The air was thick with people as the lady asked for a Marlboro light, then a light, all the time looking out of the corner of her eye at the Englishman. She thanked him in her own language, briefly smiled then walked towards the market. Ten minutes later she rounded the piazza for the second time and subtly looked to see if the man was watching. He wasn’t aware of anything as he studied his papers, except the noise of the food market and the crowd that is its life.
Was she working? Admittedly, you could see the line of her breast through the tight jumper and she had leaned into him when receiving the cigarette, brushing his leg with her thigh, but it was more the look she gave that perplexed. Or the way she walked.
An old van loaded with fruit was blocking the side street and our corner of the piazza and opposite us, at her third pitch since we’d taken our seats, was a gypsy in a simple blue shirt. Her round open face and deep brown eyes were suspicious as she pushed her paper cup into the path of the moving crowd, occasionally getting a cent but mostly ignorance. Leaning on a stool talking to herself, she was beautiful (why do I always judge everything by its beauty?), or should have been, yet the angry curve of the lip and constant search for the tourist euro telegraphed the understandable bitterness of her life.
I watched her a while and thought how easy it would be to help someone, momentarily, or to dedicate ones life to it.
The fruit van eventually passed and she with it, slowly, for she was on ruined crutches and had only one leg, her empty pale trouser rolled up and pinned to her thigh.