an audience who doesn't already know the cast of characters) and send it out to the magazines ... someone will give you money.

Posted by: Frances at September 3, 2004 04:30 PM

I am echoing others' sentiments, but I have to say:

That was a beautifully-written true story that I know I can relate to, as I'm sure many others can, as well.

I'm glad you found your full height again. Sleeping, all short and stuff, can be a bit of a pain, getting lost in the sheets, etc.

Posted by: scorpy at September 3, 2004 02:08 PM

I had a similar thing happen. Although mine happened after I drank some Kool-Aid...

Posted by: Easy at September 3, 2004 01:49 PM

That was so beautifully written. And you're so tall! I'm 5'1 so 5'9 seems like a whole other dimension to me! Oh, as far as that friend you have...at least you have someone like that out there in the world, regardless of whether the amount of years is 6 or 60. It will be so exciting for Mr. Y to meet him too! I know how important it is for at least your friends who love you with their heart to see why this person is so good for you.

Posted by: Jadewolff at September 3, 2004 01:22 PM

Yup. I'm with Emma. You've given voice to how a lot of us feel from time to time. I enjoyed the progression. Once more, you touched me.

Posted by: RP at September 3, 2004 11:10 AM

Beautiful baby. Beautiful.

You described how each one of us feels -- but are sometimes too full of pride (or something) to admit it.

Good for you.

Love and kisses to you, my friend,

Posted by: Emma at September 3, 2004 10:43 AM

Oops, link didn't work. It's at http://simonworld.mu.nu/archives/044163.php

Posted by: Simon at September 3, 2004 10:38 AM

I think I've seen the before and after photos of your day.

Posted by: Simon at September 3, 2004 10:38 AM
Site Meter