a silent hello

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She was wearing pink sweatpants and a pink velveteen zip-up sweater when I first saw her on the side of the road.

We looked up at each other briefly and nodded before passing.

For the next half hour, I continued on, over a hill, up a path, around and back. I swung my arms by my side and tried to keep my gate even.

We were about in the same spot going the opposite direction when I saw her again. This time, her right arm was looped around a bag of oranges. In her left was a loaf of bread and some canned vegetables.

It was then I really looked at her. She was older, but not old. Dark wisps of curls framed her olive face, round but not so round as many other Latina women. Her lips were edged in the parenthesis of smile lines. Her eyes were warm.

I looked back at the oranges and it dawned on me that she had walked the ten blocks to the Mexican market and back for her groceries. I felt my eyes brighten and the edges of my lips begin to twitch upwards.

It was a refreshing glimpse of life in another time or place, where people go to markets for three items. And they walk there.

Here in California, people swing into their SUVs and drive two blocks to load their trunks full of Costco-sized items.

She saw my face and smiled widely back. Through the music on my iPod, I couldn’t hear her, but her mouth made the shape of a “Hi.” I broke into a grin.

After I passed, I wished I would have said “hello” back.

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