Foreign Streets

For the prompts “Sometimes being removed from everything you know can be a blessing, in disguise or otherwise,” and “working out communication, starting with having no common language.”

She found herself walking down foreign streets, and wondered at it. Her hair was loose around her shoulders, and in her bag she carried a passport, a wallet, and a phone that did not work here.

She could not read the street signs, but turned left at the corner anyway. She knew the way back, she just wasn’t going there.

There was no house to keep. No loved ones to shelter. No pets to care for. There was no computer, waiting for her to fill it full of words, and no internet signal even if she’d written them. She thought she should feel uncomfortable, but she’d left that behind at the last block. There was no way for her to fulfill her responsibilities, and they were far away in any case. Things would be okay.

She went into a shop, piled to the ceiling with goods labeled with characters she could not read. Bags and bottles, smiling cows – why were the cows smiling? – and unlabeled boxes. There was a collection of bottled drinks, at least, which one could guess at. Green leaf probably meant tea. The size and style of the writing looked cheerful.

She bought a sweet tea from a middle aged woman with wrinkles from smiling, but who did not smile at her. The complexities of dealing with a foreigner were not worthy of a smile, and the four fingers held up – this is how much you must pay – were communication enough. She paid, carefully, as attentive as if it was a religious ritual she would profane. She had bought the same drink from a shop yesterday for a lower price, but accepted the foreigner surcharge. She was more trouble than your average customer, it had to be said.

The drink was very good, because the day was hot.