I looked at her from 20 feet away. She was crowned with a head of thick dreadlocks, held away from her face by a red ribbon. Most of the matted stalks were dark brown, as were her eyebrows, but the ones framing her olive-skinned face had streaks of platinum blond through them that ran through the locks like lightning bolts through a darkened sky. She looked thick and healthy, wearing baggy jeans and a jacket to protect her from rain that came in intervals.
Now the city park was filled with a bit of tentative sunshine, a few rays finding their way through a mass of fluffy gray clouds above. She smiled easily at the Afghan boy, his face still taught and smooth, just the hint of a beard growing on his chin. A table of packaged flat breads and jars of jalapeno spreads and humus separated them, though there was not much more, he held out his hand, offering a small sample and two rows of neat white teeth. She opened her hand, accepting his gifts.
I was twenty feet away, behind my own covered tables piled high with thick-crusted German bread and pastries. Whoever might have walked past by my booth in these moments was invisible, a ghost lacking any presence. My head was turned, slightly to the left, watching the pretty girl, smiling, wearing a thick red and white raincoat meant for mountain treks and camping. The young man in front of her, talking, both of them sharing easily for just one simple moment. It was soft, gentle, and I watched.
“She’s going to die one day.” The thought came from nowhere, it was simple and stark, so true as to be startling, yet I was not scared, I stood still, watching them both.
That pretty girl, in her later twenties, a head full of thick dreadlocks, a mind full of thoughts and a machine full of personality. I felt the hum of the market, crowded with white-tented booths and fresh oranges and vegetables. So many people, and all of us will die. The girl, the afghan guy….
And as much as they were alive in the moment, talking, breathing, she, tasting the flat bread, me, watching them, us, the entire market of vendors and customers and the people who drove by in their cars on the street just outside the park, we were all going to die one day. The thought hit me. Not just a thought, but a deep anchor that fell and hit the deepest part of me, a fact so true that I stood shocked, unable to turn away.