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General : Columns : Celia Last Updated: 2, Apr 2018 - 10:02

Makes you think ???
By Celia Anderson
5, Jan 2002 - 17:38

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Riding home on the train last week….I watched an elderly lady sitting to the right in front of me. I could just see her profile. Her face was a city of character. She must have at least been in her 70's, with a long, not so easy life in behind her. She sat there, casually glancing at different people as she stuffed small pieces of bread into her mouth. Ever so often, her hand would dive into the plastic bag on her lap, and fish out another morsel of bread. Her hands were weatherworn, scrubby and tanned.

You never know who you are going to meet on the train

Her face suited the whole look about her. She had a large hook nose and very large mole on her left cheek, which of course was the only side visible to me. There was not one inch of smooth skin to be seen, only large crevices of time. With each bite she took of that bread, her face seemed to collapse upwards….her cheekbones rose to form extended round bags, which of course was crowned with that very obvious mole. I noticed that she had no teeth and the massive movement of her face was caused by the lack of them. Her eyes darted around her…now and then she would turn her head and look back at the people, as if she was looking for something or someone. Her old leather coat was in bad need of a dry clean as was the whole rest of her….and each and every aspect of her showed age and hardship. I wondered how a person like her managed to survive…and her lack of cleanliness me feel uncomfortable about her, but at the same time fascinated. Here was a person who most probably was not as old as she looked, who had done her time not in years, but in the quality of years. She most probably could keep the entire occupants on this train entertained with her life story. I observed her further, averting my eyes every time she looked back over her shoulders.

Her untidy woollen skirt hung like a rag around her legs….short, dirty grey socks protruded out of “could have been white “ runners. The skin of her legs matched her hands and face… scratches and flaky patches could be seen. I did not like the look of this lady… her lack of hygiene was nothing to call for. Shortly before my stop, she turned around and caught my eye….her mouth did not stop the constant chewing of the bread, her face collapsing and readjusting continuously . She looked directly into my eyes…at first I thought she did not register looking at me….but slowly her features changed…her face seemed to expand sideways…and a brilliant , gummy smile appeared on her face…changing my whole opinion of her. There she was, the old ragged lady, with the crevice face, the filthy fingers….the scarf tied tightly around her large head….her mole rising and falling in beat with her gums. Here was a old person, wise with age….with the most beautiful face I have ever seen. The smile shone out of her eyes and one forgot the dirt, and only saw the sunshine.

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