Portrait of a Traveler, II

She walks into the restaurant, and I hear laughter like bells, and as cliché as that sounds, it’s true.  When she sits down, the first thing I notice is her smile, the second thing I notice is her eyes, and the third thing I notice is the grey streak in her hair.

Her smile is radiant.  Her lips are pink and her teeth are square and white.  She has a big mouth, and her smile has the quality of a superstar in it, like Cindy Crawford, or Julia Roberts.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her on the cover of a magazine.  Her eyes are so blue, and because the ridge of her cheeks is sunburned pink, they look even brighter.  She has child-like eyes, opened wide in curiosity, always ready to crinkle in laughter.  But it is strange, because the streak of grey in her long brown hair offsets the innocence in her eyes and presents a face that is unreadable, mysterious.  It is a blend between a woman and a child.  I have no idea how old she is.

She laughs merrily, throwing back her head, the silver hoops in her ears dancing.  Then I see that there are two sets of earrings in each piercing.  There are the hoops, and then a smaller pair of round, golden earrings with a Celtic design burned into them.  On each wrist, she wears a red, woven bracelet.

The people at the table are equally interesting to look at, but none are as beautiful as she is.  There is a Japanese guy with a pointy beard, nodding philosophically and tapping the ash from his cigarette.  He wears a purple tee-shirt that has been torn down the sides and re-stitched haphazardly, exposing his tanned sides.  There is another man, shirtless and bald, his blue eyes bugging out from his head.  One of the women at the table is telling the others that he writes for a yoga magazine, and he looks down modestly as she says this, and then turns his gaze to the river.

I keep looking back to the woman with the grey streak in her hair, wondering how old she is, where she is from.  She is so alive, so happy, that it electrifies an already beautiful frame and makes her impossible to look away from.  It is rare that you see life so animated and free.  If she knows she is beautiful, she doesn’t let on, and is completely uninhibited in her laughter and conversation.  She lights a cigarette, and holds it between her long, slender fingers, her fingernails rounded at the tips.

Strangely, I can imagine this woman desperately sad, as well.  I can see her lying on a couch, her tangled hair in her face, sobbing over a lover she has lost.  I can hear her heaving sobs, and imagine her slamming a fist into the wall.  I can see her eyes wildly angry.  But then I look up, and she is laughing, and she is ageless, and I have no idea who she is.

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