Friday, March 21

The Painting at the Marketplace

Help me! I'm trapped! 

The woman kept her vision forward, her glance far from the wooden frame that encased the age-old oil painting. Who would of thought the painting was talking, beckoning strangers from its humble spot among ruins?

Take me home. I belong with you.

It had been a long day at work. All she could think of was making it home to the room she shared with three other seamstresses.

I am important to you.

She glanced at her tired hands that had somehow managed to stitch 1000 shirts today destined mostly to the United States and sighed. When Sufia had left her village to come work at the factories of Bangladesh, she knew she was escaping an early marriage and gaining freedom, but sometimes on days like this, she felt homesick. 

Never mind it all. Just look at me!

The painting screamed in anger, desperate to catch Sufia's attention before it was too late. Three more steps, and it would be out of her view completely. In a fit of desperation, it appealed to the common objects around it, hoping that one would take on his case. The pewter candlestick assented.

"Ow!" yelped Sufia as the candlestick struck her toe. She squated  low to knead the pain out of the quickly swelling red member.

Up here now! 

Sufia lifted her eyes and saw it, a dusty rendition of a woman swathed in a gold saree sitting in a bamboo chair. Though the woman was older with silver streaks running through the jet black of her hair, she seemed awash with life, her eyes beckoning the viewer to challenge her, if they dared. A faint smile crossed her lips, as she seemed to hold back a smile.

Slowly, Sufia stood, still staring at the painting. "How much?" she called to the elderly man who ran this corner of the market. The man shook, roused from his half-asleep vigil over second-hand wares and signaled 50 Taka, roughly the cost of a loaf of bread. With a sigh, Sufia shook her head. What was she expecting? The price was actually quite low, given the masterful strokes that made up the composition, but however cheap the painting was, it was still beyond her limited budget. But as she started to walk away, the old man called to her, "But today I run a special. Free painting to pretty girl." His leathery face cracked with a smile.

His disposition seemed sincere, and though the young woman had learned to be extra cautious with strangers as to avoid accepting gifts hidden prices, she consented this time, offering a heart-felt "Dhonno-baad," thank you.

Thank you. The painting smiled.

Friday, March 14


I started off my run lazily, dreading the run, anticipating pain. How many days had it been since I'd last hit the pavement? Too many. Clearing the dust from my sneakers had nearly sent me into an asthmatic attack.  But here I was, willing to inflict this form of self-torture commonly referred to as "exercise" by my slimmer counterparts, women with thigh gaps and jutting collar bones.

Should I run my usual one mile or literally go the extra? With no hope of actually completing two miles running, I figured I'd at least try. If I gave out after my first mile, I'd still have to walk the the other one home, thus achieving two miles of physical activity. Breathe in, breathe out. In through the nose, out through the mouth, one step at a time. Try to forget that sneaking ache threatening to seize your whole left side.

I made it to the the one mile marker. I could still breathe and nothing hurt yet. I'll just run around this corner to Blaine Street and then...

"One mile? No sweat! Two miles? Better yet!" a man walking his dogs yelled at me.

Hmmm. I like that. One mile? No sweat! Two miles? Better yet! And step by step, those words became my mantra. I made it to the end of Blaine Street, went around the cul-de-sac and still my feet kept moving.

On the way home I saw the man with the mutts again, but this time it was I who yelled, "One mile? No sweat! Two miles? Better yet!"

He smiled approvingly, nodding his head, encouraging me. "That's right!"

And that is how I ran two miles tonight.