I love walking in the early evening around Los Alamos. After time with the ducks and geese, I stroll around town to observe people and soak in the last sounds of late afternoon. On this evening I had left the pond and sat down on the curb to watch the people coming and going along Central. It was so peaceful, with the end of day casting shadows on the street, broken by glimmering rays of the sun from the last breath of daylight.
My peaceful silence was broken by the laughter of young voices coming up the sidewalk to my left. Looking up, I noticed five young people, maybe sixteen or so, all with tattoos, facial piercings and wild hair cuts. One young guy had a sort of mohawk, others sported dreads and partly shaved heads. They didn’t seem to notice me, so I went back to my thoughts.
“Excuse me ma’am,” a young voice said in my ear. I looked up into the black eyes of a young girl with purple dreads, a piercing in her right eyebrow and on her nose. Her eyes, so close to mine, appeared concerned. “Are you ok? Do you need help?”
Several thoughts crossed my mind. One, I had misjudged them, based on their looks. And two, I realized she saw me as an older woman who might be in trouble. At first I felt really irritated that she had profiled me as an old lady in need, especially because I was sitting on the curb. But immediately I realized I had also misjudged her based on her looks.
“Thank you,” I replied sweetly. “I’m just fine. I decided to sit here and people-watch for a few minutes.”
She studied me intently, then smiled. Despite the piercings and purple dreads, she was actually quite pretty. It occurred to me someone had raised a really nice kid.
“I’m sorry. I just wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d ask.”
I smiled back up at her, suddenly compelled to touch her cheek. “It’s nice of you to care. That means a lot to me.”
Standing up and flashing another smile, she started to turn back to her friends.
“I’m glad you’re all right,” she added. “Have a nice evening. Oh, and please be careful walking home.”
The sun slid down over the mountains to the west, and I sat a bit longer, listening to fading voices of happy families getting into their cars and heading home. It’s not such a bad world, really.