They told me she was a whore and I believed them from the moment she stepped foot over my boundaries. We crossed the street together and didn't say a word until she pointed out my scarf.
"Lovely scarf. Where'd you get it?"
I didn't reply; I adjusted my broken earphones and kept walking with my head held higher than even the highest head should be held. We didn't cross paths ever again, and yet the information still stuck in my head like stardust glued to the vast sky of the universe. A universe in which anything can happen.
In later years I'd come to find out she was happily married with three kids and a dog and a little house with a great white porch wrapping all the way around. I'd hear the story of her marriage, how she met him in a bar late one night when they both had stars and drunken expectations clouding their eyes. They exchanged numbers and didn't call each other for three days. They would meet each other countless times after that and become so aware of each other's vulnerability to the cold, harsh weight of the world that they wrapped God like a blanket around themselves to keep them safe.
Two years later, they were married in a church on the edge of the sea with their closest friends and family members surrounding and congratulating them. I heard her Uncle Xavier flew all the way from Ontario to greet her on one of the happiest days of her life on the sunny shores of South Carolina. That night, she would let go of one thing she kept from the moment of her birth to a man who let her keep it until they were both positive it was safe.
And yet now, here I am, sitting in a coffee shop, listening to my dearest, oldest friends from high school talk of the one, shameless whore who once complimented my scarf, the same one I'm wearing now. It's funny though. Not even a single soul of my friends thought to compliment me on it. But the "whore" did. The whore, whom I had never talked to before in my life, save for the scene at the crosswalk. The whore; the stranger. The misunderstood.
So I pick up my bags to the astounded faces of my curious and hopeless friends and walk straight out of the cafe, holding my head higher than a head should be held. However, this time my judgement is intact.