There are days when it’s hard to clock in. But then, I see a single human face — and I’m on a roll.
Like the luminous face of a woman who, yesterday, made me wonder about my aging self.
She would have otherwise be found plain: Quite tall and long-limbed, in unmemorable clothes. A pair of ballet flats, a pencil skirt and a V-neck, all in jewel colors. That’s exactly how my eyes travelled too, along her thin body: from the ground, up to her face. From humility, up to humanity. And then, they got stuck. On her face.
Under the haircut of no longer than two inches that was bleached to camouflage the gray, her face was completely open. Readable, as if I expected to find my own reflection in it. Having not a dab of make-up on her — like she had nothing to hide — she seemed incredibly open and present. Up for anything.
“Like someone possessed by a clear conscience,” I thought.
“I didn’t expect you to be so petite and, um, lovely,” she said to me. It was our first meeting.
I can always tell. Especially when it comes to other broads, I can always tell when I’m being fed some insincere bullshit. And then, I can always tell when a woman means it; when she’s got no time — or in my case, no tolerance — for competition; and she’s got a sister’s better interest in mind. And I tell you, compliments from such a broad are a better ego treatment than a week-long stay at a beauty spa with, say, Olivier Martinez as your lover.
So, when she said that — I was hooked. First, I studied her well nourished skin with seemingly no trace of plastic surgery, and I pinpointed the gist of her: She was a happy one. She had done the work. That hard work one’s gotta do on herself in order to not be tortured with doubt, jealousy or self-loathing. She had the balls to be happy, to like herself, and by extension (or by my hubristic assumption that I was heading in the same direction), she seemed to like me just fine, too.
I was about to learn in one, two, three minutes — she was also a writer. It must be a common thing among artists, writers especially: We just can’t fucking give up on people. We cannot NOT like them.
Like every other fucker, over the course of a life, we acquire a history of letdowns and opinions. Every heartbreak hurts equally. After enough shit has been handed to us, though, some of us learn to pray to our Zen deities and pretend to surrender all control over the matter. But I suspect the truth is a lot more painful: Each fuck-up hits us below the belt and we hate it. Because by definition of our craft, we cannot lead with disappointment. We ought to stay in love with humanity, or at least in awe of it.
And why CAN’T people live up to their goodness? Surely, they had to be good at one point. It’s kind of a universal thing in the beginning: We are born good. We remain good for a while, and complete strangers get sidetracked at the sight of our still undamaged faces.
I wondered that as I studied the face of a babe who was being carried across the street by her father. She was little. Too little for me to remember what it felt like — to be her. Too young to have a palpable fear of time.
Facing out, over the man’s shoulder, the young girl was moving her mouth and pressing her plum cheek against her father’s stubble.
“That man’s heart is forever taken,” I thought.
The seconds on their walkway sign were about to expire, but the two creatures — one still innocent, the other one living vicariously through her — were so engrossed in their chat, they were hardly among us. Finally, by the time the man began jogging slightly, with his daughter bouncing uncomfortably in his arms (he had to be still training for such new functions of his body), they crossed in front of my left headlight. Two more lanes of traffic — and they would be safe.
Bouncing on her father’s arm, the girl noticed me. The green of her eyes got stuck to my heart. I waved, timidly, with one hand. Hesitantly but innocently, she squeezed her tiny left fist, then released it, and squeezed it again. She was imitating my gesture. She was still good. Up for anything.
It would be horrific, I thought, to lose my soul’s sight.
Then, I went home and wrote this.