Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
It was a Sunday afternoon, not long after my arrival, and my pathetic-looking protein bar didn’t seem a nice option for a celebratory relocation meal. So despite the rain that greeted me, I crossed the curved roads, marched through the UNESCO protected city square–promising myself to slow down and enjoy it in milder weather–and stood haplessly outside the unmoving automatic doors of the Konzum supermarket. The markets are closed on Sundays it seems, or certainly by Sunday afternoons.
Across the street was a vacant collection of outdoor stands where locals sell flowers, vegetables, homemade liquor, but only one location seemed open and lined with lights. An old woman waited there with her honey, oil, fruits and vegetables. She wore a long skirt that falls to her thick-soled shoes. She also tugged at a handkerchief-sized scarf tied loosely to cover to top of her head and her ears. My mother put bandanas over my head and ears like this as a child, so when I went out to play I wouldn’t catch brain inflammation from the wind.
That day, my sole marketeer earned my sympathy for being out in the rain, and my loyalty for being the only one to save me. In future weeks on my quest for produce, I would bypass other adorable oldsters without making eye contact. Women shook sacks of spinach and called, “Beautiful salad.” I resisted. I went on past to my sole proprietor.
She was quite a saleswoman, pointing out fruit I hadn’t seen, directing me to her leafy greens, tossing a few free peaches in with my purchases so as to hook me for next time. We did everything with smiles and nods, and until I mastered the numbers, I counted on her for the honest return of my change.
Most visits she also shook bunches of radishes at me. I deeply dislike radishes, so I would decline. Each time she reminded me that they were still there and waiting, and each time I waved or shrugged in polite refusal. A friend finally coached me to say, “Ne volim.” This phrase seemed to me to translate into, “I don’t love,” given the number of times I saw volim written on bus stops in romantic graffiti. Radishes had never been able to inspire any sort of affection in me. After a few “Ne volim” replies and her head nodding at my sudden progress in Croatian, the offers of those evil roots ceased. And rain or shine throughout the spring, my woman recognized her essentially mute friend, applauded my return, pinched my cheek, and plied me with vitamins.