A couple of years ago I noticed a girl working in one of the stalls of our town market. Her employer was called Max, and he was a big, smiling man, well known in the market. Every time the girl and I saw each other, we exchanged smiles and glances. I guess she was about fifteen or sixteen. I felt curiously happy when we met, and one day I said to her, “I am always happy when I see you!” She made some reply, I think it was “Thank you”. I saw her quite often when I passed that stall or bought something there, though there were long periods when she was not there.
About two months ago our old market buildings were torn down to make way for a department store, and many of the stallholders moved to a new market building which had been built some distance out of town. Max lost his quite big market stall. For a long time I did not see Max or the girl and I missed her, felt uneasy.
This morning I asked someone I knew who had taken a stall in the new market building if Max had a stall there. “No,” he said. “He has a small store in Gomez street opposite UCPB bank now.”
Of course I knew that little store but had never thought of it as being Max’s, despite a sign with his name over the opening. Max is a common name, after all. So I went there and seeing some chilli peppers in a box in the front of the shop, I picked up a handful, greeted Max and handed them to the female assistant so I could have them bagged and pay for them. She started looking at me in a steady way, and I suddenly realised that this was my girl. She was taller, older, more grown-up with a different hair style, different clothes, but her steady smile and intense glance was there all right and I began to feel as though a big empty space in my chest was filling up. I smiled at her in return and the usual silent, wordless understanding was exchanged between us.
For the remainder of the day I have felt this warmth in my chest and the unease at not seeing her had gone. I have never even asked her name. I would like her to be near me for the rest of my life.