market dates

I walk alongside this incredible woman, the differences between us as varied as the market produce we pause to scrutinize. She speaks five languages, English her worst, and of course all of my non-English skills are dust-covered and crumbly. Despite this, she is describing plum cookies she loves to bake. My mouth is watering. Her strong fingers pause over a long box of dates as she gives me the German word for them. It gets lost in the bustle of bagging and paying; I imagine it slips off, catlike, to hunch behind the folding table and leap out at some unsuspecting English speaker next week.

She extends the plastic bag, open-mouthed, to me. I giggle; I am embarrassed to eat something she’s just bought. We’ve just met. She shakes the bag at me and a hint of a smile graces her regal mouth. I pluck out a date and begin to nibble its sticky-sweet flesh, watching how she does it because I am unfamiliar with the protocol here. Hers disappears behind her lips, and a moment later the clean pit resurfaces. I mimic, feeling the toothlike prong waddle around on my tongue. When I slip the pit into my fingers, I look back at her, and she is grinning.

Later on, as the MSG squints into the sunshine while we drive down Market Street, I tell him, “She should be a spy.”

“What if she doesn’t want to be a spy?”

I consider this for a moment. Really she should be just who she is, but it’s killing me that she knows five languages, that she slipped into gorgeous French with the French yogurt guy, that she gave me German words for fruits and I’ve forgotten them all already, that she looks so innocuous and that is one of the best disguises of all.

My fingers are still sticky. “Doesn’t matter,” I finally reply. And it doesn’t.

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.