A Soul's CountenanceA Story by Doug
You sit in the park near me. I look into your eyes and I realize I don’t know you. Who are you? What have the years of your life shaped you into? You are some being different from me, and I don’t know what to say to you. Your eyes speak of wisdom and your smooth features tell of a kind soul, but there is something else in your face, in your eyes. Something I can never know as you do, but something that you can show me.
I dig deeper. What is it? My eyes search your body for clues. There is nothing. Your hands are folded in your lap, an image of tranquility. What about you is so intriguing? There must be something. In the dusk I see your face effect an indifferent expression. You rise slightly from the bench where you are sitting to adjust your dress, and then I see it.
A quivering lip.
Fear? No. It cannot be fear. You sit on the bench as if you don’t have a care in the world. Your demeanor is that of one who waits all day for the setting of the sun. It is almost as if you would sit on the bench until you die or until the world ends if you had the choice, but something tells me you will go on with your life.
What is behind the quivering of the lip? I know it cannot be rage. There is nothing in this park that could cause such anger. The birds are singing in the trees, heralds of love and peace. Your outward appearance shows this love, this tranquility, but behind those blue pools that are your eyes I see your nakedness. I can see how vulnerable you really are. Then your eyes flicker to mine, and the truth of you hits me as a storm bashing itself against the shore of the sea.
Pain. Pain lies behind your eyes! I see now that your anguish is so great that no tears, no wails, no words can express it. You sit on the bench and show nothing. That is your peace, your discipline. You don’t even try to express what you feel, and for some reason I know that you never will. You sit on the bench as careless as a child in the prime of health, and yet, inside you your pain rages. It will always rage. You have chosen this.
I gaze into your eyes in sorrow, and at last I begin to understand the pure and raw agony that you suffer and why you have chosen to hide it. The simple shifting of your eyes’ focus has opened a window to your soul for me. I see all the world’s pain and more- more than anyone can bear, but you contain it. You will never allow it to burden anyone else as it has burdened you. It is your curse, and you have accepted that.
Even I shrink from your gaze. I divert my eyes, searching for something happy, anything that will save me from that awful sorrow. My vision rests on children playing, but their innocence sickens me in the light of what I have just witnessed in you. I turn my gaze instead to an old woman feeding pigeons.
Normally I would find this image calming, but now all I can think of is how horribly mortal that woman is. Her flesh is so frail, so weak. Who will cry when she dies? Who loves her? Would anyone die in her place? Would she want anyone to? I wonder how much time she has left.
I look to you again on the bench across from mine. There is nothing I can do to ease your pain, and as I realize this I feel tears pool in my eyes. I cannot bear you anymore. I cannot survive your grief-stricken gaze. I love you, but I cannot endure you.
Desperately, I bury my face in my hands, allowing my tears to flow freely.
Moments pass. My tears slow and then stop before escaping into the evening air. When I look up you are gone. The bench is empty and the woman feeding the birds is looking at me. I realize that I must look as though I have seen a ghost, both beautiful and terrible. I give her a slight reassuring smile and resolve to ignore her, returning to my thoughts.
For those few moments in that park, I knew you as no one else did. I knew you as, perhaps, no one ever will. You see, I was the only one in the park who took the time to see what you were trying to hide. In those few moments I saw you as no one else did, your peace and your pain as one, and I am better for it.
I rise from the bench and begin the walk down the cobblestone street to my home. My heart goes out to you, the only being that I feel I have ever fully known. I wish I could have spoken to you, but I will never see you again, so I whisper the words that I would have spoken to the trees, the city, and the wind.
© 2008 Doug
Added on February 10, 2008
AboutI love both reading and writing. I have been reading for as long as I can remember, and I started writing about three years ago. I have been at it ever since. "Words have no power to impress the mi.. more..
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