Those Left-Out

Time was weighing on her shoulders. Her crooked body made it hard to walk, and yet she would wake up every day at dawn to get her groceries at the nearby covered market. The city was cold and rocked by the Black Sea's wind. Grandma had emigrated from Guangdong in the late '50s, with nothing but a coat and a briefcase with a few yuans in it. She was now living in a small apartment by herself, in a nameless street. She had the brightest smile, but no soul was present to acknowledge it. She wasn't lonely, however, as she had accumulated a great collection of books throughout the years. Reading was her favorite activity. She had to learn the local language at her arrival in this foreign land, which made it hard to find any pleasure in any sort of book at first. Her constant efforts throughout the years eventually bear their fruits and she had earned the right to enjoy them. Her accent wasn't perfect and she had trouble expressing herself, but books were understanding and didn't reply back. She didn't have to talk to anyone, in fact. She was just selling flowers in the nameless street, always accompanied by her books.

It was enough to survive but not enough to live. She would glean what was left from the covered market and frequent the neighborhood's soup kitchen in the evening. When the little money she made didn't go into the rent, she would place it under her mattress right before going to sleep. The old woman didn't buy books either: she just had to check the dumpsters next to the city's bookstores and libraries. Old torn-up books were replaced by newer ones. She didn't care much about new books anyway. Their content was just reused wisdom to her.

It was a Friday afternoon. The trash collector would visit the next day. It was time for Grandma to do some shopping. The closest library closed at 6 PM. She was used to passing by at 6:30. The catch was meager: a single book had been left in the waste container. The cover was ripped off. The pages were worn out but the message looked intact. Good enough. At least she would have something new to read while selling marigolds. She put the book in a plastic bag and left. Nobody would notice.

A few dumpsters later and still nothing. The soup kitchen would close in an hour, that was all this time.