the lady behind the desk/la anciana tras el mostrador

She looked about 85. Even more. She attended one by one with parsimony. With the wisdom of the owl she was wearing on his shirt. Or maybe simply with the few strengths left in her lean body.

She should be at home resting, doing crossword puzzles, preparing tea or watching a flower show on television. I thought.

But there she was. Probably a decision taken by her own choice, but because life had led her to that chair. For so long. Too long.

It was hot. Very hot. The line was endless. The place, the traffic office of any city in a random part of the United States, suffocating. And the task tiresome, in a loop.

When it was my turn, with my son in my arms and my daughter disarming the row of impatient citizens, I almost collapsed and wanted to give her a hug, with a feeling of unjust pain.

But then she looked at me, gave me a smile and told me that it was wonderful to see so many different people every day through her life. She kept a bit of everyone for her.

And I was silent. And I kept her image for me. That it was no longer the image of a frail old woman, but a herculean survivor.

All lives have something that makes them unique.

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Yo le eché unos 85. Incluso más. Atendía uno a uno con parsimonia. Con la sabiduría del búho que llevaba en su camiseta. O quizá simplemente con las pocas fuerzas que le quedaban ya en su enjuto cuerpo.

Debería estar en casa descansando, haciendo crucigramas, preparando el té o viendo un programa de flores en la televisión. Pensé yo.

Pero allí estaba. Probablemente no por decisión propia, sino porque la vida la había llevado hasta esa silla. Durante tanto tiempo. Demasiado.

Hacía calor. Mucho. Las colas eran interminables. El sitio, la oficina de tráfico de una ciudad cualquiera  en lo más profundo de Estados Unidos, asfixiante. Y la tarea cansina, en bucle.

Cuando me tocó el turno, con mi hijo en brazos y mi hija desarmando la fila de impacientes ciudadanos, casi me derrumbé y quise darle un abrazo, con un sentimiento de injusta pena.

Pero entonces ella me miró, me regaló una sonrisa y me dijo que era maravilloso ver a tanta gente diferente cada día pasar por su vida. Que de todos se quedaba con algo.

Y yo me quedé muda. Y me quedé con su imagen. Que ya no era la de una frágil anciana, sino una hercúlea superviviente.

Todas las vidas tienen algo que las hace únicas.

 

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