This is not a story of two lovers. It’s about two strangers who talked through the silence of their eyes.

She was travelling. Her ears plugged in, shutting out the world around her, as she had always done. Her eyes looked around occasionally taking in the scene or to catch another fanciful eye. Deep in thought, she frowned to herself. Misery, others thought. Then she saw him, the tall, handsome body. He had a strong face with soft brown eyes. A lone figure in the crowd, his struggles reflected in his beaten body and tired eyes. She wondered about his failed past and his successful future. His present torn between the two – a wistful yearning to succeed and grit imbibed over the years. She saw her life through him – the comforts that were grudgingly acknowledged, the complaints that were meaninglessly spelt. Her ambitions diminished each day, broken by her perceived failures, just as his were strengthened by it.

Their eyes met and he saw her. They looked at each other, trying to avert their gaze at the same time, shying away from the weak bond that connected them – the silence of their eyes. His life held meaning, his present spoke of determination and his future of success. Her life had started wilting, never having reached its prime, her present, a sorry excuse to compensate for an empty past, and her future pleading for justice. He shamed her and her choices. This was guilt and shame that she would never admit, even to herself, escaping to another world through cynicism and procrastination, while destroying every other world that held meaning.

She glowed in his company, embarrassed or happy, she did not know. Motionless he sat opposite her, gifting her his time, while she arrayed her inspired thoughts. She was comforted by him, life held promise, even hers. She fleeted between superficial worlds, finding incomprehensible and volatile solace in them. But that wasn’t her, she knew. It was his world that she could call her own, that presented challenges and risk, that would fail miserably before any success and that would complete her before life ended it all.

The jerks of the train derailed her train of thought and she got up to leave and catch a last glimpse of those eyes, to thank them for their time and showing her a path that had challenged her own.

Charulata Somal

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