Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lady in the train...

It was only when I looked up again that I realised she was crying.

Before I sat down diagonally opposite her I nonchalantly gave her a smile, the kind of smile you give to strangers on the train who you happen to be sitting with. I dug into my sandwich, and the magazine I had with me.

A few moments later I looked her, and from the bottom lid of her eye a big bead of teardrop fell and dampened her white blouse. It was then I realised she was crying. I felt 'guilty' for not having noticed it before. But I didn't want to stare, so looked down again, fumbling nervously with my cheese, ham and buns. At first, like the self-conscious and self-critical me I am, I thought that perhaps it was something about me that smelt bad. From her her swollen and reddened eyes, I realised then why it was that the lady had her hand across her nose.

Though for the ten minutes or so until my stop I felt uneasy sitting there, so close to a middle aged lady who was obviously very hurt. Tear drops didn't stp falling, and she stared with dead eyes out of the window as the morning sun shone inward. Cows, fields, forests and canals flashed by, but their beauty did nothing to soothe her pain. I glanced up at her, pretending to be uninterested and blind to her tears, but deep done I was concerned, concerned a fellow human being was suffering in silence.

I wanted to say something to her, to ask her if she was alright. I wanted to tell her that whatever it was that was hurting her, that was making her cry will pass. I wanted to tell her that sadness, like happiness, and all other feelings and things in life, will come and go, come and go.

But I didn't dare, and my shyness got the better of me. I kept my thoughts to myself, my concern for a fellow human being in need hid within me, because I was scared that maybe she'd react with hostility toward me butting into her life. Was I uncaring and less of a person because of that? Or has society reached a stage in which seeing a stranger cry is better dealt with by pretending not to see? The passenger sitting right next to the lady slept. Or perhaps pretended to sleep.

A few moments before the train arrived at the station, she gathered her bags and wiped her tears one last time. She excused herself as she stood up and brushed against me slightly and made her way to the door. I soon got off the train too. Amid the crowd of travellers I found her again, walking out of the station, with a heavy bag of documents in hand. I only saw the back of her head, but I imagined that her eyes were still swollen, that her eyes were still red.

And soon she vanished in the crowd. But my thoughts stayed with her, as I too was lost in the crowd.

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