#Stories on the Street, part I

I sit on the wobbly chair, which is accompanied by an even more wobbly table, in the sweltering heat of a city that knows too many manufacturer and too few green space.

I sit there, eating the much beloved dish that the cold winter in Canada had robbed off me – bun rieu. There’s a whole lot of other things I lost in the cold bosom of Canada’s winter wonderland. And there’s also a whole lot of other things I gained from it. Not friends, it seems.

But back to the story. So as I was sitting there, breathing in the steam from the soup stove, the owner’s helper told me a little story. It went like this:

I am a divorcee, she said, It’s been 15 years since my divorce. She smiled shyly as if she was half afraid that people will judge her, because within this land people always judge other people. Of course, people are judging each other anywhere across the globe at any given opportunity. But here – this specific land of the glorious death and the blazing heat that blows rationality away – the people do so more often than anywhere else.

And so we are back to the story of this beauty of a divorcee.

I raised two children all on my own, you know, she said, I have a daughter and a son. It’s a tough job. I have to leave the younger one – the daughter – at my hometown. It’s a day’s journey from here – by bus. I never wanted it to be this way. I kept on thinking for a while, you know, that I was the one who robbed them off a loving father.

Then why did you divorce him? I asked.

She smiled again. The hidden pain of a middle-aged woman who has to be separated from her daughter when she needed her most. The sadness of an unhappy marriage that ended up hurting not only her, but her two little treasures. The ever-guilty-as-charged feeling bottling up inside her as she cannot do anything for her children.

My eldest child, she said, avoiding my question, He will be graduating from the law university this year.

She said it like a declaration of freedom. Freed from society’s judgmental eyes. Freed from a husband who may or may not beat her, but who surely did not love her, nor her children. Freed from the prejudiction that a woman needs a male figure in her life.

And that is the feminism that the women in this country have led. Far before it is an important thing. Far before the #metoo movement.

I look at her darken skin, her dark spots spread like firefly across both of her cheeks, her cheap clothings and her rough hands. This is the only absolute power that does not bring corruption but instead, it carries with it the strength to build a person up.

It builds her daughter’s future with every penny she has in her pocket. It builds her son into a future lawyer who may very well be the one who protects others’ daughters, wives, and the vulnerable ones.

And thus, her story is a story of success. She breaks through. She does not let the guilt of being free become the burden on her children’s path. She makes sacrifices along the way, surely.

But the love – oh, the love that will stem from that, the love that will pour down to many more generations, all of it, all of it. It will grow into a beautiful garden with the heavenly fragrance of being forgiven and being sheltered.

It’s the most amazing feeling, you know, she said and by so doing, brought me back to the story, when you see your children eat the food you made. ‘Mother, it’s the best dish ever,’ and their eyes have this sparkle, you know, a very specific sparkle –

Like love?

Yeah, like love, she smiled, this time, unhurried and so very endearing, it’s the sparkle of love.

And in that precise moment, I suddenly come to understand all these writers and song composers’ praise for mothers. All mothers, everywhere. Just like she said, it was that sparkle. The sparkle of love.

********************

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