He observed her from a distance. She was with a few girls her own age. Friends probably. He watched her as they chatted away to glory. It was almost as if she’d programmed herself to laugh or pass a comment at certain intervals just so her friends wouldn’t suspect anything. But she couldn’t fool him. She had the saddest eyes he had ever seen. Every now and then her eyes would become glassy and just then she’d laugh loudly as if to push back the tears to a safer place. He had a strong urge to walk over to their table, pull her away and look in her eyes till she broke down. But he was a decent man so he forced himself to look away. He took his coffee and headed back to his office.
He thought about her all day. All day while he typed away and gave orders and signed papers, he couldn’t stop thinking about the girl with the sad eyes. “What was it about her?” he thought to himself as he got ready to head back home. “Maybe she just had a bad day”... “No no! There was lot more behind those brown eyes”. The debate with himself continued all the way to tube station.
The train was packed. Office hours were always a nightmare for London Underground. But he was too consumed to take notice. It was only when someone almost knocked him over, did he look around…and there she was- standing in a corner, trying to become invisible. Her eyes didn’t meet anyone, not the smallest trace of a smile on her face. He didn’t realize how time flew in the crowded train…he didn’t realize when the crowd subsided and that they were now sitting across from one another. Suddenly he realized she was looking straight at him, slightly displeased, probably because he was unconsciously staring at her. He managed to salvage the remaining scraps of his dignity and smiled back at her…
“Hot, huh?” Were the words he managed to cough up and immediately wished a portal would open up right then and suck him in!
“Yes, it is an exceptionally hot day...” she responded politely. Boy was he glad she understood what he intended to say! Her voice was deep, almost pained. He immediately knew it was one voice he’d remember all his life. He was tempted to hear more, so he decided to push his luck further… “If you don’t mind me saying so, you have very beautiful eyes”
She looked more surprised than offended or pleased. Managing a polite smile she thanked him and plugged in her headphones to avoid further conversations with the strange stranger.
She pretended to listen to music. She often did that to avoid people – plug in her headphones and not play any music. She wanted to be accustomed to being alone...she had to become used to being silent and invisible. She could no longer be the feisty person she was once. Her spark, her pride had become the biggest obstacle in her life. The lesser she spoke, the lesser troubles she had. She didn’t realize when a defiant drop of tear escaped her strong will.
He didn’t miss it. He knew she wasn’t listening to anything…eyes like those would’ve reacted to music. Those eyes gave away too easily. He got up from his seat and took a seat beside her and offered her a tissue he rummaged from his bag. Without looking up, she accepted it and dabbed her eyes.
She was prettier up close and he had to fight hard to resist wiping away the tear himself. Her cheeks were flushed with embarrassment which rendered it a little colour where it was initially pale. He smiled as she bit her lower lip in an attempt to stop the tears from resurfacing. Her stubbornness was almost amusing to watch.
“Thanks.” She said, interrupting his thoughts, “Something must’ve gotten into my eyes.” She lied. Those eyes weren’t meant for secrets. As if almost reading his thoughts, she quickly looked away and plugged in her silent headphones again.
“There’s no music” he blurted out but didn’t feel obliged to apologize.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’re not listening to any music. I can tell.”
“I didn’t ask” She snapped back.
“I was with her for six years. I was going to ask her to marry me. Then she left me for another man. She never even told me why she was unhappy with me. It broke my heart.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” she looked genuinely confused.
“Because you will forget everything the minute you get off this train. And I’ll still be lightened of a burden I’ve been carrying around for quite some time now.”
She said nothing, just continued to stare at this stranger. Yet they both completely understood what he was saying and what he was not saying.
She didn’t attempt to break eye contact anymore, almost as if daring him to keep up with her.
They always looked away.
But he wouldn’t. He was mesmerized by her eyes, touched by the pain she was feeling.
Her eyes became glassy and for the first time in the entire day, he saw a hint of helpless rage her eyes. He still didn’t look away.
Her eyes softened, “I love someone who is irritated by my very presence…who doesn’t have the patience or the tolerance to listen to any of my thoughts, ideas, complains or suggestions. I love someone who won’t even be in the same room as me when I cry…let alone put a loving arm around me. I’m in love with someone who is enraged by the very existence of me in his life. Yet, I’m accused everyday of being blind to his love.”
He didn’t look away, just wiped away the tears that had finally escaped. “Do you need some water?”
“No, thank you. I’m fine.” Having said that, she looked at him and they both laughed…the word ‘fine’ was probably the most misused word in history.
“Your eyes are beautiful when you cry and even more so when you laugh.”
“Thank you…for everything.”
They continued the remaining journey in silence. But a refreshingly peaceful silence.
“I get off at the next stop” she said breaking the silence. Her eyes were still sad but there was a hint of life in them.
“Goodnight. I hope we cross paths again.” he smiled at her, engaging her eyes again.
“Maybe. Goodnight.” She smiled back at him.
But only did their eyes communicate the truth and left them both slightly heartbroken and slightly more alive than they were.