A woman who did not believe she was beautiful.

By Lupita Peimbert.
This afternoon when I got off the Metro, I was hoping to find her again. She was walking asking for money. I realized she is very petite. I came her way, putting on her hands a container full of delicious, warm Mexican food. I told her in my poor French “for you to eat.” Looking at me, she reverently said thank you, but no trace of a smile showed up on her wrinkled, very wrinkled tiny face. I noticed, and looking at her blue eyes I told her “You are a beautiful woman.” She looked at me, then looked away, as if she did not believe it. I said it again, but this time I felt a strong emotion:
“Vous êtes une belle femme,” I said looking to her eyes directly, while trying to get coins from my packet to give her too. I gave her a bunch of small coins and she reverently said merci, but no smile. She took my hand and kissed it in reverence, as if that is what she knows what to do. Immediately I said, “No, no need for you to do that. You are not less than anybody.” She looked at me. I saw her eyes. I left. My eyes full of tears, for I saw just a bit of her sorrow. Knowing what I know about immigration, poverty, women, and life, I bet you she is from Romania, but does not understand the French system enough to take advantage of it. I bet you she has suffered and lost plenty, and has no idea that she is very valuable as a human being, and that her dignity as a person truly is independent of her life condition. I bet you she goes hours and perhaps days with little or no food. I bet you, that inside appearances she is intelligent, resilient, and sweet, as anyone of us. I wonder if I she ever smiles. I hope so. But with the life she has had to live, I bet you, smiling is a far away possibility.

I saw her yesterday for the first time in the early afternoon. A tiny woman seated on the street, extending her hand, asking for money. I usually get annoyed in France when it comes to such matters, for reasons important to state later on, but this time, the moment I noticed on her face a hint of exhaustion, I felt something else. I glimpsed at her beautiful blue eyes and confirmed she had probably not eaten all day. I put one euro on her hand, and moved on. Probably half hour later, I saw her again on my way back. This time she was eating eagerly from a small box of food, those packages you find at a deli or a grocery store. She looks much older than her actual age, I bet. Feeling empathy and wondering what kind of life she lives, I kept walking back home.

Last night, while making a delicious meal, I thought about her for a minute, but then forgot all about it. This morning while cleaning the kitchen and organizing
left overs I remember her again. At lunch-time, wondering if she had eaten today, I decided to bring a meal to this lady, a woman, a human being like me.

Now I am back home, after this experience. I am sharing it with you who are reading this far, more than anything because it is worth remembering that many people struggle day after day, that many women do not get their needs met, and that only they know how deep their experiences have left a mark, so much they do not even know how to smile.