I noticed her through the windows, out on the sidewalk gathering with her party. She was standing in the sunshine, smiling and greeting her companions, and then they all turned and headed towards the door of the place where I was working. They entered and she approached the counter to inquire about something, and one of my associates greeted her and took her booking; three for a tour, please. I was standing near the counter, off to the side and so I did that thing that I do, where I notice all of the things while attempting to appear busy with something else and not appear obvious in my observation. I don’t really know how successful I am at the not appearing obvious part sometimes.
She had a thick mat of long, full black curly hair, with a touch of a grey streak sprouting on one side. Most definitely the hair of a witch. The grey looked very premature, considering the lack of deeply creased lines on her face. Her skin was radiant and she wore no makeup except for some subtle shading around her eyes, piercing dark blue eyes that seemed to flash around the room. They were the color of the pacific ocean. She was dressed in comfortable but stylish winter casual, and looked very well put together but not forced. I noticed her boots, because I had noticed her leggings, and had noticed the shape of her slim legs below the hemline of her winter coat. Her boots were a pair of Dexters, the classic 1970s suede ones with the red laces. They weren’t reproductions, they were vintage. She had perfectly sized feet. It occurred to me that I had never had that thought before, that there could be perfectly sized feet.
As her group walked away to find a table to sit and wait for the tour to begin, I noted that she moved with that controlled and effortless glide that trained dancers always seem to have, completely in their bodies and firmly connected to the ground but also not bound to it, like they know they have the ability to defy gravity at any given moment if they so choose. I deeply felt that gravity. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I busied myself with my preparations and continued to pretend to not want to stare. Her presence in the room was like a small storm that came through the door to disturb my complacency and the flat calm of the routine of my day. When she glanced in my direction and our eyes met it was if she looked right through me. It was unnerving. It was obvious to me who she reminded me of, and obvious that I was having a similar reaction. It was like that one time at the airport when someone else had walked through the gates that first time and into my life like a subtle hurricane, and all I could manage was some unintelligible gasp, at a complete loss for words. But this moment wasn’t just a reminiscence or nostalgia, although she was similar it was also something different because she was also quite different, she was unique. I always struggle to find the words to describe it, this sense or feeling that I get in these moments, but it’s akin to some level of deeper recognition, or familiarity. I had seen her before somewhere; I had some residual knowledge of her. Of course in reality I hadn’t, certainly not in this lifetime or timeline. I would have fallen in love with her before this moment. I would have remembered her.
When the time arrived I called the room to order and began my performance. Like some actor on a stage, I had given this tour so many times now that it was completely rote, and I could busy my mind with thoughts apart from remembering the words and I frequently wandered to simply watch people’s reactions and responses to the information and entertainment I presented. I looked at the rest of her party and wondered about their relationships. The older and well dressed gentleman with whom she obviously very familiar with and shared a deep affection for was her father. The younger man, with his closely cropped thinning hair, horned rimmed glasses and full beard was more difficult to assess. I saw no rings on fingers, and the body language and interaction was more subtle. Brother? Other family member? I didn’t see an immediate resemblance. Possibly a lover, a boyfriend, one that has been with her for some time, so as to explain the more casual nature of their connection. They were approximately the same age. He appeared very flat and passive; not to say he was sleepy, but he looked quite sleepy. It annoyed me to think that she would be with someone that could treat her presence so casually, but that’s often what happens in longer term relationships where two people who spend so much time together are connected in ways that are not so obvious to the outside world. Like the rest of the tour group they were all listening very intently, and seemed to be quite engaged in my presentation. I have learned over time to move my focus around the group and to make eye contact with individuals, and whenever I looked directly at her it seemed as if it caused her to shift, or to subtly look away. I thought that if she could sense my underlying interest in her, if she picked something up in my eyes that it might not be welcomed and could possibly be making her uncomfortable. I forget sometimes that I have fairly intense energy and people don’t know how to respond to it when they feel it, consciously or subconsciously. So I decided to try to read the younger man. If nothing else, he seemed unchanged when I focused on him, but I wasn’t sure if that was because he too picked up something and was concerned about the fact that I was somewhat enamored with his sister, or his girlfriend.
The tour progressed and we moved into the darkened and dramatically lit cask room. Her party stayed near the back and off to the side, and with the lighting where they stood I could only see the outlines of their forms but her face was softly illuminated in the dark. She was looking directly at me and I could see the square set of her jaw line and cheekbones, I could feel her intent and interested gaze as I continued to speak. They were far enough away that it was easier for me to look directly at her and not be noticed, and the other members of the group were asking questions which had me engaged but I could still feel her eyes turned towards me. I thought that if she ever looked at me that way, in a different situation or circumstance, like across a crowded room at a party, well… I’d be done for. As the tour was wrapping up and we walked back towards the main room I caught her profile. what is it about a woman’s face… her jaw line, her neck; her cheekbones…the way her nose comes to a point, perfectly framing her mouth, the shape of her lips…all the mysteries of the female form. I can appreciate beauty in many women of all shapes and sizes, but then there are the ones, the particular ones that seem to trigger a different kind of response in me. I’ve often been accused of having a certain type, but it isn’t quite true. Although there are characteristics that I find attractive, it is always this unique combination of some of those, and some new ones that tend to draw me in most deeply.
Back in the main room the couple sat together, and they both had positioned their seats outside of a direct sight-line. Yes, they were a couple, that became more obvious, and it was also clear that they both were what I would classify as quietly reserved, a state of being that I both understand and appreciate. That knowledge changed the dynamic for me, as I don’t make a habit of wanting someone I cannot have, or someone who is previously engaged. The tour wrapped up, and people began departing. I made eye contact with everyone in the group as I normally do and offer a ‘thank you for coming’, her eyes briefly flashed at mine once more, and then the three of them were out the door, busily discussing the next stop in their day. I watched through the window as she disappeared from view and with a heavy sigh, I carried on with my day. And that was that.
They say it’s impossible to know the effect that you have on everyone you encounter in your life, from the clerk at the grocery store, or the person on the train or the artist who paints or writes, or the actor on a stage. But it is possible to remember the people that you encounter who have an effect on you, and for a moment in time a woman who I had never seen before and will never see again stirred something inside me, something that had been sleeping. The fact that she wasn’t interested or available to me, or that there won’t be anything more than that isn’t the point. The point is that encountering her made me feel something; that something is my own and certainly doesn’t need to have any bearing on her feelings or her life. She’ll never know what effect she had on me in that moment, and that’s okay. Under that set of circumstances to have shared that with her it would have been a little weird and probably quite unwelcome. In an idealized world I’ve often imagined what it could be like if we did share this kind of thing, but without expectations or the need to have people or situations be a certain way in response. Some people seem to have the ability to compliment others and share things like that more freely, and it’s often something that I admire and aspire to. In my current position I also have certainly learned how to graciously accept thanks and compliments sincerely and with gratitude, an important lesson I had to learn for myself. I try to remember that in my day to day and my moment to moment encounters with the people who come into my life directly, and with the people I pass by on the street, and the people I interact with on the internet. I try to stay conscious of the fact that, even when I am not even aware of it, I can and do have an impact, and I do make a difference, and sometimes I need to check what I project, what I put out there, because I really do believe that people in general want to do good by each other.
These feelings that I got from that chance encounter with a total stranger were strong enough to make me want to write something down about it, even if it’s quite rambling and messy.
Well, my life is sometimes rambling and messy, so too is my writing style. Sometimes, I just need to put something out there. But now, you’re reading this, and you might feel something too. And… that’s how it works.
That’s what ripples can do.