Three Words. Part Two.

by | May 31, 2024 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

She watched him gaze around at all of the things she took for granted

She took a seat on the train, just like all of the others, only she wasn’t like them, the others. Fair enough, she looked like them, same hair, dark and straight, same eyes large and brown, even the same dress, business suit and white blouse, flesh coloured tights and black court shoes. Even the standard surgical mask, which hid her face, was the same.

That’s where the resemblance ended though. She had been set free once. Unlike her fellow passengers, she was not chained to this rigid routine, this strict culture of sameness. Striving for perfection which, only when it was too late, turned around to you and said I don’t exist. I never have.

Her liberty had come at a price. Two years of pure pleasure where pressure was something that only existed in a car tyre or a basketball. Where stress was how much you could squeeze a balloon before it burst. The price? The loss of the man who had gifted this experience to her following a chance meeting on this very train.

The accident that took him still replays in her mind, like a video on repeat. Close her eyes and she’d see his pale, lifeless face, a total contrast to his living persona. When he died, so did she, returning to this life of chains. She took out her phone and decided to blend with the others, heads bent, lit up by the screens of their mobile devices.

The first thing she saw was the screensaver, his face, so full of life. She remembered the words that came from that open mouth the very minute she’d pressed the button.

“I love you Midori!”

She swallowed hard, the lump that returned to her throat every time she saw the image. It stuck there like a tennis ball she’d inadvertently swallowed, causing her eyes to water. She opened them wider, increasing their surface area – they weren’t tears unless they fell – as the train came to a halt at the first station. Nobody moved and the carriage was gorged with another mouthful of commuters striving for perfection,

No communication, no conversation, save for the silent homage to Samsung, Apple or Sony. Then, as she raised her eyes to allow the moisture to evaporate in the warm air of the car, she saw an imperfection in the uniform world of the morning commute. The big red nose, like a clown at the circus she’d seen in Missouri. The light blue eyes like the sapphire he’d given her when he proposed. The face, so western, so red and full of wonderment. His expression was like that of a child before it loses its magical curiosity.

She watched him gaze around at all of the things she took for granted, each one met with yet another expression, a work of art. Like the paintings she’d seen in the Louvre. A raise of the eyes, a purse of the lips, a scrunch of the big red nose. Then his eyes met hers and he smiled. She couldn’t help but reciprocate. It was like meeting an old friend. His reaction to her smile froze her in her seat as his face took on a deeper hue of red. Could he see it through the mask?

The display of ocular fireworks was like nothing she’d experienced here. It took her back two years, to a place where such exhibitions of colourful countenance were common. Their visual exchange seemed to last an age, through the tides of bodies which ebbed and flowed at each stop. Presently the end of the line was signalled by the driver’s clipped tones. She couldn’t move and he didn’t move. The play was about to be encored as the empty seats were occupied one by one, to which the couple were oblivious, each had forgotten their respective destinations.

Two places remained, one on either side of the foreigner opposite. Of course, westerners were always the last to be joined by her compatriots, particularly the elderly. She had become a people-watcher since her trip, being more aware of the foibles and habits of her indigenous surroundings. She could look upon her own culture from the outside and inside now.

She didn’t know whether the man’s next action shocked her or her fellow passengers more. He shuffled to his right, to the consternation of the young woman next to him. Then he raised his hand and patted the seat to his left, nodding his head simultaneously. Without even thinking, and in a state of stupefaction, she obeyed his manual request.

“Konichiwa,” he said at the top of his voice. From the reaction of the entire carriage, he could have been sitting naked with a traffic cone adorning his red hair. He took out his phone and selected the Google translate app.

1 Comment

  1. Ken Childs

    Intriguing

    Reply

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