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There he was again, sitting by the fountain in the tight and busy market square. He was feeding the pigeons bread, as he always did at about ten o’clock in the morning. I could see the joy in his eyes as he tossed the bread onto the ground and watched as the pigeons excitedly consumed it. I admired him greatly, though I didn’t know him at all. I admired him for the joy that he endured from something as simple as feeding pigeons. I wish I could look at things the way he does. I wanted to meet him.
Sometimes, as I was watching him while standing at my fruit and vegetable market booth, I would try to give him his own story. I would try figuring out who he was and what his life is like. And so I came up with a version that he was a retired man who was well educated and had a respected occupation before his retirement. He definitely knows what love is. And perhaps it was a woman who made him the happiest. But I feel like he lost her. Regardless, he tries to enjoy the simplicities of life, because that’s what the woman had taught him to do. Why do I think this? Well, because sometimes as I observe him feed those pigeons, I see a reminiscent face expression with a spark in his eyes. And sometimes, I see him chuckle to himself as he is thinking. But anyway, I just admired him because it seems like he lost the love of his life but his happiness remained.
As I was pondering about his identity, the man ran out of bread. He stood up and walked slowly towards me. I was stunned. He’d never wandered the market or had gone to my booth.
“Do you have a baguette or bread of some sort?” he asked in a grumpy but at the same time humorous voice. I looked at him for a couple seconds, not saying a word. He lifted his bushy gray eyebrows.
“Uh, yeah, I do.” I blurted out. I grabbed the baguette and handed it to him quickly.
“Thank you. How much do I owe you?”
“Nothing at all.” I replied quickly. He raised his eyebrows again. “Really, I’m sure.” I added.
“Alright then.” He replied grumpily, grabbed the baguette and began to turn around to walk away.
“Sir?” I said quickly before he could walk away.
“Yeah?” He replied seeming annoyed.
“I only sell fruits and vegetables. Why’d you ask me for bread?”
“You were the closest. Besides, I am old, but I can see when someone is gaping at me.” He said in that grumpy but humoristic voice. I was so embarrassed. I could feel myself blushing. He smiled slightly and walked away. And regardless of what he said, I caught myself “gaping” once again as he was walking away.
“Hey.” A boy about my age (which is 19) said to me as I caught myself at this act. I flinched because I had no idea he was there. He let out a short laugh. Quickly I snapped back to what I was here for – selling fruits and vegetables.
“Hi, how may I help you?”
“Well, I want to buy some fruits and vegetables.” The boy said smiling.
“I suppose you’ve come to the right place.” I replied with an even wider smile, “What kind of fruits of vegetables would you like?”
“Well, what do you recommend?” He asked.
“Well, they’re just fruits and vegetables. It depends on your taste or what you’re trying to cook or perhaps what vitamins you want them to have.” I replied, knowing that he was only teasing me. After all, this was only a fruit and vegetable booth, not a fancy restaurant.
“Hmm, well what’s your favorite vegetable?”
“Um, I would have to say the cucumber.”
“How about your favorite fruit?”
“Definitely the mango.”
“Such a bold answer. Why the mango?”
“Well, because it tastes good, obviously. And it originates from interesting countries.”
“What’s so special about India or Brazil?”
“Well, they’re beautiful and somewhat exotic to me. I mean, India has the Taj Mahal and shares the Himalayas with China, and has these monsoon rains. Just the name of that makes it sound interesting. And most of the Indian population is Hindu, which is a fascinating religion. As for Brazil, it’s also beautiful. I always wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro. And they speak Portuguese, and that’s a really cool language. And they have reasonable soap operas too. Well, if you can call soap operas reasonable.”
The boy started laughing.
“What?” I said, annoyed and embarrassed.
“You’re really something.” He said smiling.
“You’re very welcome.”
“So have you made up your mind about what you’d like to get?” I returned to the other topic quickly.
“Yep, I did.” He grabbed one cucumber and one mango from the two separate baskets and passed them to me.
“Would that be all?”
“Yes ma’am.” He replied. So I put the two in a bag.
“$2.50” I said. He handed me the money as I handed him the bag. “Thank you, and have a great day.”
“Yup, thanks. And you too.” He looked for a little longer than a usual customer would, and walked off.
A few days later, the boy was back. I was watching him as he was coming towards my booth. He was alright looking. He had brown hair, spiked in a messy way. He had a navy blue graphic tee and white plaid shorts. He was actually sort of cute. I snapped quickly out of my dozing. I was afraid I’d start liking him a little too much, and that just couldn’t happen.
“Hey.” He said to me.
“Hi there. How may I help you?” I smiled. I had butterflies in my stomach. Butterflies were surely bad news.
“I’m looking for fruits and vegetables with specific vitamins.”
“Okay. What vitamins?”
“Vitamin D, A, T, and E.”
“Okay well, the only things I have with vitamin D are these mushrooms. Most of this stuff has vitamin A. The carrots, broccoli, cantaloupes, melons, apricots, papayas, and of course the mangoes all have vitamin A. I have spinach and avocado from the vitamin E group. But I don’t have anything that has vitamin T. As a matter of fact, I don’t think there is a vitamin T.”
“Yes, there is. Vitamin T can be found in sesame seeds and egg yolk.”
“Well I don’t have either sesame seeds or eggs so why’d you ask for it?”
“Okay I have a clue for you. The vitamins I named spell out a word.”
I thought about it for a little bit. Then I realized that the letters spelled out the word “date”. I suppose my face expression must have given it away that I realized what it spelled because he was smiling. He was asking me to a date. Oh no.
“I don’t even know your name!”
He reached out his hand for me to shake, “I’m Cuba. And you?” I looked at the old man. He was looking straight at me, smiling. He was nodding his head, as to tell me that I should say yes to Cuba’s offer. I sighed and shook his hand.
“I see your name is just as interesting as your personality.”
“As is yours.”
“Is that a yes?”
I sighed. He wasn’t going to give in, I knew it. I wanted to go on that date with him like a normal person would. But I couldn’t. I looked over at the old man. He had stopped smiling. He was holding onto his chest, his face looked as if he was in excruciating pain. Oh no. He was having a heart attack! I left my booth and ran as quickly as I could to the fountain. I had caught him in my arms just as he was dropping onto the ground.
“Please wake up sir, please.” I was whispering as I was crying and shaking his body gently.
“I’m awake child!” He replied energetically as he opened his eyes. I was confused. He just had a heart attack and he woke up totally energetic?
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, I had to do something about you just standing there. You’d never tell him yourself.” He explained as I was helping him up. He was talking about me not having one leg.
“But how did you know that…” Suddenly I realized that I was wearing Capri pants, and everybody who wanted to see what the commotion was about could see my leg prosthesis. Cuba was within that crowd. As soon as I helped the old man up, I stood up myself and ran behind the booths to hide away from the crowd. I sat on a crate that was laying on the ground upside down. I started crying.
“How did it happen?” Somebody had asked me as my face was facing downward in my hands. I looked up. It was Cuba.
“My mom’s brother used to work at a train station. He was my favorite uncle. I would love to come to the station and see him when I was a little girl. Once, I wandered off too far away from him and my mom. They were talking and I guess they didn’t notice. I started pretending I was a ropewalker on the curb of the platform and the train tracks. I slipped and fell on to the train tracks. Then I saw a train coming. I shifted my entire body off those tracks in the last minute – except my leg.” I continued crying quietly. Cuba came closer to me, lifted my chin, and kissed my forehead. I looked at him stunned.
“So how about that date?” He asked in a soft voice as he reached out his hand to me with an inviting smile.
I smiled back at him and took his hand.