I see you.

Tonight at a restaurant, I saw a young man (30ish) sitting at a table across from an older man. Could have been his dad; I don’t know. They spoke very little. The younger man sat facing my direction, just a few feet away, so I could see him clearly.

Something was wrong. When I glanced up and saw him, I recognized, connected deeply, with what he seemed to be feeling. I have felt it too, or at least something very similar to it.  And I think I’ve had that exact same expression and posture while feeling it. He sat, seemingly paralyzed, with a look on his face of pain, shock, despair, confusion, hopelessness, hurt, or some combination of those. He did not move. Not even an eyelash. He appeared lost in some terribly unpleasant place, staring through his physical surroundings into nothing, or into something that only he could see. Maybe someone he loves just died. Maybe someone just broke his heart into a million pieces. Or maybe he is just completely overwhelmed with more responsibilities than he can possibly handle and is afraid to face tomorrow.

As soon as I saw him frozen there, I was frozen with him. I sat motionless, and stared at him, while he stared into space. I could not move or avert my gaze from him until he moved, or at least broke the stare-down he was having with something invisible, and returned to his dinner companion . . . Oh, what’s wrong poor fellow? I know whatever it is, it hurts so badly, and no one can make the hurt go away. I’m so sorry . . . Finally he kind of flinched and as he did he looked up and our eyes met for a split-second. I quickly looked away and tried not to look his way again.

Why?

Why did I look away the instant we connected? It was just a reflex? I didn’t want to invade his privacy, make him uncomfortable? Maybe all of that, but where did that reflex come from? What is it guarding against? Tonight as I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that I should have held the eye contact just a little longer – not a long time, just long enough to admit that it wasn’t an accident and to give him a little smile. Maybe he would have felt my caring for him, just as I had felt his pain. What would be so wrong with that? Why must we all be strangers when really we are all part of the same fabric?

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About dahnajeen

I'm Donna Jean Hunter. My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Patterson told me I was a great writer and would be an author when I grew up. She always had me read my stories to the class, and even took me around to the other classrooms to have me read to them. I'm pretty sure the other kids all hated me that year. I don't care though. I love Mrs. Patterson. Of course she did not know then about the Internet and blogging and how much of what people read would no longer be on paper when I grew up. I have had a few things published in a college literary journal, and once, for a few weeks--until it threatened to kill me with boredom and I quit--I actually received pay for working as a technical writer. But so far, I have not been able to say that I'm a writer in the sense that it is what I do for a living. I still sort of dream of that happening one day. But in the meantime, I teach high school English, and can't stop being a writer whether anyone reads it or not. I hope someone enjoys some of it.
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2 Responses to I see you.

  1. connie hawley says:

    yes, why are we quick to turn away from connections……. and you ARE a writer NOW> : )

  2. dahnajeen says:

    Thank you Connie! Fish have to swim. I have to write.

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