The Woman with the Sunglasses

Her sunglasses were really something.

I could tell from across the street they were really something. Big, round circles that rested on her face like two dark moons. And I was taken by the need to ask her where they came from.

So, I ran across the street. And as I ran, my bag fell off my shoulder, my shirt went lopsided across my torso, my hair curtained wildly in front of my face.

Excuse me! I called out to the woman in the sunglasses walking down the sidewalk. But I was short on breath, so it came out Excuse (inhale-exhale) me (inhale-exhale).

And it occurred to me as I stood on the sidewalk, breathing loud and breathing fast, that I looked unhinged and unsteady and if this woman was normal, she’d keep right on going past this disheveled stranger who had barged into her life.

The woman stopped, turned to face me, and said in this voice that was big and generous, like I belonged there in her life, Yes, my love?

And of all the ways we can face a stranger in the world, I hadn’t known this was one of them.

Where did you get your glasses? I asked. And in that big and generous voice she said, Ralph Road on the way to Canarsie.

Which would have been enough. But she gave me more: In the back by the cash register, she said. They weren’t expensive. She leaned towards me like we’d been friends since before time, I don’t spend my money on sunglasses.

And I stood on the sidewalk thinking that this woman was breaking the laws that can make the world seem impersonal and fast-turning. Like she knew that we all, as Mother Teresa would say, belong to each other.

Thank you, I said to the woman. Thank you.

You’re welcome, my love, the woman said. The two dark moons turned away.

Then I watched her walk down the sidewalk, this woman who didn’t spend her money on sunglasses, but spent her time on strangers.

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