The $1.25 Smile

The day had been long, stretching out before me like a never-ending journey. Finally I was making my way home, the introvert inside crying out for the quiet comfort of my apartment.

Wearily I pushed through the crowd exiting the Kyiv metro, willing my feet to carry their owner swiftly to their destination, yet I couldn’t help but notice her in the pale light of the tunnel.

To my right an elderly woman sat hunched with vacant stare atop a dirty, yellow bucket, clutching a bundle of lavender and fuchsia colored flowers. Both plants and grandmother appeared to have had a long and trying day.

I passed her trying to ignore the tiny tug inside my chest.

As I continued walking I felt that I just needed to turn around. “It’s almost midnight,” I thought. “She shouldn’t still be out here.”

Moving to the side, the crowd I had pushed through moments ago passed leaving the underground quiet, except for a few vendors packing up for the evening.

Whether lost in thought,  accustomed to avoiding the presence of people who could look upon her with rejection and disdain, or simply tired, it took several moments to engage her in conversation about the flowers she was holding.

I soon realized that she spoke Ukrainian, rendering me even more incapable of communicating, but we managed.

She took the wrinkled red bill from my hand and smiled as she gave me the flowers. It was the kind of smile that reaches to the eyes making them appear briefly childlike. She told me something, I only understood the “God bless you” at the end and bid her farewell and

her gratitude transpired the differences in language.

The remaining vendors smiled a bit at me too, but it was the “silly girl you paid too much for those flowers” kind of smile. If that’s what they were thinking though, they were wrong.

It was the best $1.25 I spent all week.

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