To greet or not to greet

Sitting in an empty chinese take-out restaurant near my apartment was an old lady on her own. She looked up at me when I walked in and smiled. For a moment, I had a flash thought that I had known her from somewhere and had not recognized her. She started signaling for me to sit down and started talking to me. I had only half ordered my take out but I went anyway. And that was the beginning of a surreal conversation.

She was in her late 60s, simply dressed with no make up. And I was sure she is drunk or tipsy since she repeated to me over and over again about how handsome his son is with his green eyes. But I listened, I think she needed an audience and frankly at 8pm in the evening, I had nothing except my take out planned. She had signs of a beauty in her youth and I can believe that his son must be pretty cute. She told me about how she was an orphaned and arrived in Paris in her 20s and had met her husband. She told me about her miscarriage and why she only has 1 child. She was so proud of her son, an air steward who travels often and brought her to places and even to my hometown. She told me about her love for seafood and how her son will send her money so she can go out to restaurants. She told me her life with such openness and simplicity with that tiny hint of regret and a large dose of gratefulness for an audience. A total stranger, yet, I thought I was looking into the eyes of my long gone grandma. Because, beneath all that loneliness is a spirited person, a strength of steel and a lifetime of experience.

Sure, it was pretty weird that I had greeted someone on the street whom I had never met in my life.

And I regretted our ending.

The inevitable. She was tipsy but earnest in asking for my number. I struggled and finally wrote it down on a tiny piece of paper and had to say good-bye. I had no good reason to go but I did. She said I wouldn’t call and she was probably right. She didn’t give me her number and I didn’t insist. Even though, I long to take her in my arms and give her a big hug and let her cry as I saw the twinkle in her eyes. I didn’t want to promise to take her out to dinner on sunday. And she didn’t want to impose.

If I had provided a short time of reprieve in her loneliness, I was glad.

Who knows, that could be me in 30 years without the beauty she once possessed and without a son she is proud of.

Who knows, I could be sitting someone by myself old, poor, ugly and without a number on my phone.

Then, I will be glad, that someone younger was willing to sit down and chat, for awhile, even a very short while.

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