Monday through Friday, I see them. As I drive to work – 8:30am, with coffee just seeping into my sleepy cells – I pass them in my car. I don’t think they have ever seen me, but if I miss them for even a day, I become oddly bereft. They are my non-caffeinated morning pick-me-up. They are my Rainbow Warriors.
Every weekday, they travel down the sidewalk in a gang. None of them is younger than 50, and several are much older. The men wear vests and patterned peaked caps; the women are powerful hummingbirds buzzing under layer after layer of color. They all wear brown plastic sandals covered with dust. I think they are Nepali. I know they are beautiful.
Photo: Jean-Marie Hullot
Sometimes the women carry heavily laden shopping bags, the straps digging into their foreheads as strong necks bear the weight. Certain days, the men have umbrellas, although I’ve seen them walk through a light drizzle without opening them. Perhaps when you are constantly surrounded by living rainbows, you don’t doubt a rapid end to all storms.
I have tried to imagine where they go, always between six and nine people, always in a pack. Once, my timing was such that I saw them turn into a church parking lot, but the glimpse left me with more questions than before. The thing about them is, wherever they travel with such devotion, they radiate happiness during the journey. As they walk, I watch their faces change. I have seen beaming smiles, mock anger followed by a hug, the rapid smacking of lips in intense conversation. Are they family or friends? Is there a difference?
All I know is that the Rainbow Warriors feel like a gift from the universe. I don’t want to unravel their mysteries. I don’t need to know their stories or intrude on their lives. In this one small instance of morning time, about 250 days a year, I just yearn to see them beside the road. All I need to learn and be reminded of is there, in their walking and playing, talking and carrying, bright as jewels, old but young, headed wherever they are going with such serene joy.
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