She was beautiful in an odd sort of way. Petite with a flowy dress the color of pumpkin and a thin white cardigan covering her frail shoulders, she made a clicking noise with her pointy black boots with every step. When the light hit her thin hair just right, it looked more purple than auburn, the kind that comes out of a bottle—which I thought an odd color for a woman her age. I guessed she had lived a good 70 years thus far, and everything about her posture and composure said she was nowhere done. The little tattoo on her left wrist intrigued me, so I scooted my wheelchair forward to inspect it a bit more closely: it was a series of letters and numbers that made no sense to me: B.A. 020290. I planned to look away quickly, but her eye caught mine before I could move. She held them captive a few seconds while I held my breath, then she burst out into childish giggles and I exhaled.
“Curious, aren’t you?” she said with just a hint of a European accent. French, or maybe Slovak?
“Just a bit,” I squirmed in the wheelchair.
“Well, so am I, young Lady.” I thought it sweet rather than strange that she would call me young. She seemed to be dancing on water as she approached to me. “What’s with the wheelchair?” Most people skirt around my chair, pretending it isn’t there.
“Long story, you don’t want to know,” I said abruptly, turning myself around to leave the conversation.
“Actually, I’d love to,” she answered quickly. “How about a glass of wine in the little café over there?” She pointed across the street.
“I only drink dry reds.”
Her name is Lillian—78 years young with eyes the color of a clear ocean, a crooked nose, and an ordinary face creased with the lines of a life fully lived. Within a few minutes, I felt like I’d come home to the safest place on earth. We sat until they let us know they were closing the doors. Lillian carefully folded her used up napkin and placed it in her pocket, kissed me on the cheek and said we’d see each other again. She smelled like fresh air.
I maneuvered my electric ride back to my car and hopped in easily. Why did my heart want to hope once again, after I swore that off so many years ago?