Here’s the thing about beautiful things

“¡Párate!” she grabbed the arm of the man walking past her in a blur of black leather jacket and faded blue backpack. “Párate,” she said again, quieter now, as he did, indeed stop, his forearm clutched in her steady hand. “Mira que linda, que hermosa. Las peloteras y las ruinas y el sol, como esta cayendo,” she said gazing at the scene in front of her.

He looked, too, but he didn’t understand. “What?” he said. She looked over at him, released his arm, and took him in. He was an inch or two taller than herself. He had black hair that shot up and over in every messy direction. His backpack and light skin said tourist and his one word question said American.

“Oh,” she said, continuing to look at him, unnerving him a bit with her bold eye contact. “Look how beautiful it is,” she looked. He looked. She continued, “The baseball players with the ruins of whatever that is in the background and then sun setting just how it is. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Passersby gawked at the two Americans standing in front of the ordinary, on-almost-every-corner baseball game. He was overly aware of how many people were looking at them, wondering if they were lost, surely waiting to pounce on their helplessness. She was blissfully unaware. She was comfortable standing in the middle of the sidewalk to take in an ordinary, on-almost-every-corner baseball game. She looked anything but helpless, he realized.

“Yeah, yeah it’s pretty,” he said, because he felt he must say something before walking away. He was anxious to get to the bus stop.

She sighed, giving up on him and this baseball game in front of the ruins with the sun setting just so as a lost cause. “Where are you headed?” she asked as they started walking, picking their way carefully over the cracks and crevices in the sidewalk.

“The bus stop,” he said, naturally slowing down to meet her pace and naturally asking himself why he was doing such a thing.

“Me too!” she said brightly. “We can walk together. I’ll tell you when to stop and look at the beautiful things.”

He said nothing. Then, she reached out and grabbed his arm again. “Look! Look at that!” she said, pointing to the tile beneath their feet. “Look at the colors and do you see that small blue one? How long do you think these tiles have been here? How many feet have walked right on over them?”

“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “Thousands? Millions?”

“So many feet,” she said. She looked up to see him looking on ahead, down the street, toward the bus stop. “You’re not looking!” she said.

“No, I’m not,” he admitted, a little annoyed.

“What on earth is the point of traveling, of sight-seeing, if you’re not going to stop and see the sights? If you’re not going to take the time to look at the beauty in the world?” she asked him in true and passionate earnest.

“I’ll just take a picture and look at it later,” he said, swinging his backpack around and unzipping it.

She shook her head. “That’s not the point,” she sang.

He considered going on ahead, leaving this crazy beauty-hunter on the sidewalk staring at old tile, but something made him stay. Something made him zip up his backpack and swing it back around to where it belonged. “What is the point, then?” he asked. He might have decided to ask but he didn’t have to sound interested. Or patient.

“You know that baseball game with the ruins and the sun falling just so? And this tile right here how it looks after being stepped on by the very last person who stepped on it and after being cleaned just this morning by whoever lives in this little house right here? These are pieces of beauty that are just meant for the people who slow down long enough to notice them. They’re not for your Instagram or your Facebook. They’re for you,” she explained and they started walking again.

“No, I think they’re for you,” he said, with a bit of a laugh. He was warming up to the idea of her.

She just shook her head and they walked on. Soon they came to the bus stop. He thought about making a joke about the beauty of the dingy buses all lined up, fumes and smoke spewing from their mufflers, but he realized he didn’t want to poke fun at her ideas of beauty. So instead he simply asked, “Which bus are you taking?”

“The four,” she said. “You?”

“The three.” He was surprised to find himself disappointed.

“Well, then this is where I leave you. Don’t forget to look out for beautiful things! Don’t breeze through life,” she said, turning toward the nearest number four.

“Okay, I won’t,” he said, smiling. Then, before she could climb up on the bus and before he could lose his nerve he said, “I think you are one of those beautiful things. You know, only meant for the people who take the time to slow down and look.” He said it all rather quickly, but she understood perfectly.

She turned around, smiling wide and said, “I think you are.” Then she climbed up on the bus and she was gone.

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