It was one of those summer/fall/winter days, the kind where the air tells you it's summer, the occasional bursts of wind tell you winter is already here and yet your mind knows it's October. I was walking toward the prince Street Garage on my way back from the local Goodwill thrift shop with a lot on my mind between the homework I knew I should be doing and the thrill of being out on such a glorious day. My thoughts were far away when I noticed her.
The elderly woman was standing on the sidewalk. She didn't appear to be waiting for anyone, just standing and watching. She stood as still as a rock, except for her eyes, whose youth and agility surprised me as they darted from face to face. She was watching the passers-by, who literally were passing her by. Dozens of people passed her, and I saw her look at every one of them. It shocked me to see that not a single person even glanced in her direction. Most didn't even notice her standing there, deeming her as worthy of their attention as a bare cement wall. Those who seemed to sense her presence deliberately looked away, as if they had something to be ashamed of, something to hide.
As I approached, I could see the loneliness in her eyes, surrounded by an otherwise emotionless face. I could tell she was searching for something, although I didn't know what it was. She searched the faces of those in front of me and when my turn came, I was already looking at her. Our eyes met, and then I did something that seemed almost absurdly simple. I smiled at her. Her eyes danced from my eyes to my mouth and back again, as a look of joyous disbelief crept over the previously emotionless face. Then the disbelief burst into one of the most genuine smiles I had ever seen, and I realized that I had just given her exactly what she had been searching for.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.