"The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits." G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Bus Encounter

On that day, the bus of the 171 line was full as usual, but Joseph didn't mind standing for the twenty minutes or so since the reminder of his day would be spent sitting in on lectures at the local university. During the journey he would occasionally take his eyes away from the busy city-scape rushing past beyond the nearest window and observe the faces of other passengers, every now and then allowing his gaze to linger on a more interesting one.

While engaging in one of those lazy inspections of his fellow passengers Joseph was unsettled by a pair of blue and mysterious eyes meeting his. Those blue eyes were framed by a pleasant face of a young woman partially visible through a narrow gap between other passenger's heads. Not used to such confrontations from the depersonalized and anonymous crowd, Joseph attempted to conceal his voyeuristic intentions by nonchalantly continuing to turn his head, as if intending to look through a window on the opposite side of the bus. He was sure that during this momentary encounter when their gazes met, a latent smile appeared on her pale and calm face. After composing himself, he glanced back at this mysterious stranger and surely enough she had maintained the same subtle smile and what seemed particularly unusual was how her unmoved gaze welcomed his, as if expecting him to indeed glance back. Prompted by a sudden adrenaline rush Joseph looked away once more.

Not usually forward by nature, he generally avoided making spontaneous acquaintances with strangers, and women especially. Furthermore, he reserved those morning commuting intervals primarily for planning and reflection. Joseph, it seems, desired to suppress and control spontaneity despite seeing its value. It was welcome, but not on a bus. This brief encounter however unsettled his rigid convictions, and the appearance of this mysterious girl tempted him to break his strict habit, only if to learn her name. He made a decision. As the bus would approach the city center where most people would disembark, he would then have the necessary space to approach this newly potential non-stranger and make an acquaintance. This certainly wouldn't require too much effort on his part, since he felt that a subtle yet definite invitation had already been granted.

The bus arrived at the stop where most people usually leave. The commotion created by people heading for the doors was the cue Joseph had been waiting for which gave him the sufficient amount of courage to turn toward the young woman once more.  He was mildly amused upon noticing how his heart begun to beat faster during the composition of the introductory phrase. He approached tentatively, and just as the last of the people standing between them headed for the door leaving behind an empty and unobstructed space, Joseph experienced what could be best described as a cognitive jolt of disillusion, as his eyes fixed on the blind man's cane, which the young woman was holding closely by her side. Her gaze now suddenly stripped of its mystery, had dissolved into a blank and eerie stare into oblivion, and her Mona Lisa smile now equally demystified reduced to the calm and relaxed expression of a morning commuter.

Joseph stood there staring in disbelief for a few seconds, his lips parted with the preselected introductory phrase screaming inside his head. What finally brought him back from the paralysis of this epistemic anomaly was the realization of his asymmetric freedom of being able to look at the young woman, which he thought to be unfair and invasive. With that thought, amused by his imaginative powers of confabulation, he hopped off the bus just as the doors were beginning to close.

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