Monday, September 29, 2008

Portrait #54: Woman with a tab

She marched into the supermarket, pushing me and a clerk out of the way as she headed in. She patiently awaited her turn behind two other customers, then handed the guy behind the counter a coin for 1/2 a JD (a bit less than half a dollar), asking for a pack of some type of cigarettes.

She was wearing navy trousers and a navy button-down longsleeved blouse. Her head was covered properly with a white hijab. It wasn't a very trendy outfit, and she sported it with the attitude of someone who believes she is above such things as fashion.

The supermarket attendant replied that they didn't have single packets today, only pairs. She'd have to get two. Then they talked about different brands and a few other cigarette details. As they talked, I realised she spoke with a heavy accent. Clearly she was not Jordanian or from any Arab country, but the way she was dressed, her age, the way she acted like she belonged, all told me that she'd lived here for quite a long time. Perhaps she came to Jordan 30 years ago as a young Slovakian bride.

Then they settled up. The shopkeeper kept the coin she handed him, but they added the cigarette prices together and came up with JD 1.75, much more than she'd given him. The shopkeeper pulled down a tattered old pad of paper and wrote a quick note, and she walked out with little more than a nod.

I was next in the queue and as I started to make my purchase, I heard, in a deep smoke-raspy voice, "Please!" I glanced behind me and saw the woman standing at the entryway waiting for the clerk, who was moving boxes of inventory, to get out of her way.

When I completed my purchase, I headed out into the street towards home, and I saw her walking briskly down the street, in the opposite direction from that whence she had come.

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