Translated by Katrina Hassan
I am concentrating reading my book when all of a sudden I see her appear. A tall and slim Asian woman, wearing a sumptuous winter coat. I go back to reading but I can’t concentrate, looking at her again. So much beauty in only one person. “How is that possible?” I ask myself, trying again to read my book. Besides such beauty, I sense, subtly, kindness. I see it in her eyes.
I go back to my book, only to lower my head and pretend to read, because I have lost all my concentration. The slim woman is there to pick up her 5 year old daughter that is playing basketball. She takes her hand and leaves the space, my eyes following. I see them getting into a luxury Mercedes Benz. They leave. What kind of apparition was that? I sigh.
It is not common to see a tall Asian woman. I know they exist, but I hardly ever see them. Beside her nice winter coat being plaid, it was also super long. I love those coats, they are my favorite, but I am not tall enough to pull them off. I love seeing them on tall women, they look stupendous.
The days go by and the woman with the kind eyes keeps coming back to pick her daughter up. Sometimes she sits on one of the sofas in the waiting area. With such elegance, all her being is so delicate. I lose concentration and just keep looking at all the unintelligible words in my book. One day she sits right next to me and I feel like I am going to faint. Something like a vahído or a “turn” as they would say in my town. Then I say to her as if complaining, “You have a supernatural beauty that makes me lose my concentration in the book, it is impossible to read.” She smiles and tells me that she likes me, that she can see me reading all the way from where she parks her car. She asks me “how is it that you don’t lose concentration?” She used to be like that in her youth in Korea.
“Tell me about Korea” I say to her after saying “hello” in her language. Her smile is like the sun when I speak in Korean. Surprised she asks me how I learned that language. I tell her my first job in this country was with a Korean family. That I also know how to cook some Korean dishes, but I only speak a little bit, just enough to say hi. She keeps smiling admiringly. She asks me which country I come from and our cultural interchange continues. She is 50 years old and came to the United States in the middle of her university years. She wanted to leave her country and go very far away. She met a Korean born in the United States that happened to be visiting his family. He asked her to get married and she didn’t think twice and got away. They had two daughters, one 15 and another which is 5.
She doesn’t get along well with the 15 year old because she has the same obnoxious arrogant temperament as her dad’s family. On the contrary, the little one is a true copy of herself.
The woman with kind eyes has no family in this country. Not an aunt or a cousin, nothing of the sort. She is totally alone. Her husband is rich and has given her all the luxuries that money can buy. She lives in a prison though, because she has to obey him and all his family. “You remind me of myself when I was young” she says. She asks about my daily life, if I am married with kids. I tell her I am not married or have kids. She asks about what I do in my free time and I tell her that besides reading I like to go to the forest reserves on my bike or walking. I tell her that I hang out with very few people because I that is what I prefer. I like the forest better than people. I like solitude more.
I tell her I take my bike into the city and grab a pizza and two beers and that after I go into museums. I go home when the sun goes down, peddling on my bike. She sighs as she hears me telling her about my activities. “You remind me a lot about myself, when I was young. Don’t ever get married. You don’t know how happy and free you are now. Everything changes when you get married and have kids. Unless you marry a different sort of guy that doesn’t follow the macho pattern. Or with a woman.” “With a woman?!” I have a giggle. “Don’t tell me that you think like the majority and that you can only be with a man? I don’t believe that.” “Me neither” I say.
You never expect to have these conversations. A person has to have an open mind about reality so that they don’t freak out about subjects like gender, it is so insignificant. The woman keeps talking about all sorts of things. I believe she has an anarchist mind. How did such a brilliant mind end up married and living this way? Nothing new here, it happens all the time. She never was religious back in Korea. Ever since she got married she has had to go to church every Sunday to the Korean church with is family. Even if she has the worst headache in the world or is not feeling well in any other way, she still has to go. His family is very well off and very respected in that sector. It would not look good if she doesn’t assist with them.
She has been to a ton of countries and has many credit cards. Every year she gets a brand new car. She would trade that all away she says, in exchange for the freedom of grabbing her bike and losing herself in the city like me. She hasn’t been on a bike since she left her country. In Korea she used to do it all the time. “Don’t get married!” she repeats. “You have the happiness and freedom that very few women have. Enjoy it for yourself and for all of them” she says. “If someone comes along that is just as crazy as you, then invite them along on a bike ride and then decide.” “Does it have to be a bike ride?” I ask, laughing. By now she is laughing too. “Yes, and they have to catch you if they can. Take them to all the museums and see if they can handle it.” Don’t take them to pizza and beers because they will surely love that part. We both were having a laugh attack by then!
“You have a rich life and don’t let anybody interfere with that.” “I see you,” she says, “and I see myself when I was young. I was exactly like you. Don’t make the same mistake that I made.” I didn’t dare ask why she didn’t get a divorce.
I love talking to strangers because they are a bunch of colours, hopes, experiences and knowledge. The way the conversation goes does not matter. You will always learn something new with them. You will learn about other cultures, other ways of life, other routines, other ways of thinking. They make me see with their sole existence, that we are not alone. The world doesn’t revolve around ourselves. We can create our own paradise, but opening our windows, we can observe others. Strangers are like the great outdoors, and wild flowers make them more beautiful.
If you share this text in another website and/or social media, please cite the original source and URL: https://cronicasdeunainquilina.com
Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado