I don’t remember what I was watching. Maybe you’ve seen it before. There’s this young couple – obviously attractive – and they’re at a fair or something. It’s a summer night. A pop song is playing. You can just tell they’ve got the hots for each other. It’s in the lighting. The smiles. The way that when the guy spins his gal around, her hair gets blown in both of their faces. They’re in love. When the fireworks go off, you know they’re about to kiss.
And then, what I hadn’t expected: the camera cuts to the male’s POV. First-person intimate. Unmistakable in its proximity and familiarity, right? This was different. I can’t explain it. It was closer. Due gratitude to the director, but you really have to marvel at modern technology…it was like in this shot of this stranger – if I can even call her that – I had this portal into her soul, the quality was so good… At first she just was staring into the camera, but then I had the strangest feeling that she was staring through the TV. Like she was staring back at me. The music faded, and for a moment, she seemed only inches away, the reds and blues of the sky bursting in her eyes.
Look, you can learn a lot about someone in proximity. That’s obvious. Get close enough to smell someone’s breath and when they smile, you can tell what they had for lunch, whether the tension around their eyes seems genuine- all sorts of things. That’s not what I’m talking about. It was like, I was this guy, looking at my girl for the ten-thousandth time, and in her eyes, and in the light behind them, I could see everything that had happened between us. It was like I knew her. You’re going to think I’m crazy, but the feeling came upon me with such intensity that I grabbed the chair to make sure it was still there. Those familiar eyes, that same old smile…
On a cloudy fall afternoon, I sat by the girl I had been sitting with all summer. You helped me spread a blanket on the grass, sheltered from the sidewalk by a dozen feet and two beating hearts, and placed your head on my shoulder. The people hurried by like they always do, like they always will. You and I were ants on the lawn of our nation. That’s all I wanted to be.
When the sun poked its head through the clouds, it was like I had lived my whole life in the shade. But I know this feeling, this warmth. I’ve been here before, and sat next to you under this sky. When you turned to look at me, there was no effort to force a smile, no parry with manufactured countenance, just chapped lips and bright eyes, gaping back like a mirror, echoing the hope and the fear and the wonder etched in the wrinkles of my skin. You could squander your whole life looking for a day like this. God knows I did.
That look. There is nothing novel about it, nothing mysterious. This is a face you have beheld thousands of times- tens of thousands- whose contours and scars are indelible in your memory, a face you know better than it knows itself. There might not even be anything extraordinary about it. Yet there is sacrament in the endless numbered repetitions, in knowing before it happens just how those lips are going to twitch, how those brows will rise, how that hair will fall. Wherever wandered that face may find you, right there is home. When our eyes meet, those circadian masks melt away, and all that remains is the expression of self, pure and plain.