I barely noticed him. It was dark, my eyes drawn to the Saturday night parade of young, scantily-dressed, impeccably groomed tanned and toned celeb lookalikes heading toward their next $30 cocktail on Collins Avenue in South Beach. By contrast, my post-beach getup of frizzy hair, flip flops and workout shorts didn’t catch any return attention save for a “Go Pats!” acknowledgement of my SuperBowl t-shirt. I was tired, it was our last night of vacation, and all I desired was a night in the hotel room watching CNN with an accompanying bag of peanut M&Ms from the honor bar. A few strides further along, my husband tugged at my arm. “Wait a sec, babe,” he commanded.
Then I noticed him. Crouched on a makeshift stool sitting behind a small table of bracelets, earrings and necklaces, he looked up and smiled. His skin was dark and leathery. Hair a salt and pepper tangle of wavy curls, he simultaneously blended in and stood out. “This one,” he said, pointing to a champagne hued stone leather bracelet. It didn’t sparkle or stand out, but looked handcrafted from what my naked eye could see. Nothing on the table cost more than ten bucks, and I really wasn’t interested. I rarely wear jewelry. Too much hassle. But over the next few moments, he convinced me this wasn’t just another cheap bracelet.
“I’m an artist. I lived in Amsterdam for a while before…” he rambled as he pulled out more bracelets to show me. His words were difficult to decipher. Could have been his accent, several missing teeth, or a perhaps a really hard life crafting and merchandising his wares everyday to absent-minded, distracted tourists intent on haggling his price down. But his eyes spoke volumes, and bore right into my heart. I looked through several more bracelets, shared bits of my life and what brought me to Miami (my birthday, an escape from the New England chill – literally and a little bit figuratively too – sun, water and the simple delight of sand between my toes).
After 20 minutes or so, I settled on the bracelet he chose for me. He asked for $10, I gave him $15. He stood, shook my husband’s hand, and kissed the back of mine as what I now believe were small tears welling in his eyes and multiple thank yous.
Best piece of jewelry I’ve ever bought.