By Wendy Hodge

The fog was heavy this morning, thick and dense, as I left the house in Smith Station and headed toward 280. I couldn’t see more than two car lengths ahead of me, so I drove slowly and carefully, my hazard lights blinking out a tiny beacon of light. The roads I’ve driven hundreds of times felt unfamiliar. The trees seemed like craggy relics, and the buildings weren’t there at all. The country drive I enjoy every day looked more like a post-apocalyptic movie trailer or a set for the Walking Dead.
That’s the thing about fog – it takes what we know to be true and covers it with a blanket of doubt. It tricks our eyes and our mind into erasing the known and replacing it with a blank unknown.
There are people who are like that – people who see another person’s happiness or success and try to cover it with rumors and doubt and negativity. They are the most miserable people, in my opinion… the ones who see another person’s joy as a threat to their own. They are the pseudo-friends who will twist reality and try to change perceptions. They are the whisperers who delight in watching someone’s smile disappear. They are the ones who will hug you close only so they can get a better angle to stab you in the back.
They are the fog spreaders.
I overheard a conversation the other night at a table in a restaurant (eavesdropping while I eat is one of my hobbies), and it went something like this:
Lady #1 (smiling broadly): “Look, there’s your neighbor! She’s so sweet!”
Lady #2 (not a trace of a smile): “Hmmm…. I guess so.”
Lady #1: “I saw on Facebook where she got her Bachelor’s from Auburn. She got to walk at graduation yesterday, and her whole family was there. The signs they made were so sweet.”
Lady #2 : “It took her long enough. Every single one of her kids graduated before she did. Not sure what she thinks she’ll do with a degree at this point in her life.”
Lady #1 (her smile fading to half-wattage): “She looks so good these days. She’s lost weight and I heard she even ran in a marathon.”
Lady #2 (still no hint of a smile): “A half marathon. She’ll never get rid of those thighs. Some things are permanent.”
Lady #1 (looking suddenly uncomfortable): “Here she comes.”
Lady #2 (with a counterfeit smile aimed at the approaching neighbor): “Hey! Long time no see!
You look amazing!!”
And just like that, with a few well-aimed words, what Lady #1 thought was a clear landscape became dark with fog. What she thought she knew, she is no longer so sure of. And the neighbor – the one who worked so hard to lose weight and complete her education – she has no idea that the familiar ‘friends’ are not at all what they appeared to be just a moment ago.
But she feels that undercurrent of murky whispers that are swirling around her. Believe me, she feels it.
I watched as the three of them talked for a moment. Lady #1 shifted nervously and couldn’t quite meet anyone’s eye. Lady #2 held tight to her façade of friendliness which was not quite convincing enough. And the neighbor looked back and forth between the two, with questions in her eyes.
I feel bad for both of them, Lady #1 and the neighbor. But it’s Lady #2 that fascinates me. Once the conversation had ended and the neighbor returned to her table, Lady #1 said her goodbyes and left Lady #2 all alone. She sat watching her neighbor from across the room glance nervously over her shoulder and Lady #1 walk quickly through the door with a confused expression on her face. And it was then, at that moment, that Lady #2 finally smiled. And it hurt my heart. She’s a fog spreader, and she’s happiest when others are shaken and off balance. There is a hole in her soul, and she fills it by hurting others.
Phooey to the fog spreaders!
But – here’s another thing about fog: It’s temporary. No matter how thick it gets, it burns away and disappears, leaving behind the truth. And so it went this morning – the skyline began to emerge, tree branches showed themselves again, and there was the world we all knew just as we’d left it. With hazard lights off, I finished my drive to Opelika, thankful to have made it through the hazy unknown.
And isn’t that the best we can hope for? Because there will always be fog and those who love to spread it, we have to hold tight to what we know to be true, have faith in the ones who love us, and pray there is no damage done by the dark that cannot be undone by the light.Wendy Hodge is an Opelika native, an empty nester and lover of all things Opelika. She previously had a column titled A Word or Ten, which was featured in the Tennessee Star Journal and is currently awaiting release of her first novel with Harper Collins Publishing Company.