I can tell from thirty feet behind her that she’s neither Irish nor young, because neither the young nor the Irish dress with that much panache.
She has so much thick blonde hair my first thought is that it has to be a weave or a wrap: it falls to the middle of her back, banded with three black loops, and that after it’s already been wrapped around itself to make a solid oval at the back of her head. It’s that particular shade of blonde that a handful of women achieve naturally as they age: enough color to it to say it had once been golden, enough white to have mellowed toward aged wheat.
She’s dressed, collar to heel, in red. A fitted–and I do mean fitted: it follows the curve of her waist like a lover, conforms to her hips with just enough room to sway–red coat made of wool falls to just above her ankles, and below that are rumpled shining leather boots, crimson everywhere except the steel stiletto heels. Her purse, slung over her right elbow and hugged to her body, is red leather, as are her gloves. Her left hand splays out, fashion-model, fingers spread, as she walks.
She turns her head, and yes, I’m right: this is not a young woman; she’s fifty if she’s a day, and very likely sixty, with fine skin with finer lines and large eyes behind browned Audrey Hepburn-sized sunglasses. The intermittent sunshine deserts us and she opens a black umbrella, an occasional piece against all that red.
I pass by and say, “You look fantastic,” and she smiles, surprised, and says, “Oh, thank you!” in an accent that I can’t place, but can displace: she is not Irish, or German, or English. I think she is French or Italian, but then, I thought that thirty feet ago, when she caught my eye.
Half a block later I look back and she’s gone. I think of the woman in the red dress from the Matrix, and I smile all the way home.(x-posted from the essential kit)