Sunday, January 29, 2012


A merchant's face.

The Stop is what the locals called it. I never understood why someone would label a booth with such a name. The Nelson market has always been a busy place with tens of various entrepreneurs trying to commerce, smiling, hollering, chit-chatting, laughing, answering bargains. Throughout the whole Saturday morning there was never room for stops. The whole marketplace was a single, living organism until the Cathedral's clock slammed its iron pointers on one. That's when everything stopped.
I don't think the name of The Stop came from the halt of the market. I never asked anyone what they thought of it but I'm quite convinced that it came from the booth's merchant's face. A single, living organish on top of another. A face living its own life on top of a swinging body.

The merchant of The Stop sold bread - any kind of bread you could imagine, that is. White bread rolls, ciabatta, sour dark rye bread, wheat bread, bread on a stick, buns, flat bread, toast, bread with sesame seeds, bread without sesame seeds. To be honest, there was that nothing special about the bread. You could walk over to the local grocery store just next door and buy bread that would be just as fresh and just as good. But the way he sold the bread, I think that's what caught the busy, little customer bees into his daisy of a booth.

One morning I left for town quite early to acquire the best possible seat: the park bench directly in front of The Stop. You could watch the business of the booth with both eyes open and you wouldn't seem like a spy with only mischief in mind. I took my seat on the bench right before the merchant opened his booth and started his dance of commerce, the coreography of sales.

The merchant's face was never expressionless. When a potential customer arrived at the booth his face would light up in a thousand smiles, he would lean slightly towards the customer suggesting a closer look into his selection. The customer would always look at him, questioningly: "How d'you s'pose I look at yo bread if yo head is all ova the table?" At this crucial moment, in which no words were exhanged, the merchant would withdraw, take a little step backwards, cross his arms over his coat-covered chest and change his face into a stern expression of a waiting man. The customer would look at him quickly and glance right back into the sea of bread, hesitate, and eventually point a loaf of something wheaty. At this, the merchant would smile and crack a joke, which was always as funny as it had been for the first time.

That is when I learned that accomplishments are made by smiling. Sitting on that park bench that felt older than my country, I learned that the simple gesture of a smile is what this world revolves around.

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