haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2007, vol 3 no 2

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Linda Papanicolaou

Encounter

Dingy white sweatshirt and faded terry slippers, the old woman on her way from the senior apartments to a Safeway across the park. Her bony wrists lean on the empty shopping cart she uses as a walker. Whatever caused it--arthritis or a badly mended hipbone--she has a grotesque limp that requires swinging her entire pelvis to move each leg. Every step must be painful.

Heretofore I've only seen her as I'm parking the car or juggling grocery bags, baby stroller, children. But this morning I'm unencumbered and we're both on the same sidewalk. Calculating the point at which we'll cross, I brace myself, resolving to meet her eye to eye and say something.

"Good morning, how are you today?"

She answers in a voice that is unexpectedly firm, clear and earthy.

"I'm fine, thank you. How are you?"

gazing ball
the path I've been on
the path ahead