[#tbt -- I posted this first back in 2010 on another blog, but wanted to repost it because I've been thinking these same thoughts this year] November 4, 2010
I always forget how beautiful fall is, and how much I love it. But today was hard. Everything was going wrong.
At the stoplight on University Parkway and State Street in Orem, I watched a girl and a man with a cane walk cross the street in front of me. They looked to be in their mid-thirties. One of the trucks waiting in a few lanes after mine pulled forward over that one white line, either bumping the man with the cane, or inciting him to stumble out of the way quickly. I don't know whether he meant to or not. The man with the cane flipped the guy in the truck off, and the guy in the truck rolled down his window angrily and (it seemed like) started yelling at the girl and the man with the cane while they waited for the lights to change. And it made my heart hurt.
Sometimes, I wonder about all the people in the world. All the people that are, and all the people that ever were. I wonder how, even in Provo, we will only ever meet a handful of people who go about us every day. And how intricate each life is, with all the strands that are so delicately interwoven. You wait at an intersection in your car, next to other cars, across from other cars, watching the faces of people turning left as they drive by. People that you'll never know. Cars, people, souls... just passing. Like ships in the night. Like galaxies in space.
How do we relate with each other in this world-- globalized, modernized, ostracized? Unless we remain ignorant, how do we handle this world without feeling incredibly lonely, confused, misunderstood, or inadequate? How do we surmount difference and isolation?
I was trying to think through this impossible dilemma while walking around Macy's Department store trying to find myself a coat for winter. I was sorting through a sale rack when a woman said "Excuse me." I turned. It was a short, petite woman with a heavy latin accent. "What size are you?" she asked, holding a black jacket. I was somewhat taken aback (in America, people don't normally greet complete strangers with this type of question).
But I answered her. "It depends. Probably a small or medium in juniors." She smiled, "I have a granddaughter who is close your size," she said. "You think this would fit you?" "Do you want me to try it on?" I asked her. She nodded, so I set my purse down and pulled the jacket over my head, worked it around my body. It fit. "Where are you from?" I asked her. "Lima, Peru," she said.
I don't know why, but I started to speak with her in my fragmented spanish. "¿Tu nieta... ella tiene--?," and then I motioned because I forgot the word for "pechas" and didn't know how to say "busty" in Spanish. She laughed, and started to speak to me in Spanish. "Hablas Espanol?" "Poquito. Estoy asistiendo en una clase de la Universidad."
We kept talking. I found out her name was Adita, that she had been in the United States for seven years, but still struggled with the language. I sympathized with her and told her, in Spanglish, that I felt the same way about her language. I told her I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country so I could REALLY learn. She told me I should go to Bolivia or Peru. I told her I wanted to go to Spain because "it has Barcelona." She said yes, it was very hermosa (beautiful) there, that another of her granddaughters is doing medical work there.
At the end of our conversation, she said if I ever wanted to practice Spanish, I could come over to her house. And I nodded. And then she told me her address. How'bout that? In the middle of the mall.
"You come over to my house and teacha me in Englesh, and tell me how I say wrong. And I will teacha you Spanish."
I laughed, and said that would be fun. And the one thing I wish we did less of as Americans, or Mormons, or whatever, is say "oh, that would be fun" or say "yeah, sure that would be great to do" when we don't really mean it. Because I knew she was serious.
Then she asked, "You are single?"
"Si," i said.
"Oh, that is wonderful. I have two boys. They are good boys. Son guapos."
"Entonces, tal vez vendria," I said with a smile.
And then we parted. I regretted that I had forgotten to address her as "usted." I hoped she didn't mind.
And as I walked away from her, I was impressed by what had happened. I think we take these kinds of experiences for granted. I think we pass them by a lot, too. We avert our eyes when we could smile at people. We rush when we could slow down.
And maybe it's because I was kind of having an existential crisis before (Ok, I was), that this incident struck me with more force. But if we as humans can stitch ourselves together like that, with tiny threads of shared moments and open hearts even though we were once worlds apart, then maybe we can somehow start to suture up the wounds of our world. If we can remember to do it, and how.
Is that foolish? Does it just make me feel better? I don't mean this to say sentimentally "let's all help each other" simply because it sounds nice. I mean to say it because I believe it's absolutely vital. I don't know if it would solve everything. Probably not. I still get confused about navigating my way through this life. Lots of things are complicated. But if not this, then what?
I wish that it could happen like it does in "The Little Prince." That Fox knows what he's talking about. Listen!
And I wonder what would happen if I were to show up at Adita's house someday. She would probably give me a besito on my cheek like my grandma does sometimes. Wouldn't that be nice? I have hope...