I saw her again, the old lady in her seventies, who was sitting in the corner of a sofa outside the library. She was reading a newspaper, all her attention was paid to the front page it seemed, she didn’t turn the page. A half-empty lunch box was just beside her, she had already finished her coffee.
I walked towards her slowly so that I wouldn’t appear intrusive. She lifted her head, gently. No sense of surprise to be traced, our eyes met, I smiled to her, and she to me. I sat on the floor, looking up to her face. Her grey hair was done in a loose bun. She smiled again.
Her appearance at the campus is quite noticeable, she looks so different from what is expected to be seen at an university. She walks slowly, having her back bent forward to such an extent that her head always faces the ground. A flaw in her body prevents her from straightening her back.
On that dark snowy evening, I saw her standing on the platform of the university underground station. Her hair flying, the weight of the bags and the umbrella she was carrying made it hard for her to stand steadily. Her back bending forward, her head hanging, it all made her look fragile, as if she would easily get flown away. She was alone. When the tube approached the station, she lifted her head with her back still bending forward, and walked in slowly. She has a story to tell, hasn’t she?
I’ve seen you a few times, are you a student here? I asked her.
Oh yes she said she was, she is studying English, not for teaching purpose certainly. She is eager to improve her knowledge of English so that she would be able to read the articles on Internet. And there are a lot of interesting English publications out there.
She talked about politics, religion and the treatment of immigrants. She is a regular churchgoer. And she is curious and a good listener.
The quote “It is never too late to learn” isn’t unfamiliar with me, but I think I have acquired a deeper understanding of it, I can see it from her. Beneath the fragile appearance, she possesses a strong soul. Her enthusiasm and spirit is contagious, I look forward to our next accidental catch-up and a decent talk.
Thank you for reading, take care.
(Pictures taken at University of Oslo, Norway)