The Woman in the Picture
It was approaching dusk by the time she made it to the marketplace. The Granada side streets were not necessarily where she wanted to be wandering alone after dark, but being somewhere she didn’t want to be wasn’t new for her either.
It felt strange being in Spain, a lot like crossing your arms the wrong way. The language of her childhood sounded more foreign than she had hoped. Had everyone always talked this fast? As intimidating and a little overwhelming as the peppering of words around her sounded, the feel of it all was somehow like a warm blanket. It felt like home. She was home again, after all.
She was a little jet lagged, more than a little grimy, and undeniably famished. This town was thankfully known for their tapas, and she looked forward to sitting in a café with a very big glass of wine and something salty to snack on. First, though, she reminded herself, she had to find what she came for. Or rather, who she had come for.
She readjusted the overnight bag on her shoulder trying to cajole a second wind in her tired bones. She normally traveled light anyway, so this trip would have been no exception even if she’d had the time to think about what she wanted to pack.
The long night of travel had given her enough time to think about her decision to finally leave. When would he have figured out that she was gone? She pushed a lock of her short brown hair behind her ear. It was still a little strange feeling how short it was. Easy to manage when traveling, and luckily, a quick way to change your look on the run. Running away is easier said than done unless there’s a change in how you look on a missing poster. That is what they would say, wasn’t it? That she ran away?
She looked at her watch which was still on New York time. She wasn’t particularly sentimental as a rule, but this watch almost never left her side. She had taught herself early on that nothing was permanent, especially people, so there was no use in attaching yourself to things that were just reminders that she was on her own. She hardly took pictures on trips, almost never got souvenirs. This watch was the one thing she kept after all this time.
She had to look at her wrist three times before the time actually registered. The memory of the gift of it making her throat thick. That gift was why she was here. A memory flooded in of a weathered faced older man with kind eyes, tying the watch on her little-girl wrist. She had made the right choice. The only choice, really. She had to come back here. She needed to know who she was. And he would never find her in these hill towns.
She had an hour before she could get into the loft she rented, so it wouldn’t hurt to distract her mind by looking in the shops. She felt safe in the crowd of tourists buying braided rugs, tea, carved boxes and Turkish lamps that this area was known for. Maybe she could get herself something cheap since the loft was unfinished.
As she stepped onto the terracotta tiled floor of a lamp shop halfway up the hill, she felt her words fail her. She hadn’t anyone to say anything to anyway, but for the first time in weeks, the chatter of the racing thoughts in her tired head stopped. It was blissfully impossible to describe how she felt about the layers of mosaics assaulting her senses. It was the pure oversaturation of color that took her by surprise at first.
Every lamp was lit in this shop that was no wider than her outstretched arms could reach. Lamps hung from the ceiling, were on shelves on the wall, rested on the floor. There were mosaic bowls, plates, candle holders, pipes. Everything shone brighter than anything she had ever seen. She felt herself melt into the room’s warmth, noticing in the reflection on the floor tiles that the darkness of her form made the lamp’s colors shine more brilliantly. Her shadow was such a contrast to the light, that she had no features in her reflection. Just a shadow without a story.
Coming back to herself, she thought that there was no way to know how showing up unannounced would be received. Would they even recognize her? There were some mornings that she almost didn’t recognize herself.
Picking up a small bowl to steady herself, she stood feeling the room’s light penetrate her every cell. She let the tears fall on to her glasses, watching the colors blur. She was really here.
A few feet away, or maybe it was a few universes away, she heard two American girls arguing through laughter about where they should eat. They were taking pictures of the shop she was in as the taller one said, “You pick. Today is your day.” The second girl responded with, “You’re seriously the worst.” They kept laughing and walked away.
She wondered if she would end up in their souvenir pictures they printed someday. Maybe on a wall framed in one of their apartments. A memory that reminded them that they weren’t on their own.
Would they see her, or just see that her shadow gave contrast to the light?