Glazed eyes brushed past the crowd congregating. It was easy to imagine uniformity and conformity. It was easy to imagine that they all were from the same town, went to the same schools, thought the same things, avoided all the same mistakes. Mistakes that I always stumbled into.
I wore the uniform to hide the differences: the half smile.
I mastered the language to hide the difference: small talk and ask a lot of questions.
For years I navigated in and out looking like I was never touched by fear or sorrow.
Always surrounded by others and always alone.
And then I looked deeply. An accident perhaps. Two conformists side by side on a train. The lights flickered strangely and dimmed, a moment of uncertainty and shelter in the brief darkness. I looked at my right hand , clenched in the ring that stopped me from falling.
I briefly brushed another hand.
I followed the white knuckled hand to an arm, then to the shoulders, then the neck and then the face of a stranger.
I really looked and he looked back, both unguarded.
It lasted but a moment but the impact lingered. The suited stranger was not fearless or untouchable.
For the next few days, I experimented. I walked through public places seeking strangers eyes. I would lift my mask briefly and a relief would spread across their face. Unguarded eyes would look back before continuing on.
A million private joys and pains showed though in micro expressions.
Imagine my surprise.