Sunday, September 8, 2013

A good person

We’re waiting for the bus and someone waves at us. The person waves back. She asks me if I know her. I tell her I don't. I ask her the same question. She replies the same answer. The person later approaches us and it turns out she is a "she". The woman starts doing some elaborate speech with plenty of pizzaz and confidence, almost as if she was performing a monologue about her life. She shows us her hands and mumbles something indecipherable to my level of Portuguese. It's too dark for me to see what's trying to be communicated.

The woman is asking for money. She rubs her stomach and puts out her hand. The one next to me is a bit unsettled, angry almost, and starts with what I thought to be a dismissive gesture, but later digs into her pocket for a handful of coins. The woman thanks her and goes off with as much swagger with which she entered, but I also caught a moment in her eyes, one of deep appreciation and relief. 

“Things like that upset me,” she says.

At first I think she’s talking about panhandlers asking for money, but before I can finish my thought she continues:

“People going hungry, it doesn't have to be like that. Things don't have to be like that.” There is a stern look of determination etched onto her face. I ask her what the woman had said.

“She said she was hungry, that she cut her hands because she was digging through the trash for food. Did you see the blood on her fingers?”

Shortly after her bus arrives and as I wait in line for her to board, I tell her that she’s a good person - not like she founded an NGO that combats poverty in Africa or talks all day about how governments should reform themselves to make the world a better place - just that in general, she eases the moments in a person's day, brings smiles to a world where maybe many don't reside, and I don't know, "good person" was the best way I could put it at the time. 

I tell her about a memory I have of approaching her stand one time at the fair, a few moments before I buffooned my way through our weekly interaction. There was a man stumbling around, searching the ground for discarded fruit to eat, and to much to his delight, he picked up a rotten tangerine and began peeling at its bruised shell. But before he could finish, she called him over and with a sincere look of concern, traded his for a fresh one right off the stand. 

There is an honest expression on her face as she hears my story, one I can't quite capture with words, but it is something between contemplation and blushing. 

“I don’t remember that,” she finally tells me.

“See, that’s what I mean," I say. "You don’t even remember it.”  

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