Saturday, January 10, 2015

Who ARE You, and What Do You Want with Me?


Ever have a weird encounter with a random stranger? I don’t mean simply chatting up the barista at the local coffee shop or helping an elderly woman with a door. No, I mean weird. Weird as in inexplicable, mystical, that which leaves you pondering the meaning of what just happened.

A man steps onto a bus.

Actually, a lot of men step onto the bus. I am on vacation. Disney World. This is a place where people are generally nice and happy and friendlier than they might normally be. They like each other, look at each other, make small talk, fill the void. Those who, in their regular lives, might avert their eyes, be short with you, or show little interest in your story, offer up smiles, nods, and where are you froms. They comment on your family, search for commonalities in your day. This has always been a favorite part of my vacations to the land of Mickey. Ordinary activities that would usually be a source of irritation become a means of connection between those who seemingly have none. And, so, I jump on the bus just as the driver closes the door.

My family is farther to the back, having gotten on before I could make my way through the crowd. There is no room to sit. People stand, holding onto straps and bars above their heads. The driver tells us to move to the back, keep on moving back. I squish in between my daughter, who is a good eight inches taller than I am, and a woman from Georgia who is here with her son. It is a boring ride as most rides are. I chat with my daughter and warn the woman sitting beside me that I am not very good at standing on buses and that should I land in her lap to not be concerned. Then through the crowd, actually to my back and right beside me, I hear a voice that sounds soothing, lyrical, very much like home, if we could define home in this case as some mystical spot that exists somewhere deep inside of me.

I turn to look. The man is talking to the woman, with the two children, who sits beside where he stands. “How old is she?” Calming, kind. There is no small talk about this. He is practiced and sincere. I know this soul. I am drawn to him. I am in prime staring position, and I take full advantage of this. His back is to me while he speaks with the woman. When he turns up to look out at the crowd, I turn my back to him and converse a bit with my daughter. Oddly, I feel like the schoolgirl with a crush. I cannot, for the life of me, make eye contact with this man. Understand that I make a point to make eye contact with strangers. I offer up smiles and strike up conversation as easily as I breathe. But I cannot look into his eyes. Neither can I stop staring the second he turns his head.

What is it? Why am I so drawn? Have we known each other in a lifetime past? Does he remind me of someone I know? Have we run into each other at some earlier point in our lives? It is embarrassing how much I stare. It is less embarrassing how much I eavesdrop on the conversation he has with the woman. As a writer, it is just what I do. I study his features. I am mesmerized by his voice. I take all of this in as if it is material for an exam.

And then he turns my direction.

I look away quickly, afraid he will catch me staring. I can feel him looking at me, can see him out the corner of my eye, scanning top to bottom, bottom to top. This is not a checking me out kind of look. This is taking me in. Studying me as I had studied him. I wonder if his soul recognizes my soul just as mine did his.

The bus comes to a stop. We have arrived at our destination. Everyone ends their conversations, says their goodbyes, and lines up to make their way to the door. This man is directly behind me. It is an awkward feeling. And yet exhilarating. I feel him at my back or somewhere near my back. This is not flirting. Our eyes never met. This is not a getting to know you session. We never spoke a word. Yet the energy is strong. For me, at least, the energy is strong. I wonder if it is for him.

We step off the bus, meet up with our respective families, and venture on into the park. I look occasionally, throughout the day, for his face but never see him again.

One bus ride. One man. One day.

Were he to step in front of me this minute, I am not certain I would remember his face. I cannot help but wonder why we crossed paths, why we connected without connecting, why I feel still the energy and the rush. I was the last one on that bus before the door shut. Circumstance? Destiny? Maybe. But why?

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