A Backwards Glance

I’m not sure what made me look backward as I was crossing the street that day to get to work. I don’t even remember the day, honestly, just that I was in a hurry and had a long day ahead of me. But I do remember looking back, and what I saw has stayed etched in my mind so perfectly that it might as well be framed on my wall. Not because it was a moment that drew the attention of everyone around or created a scene, no. It was a quiet moment, a moment of stillness in the middle of a bustling New York morning, and I haven’t forgotten it.

She was a young woman, turning to look at a young man whom she had just passed on the sidewalk. Her body was turned face-on, her right leg ramrod straight, her left extended just toward him. Her upper body arched just slightly away, forcing her head to tilt downward in order to meet his eyes. One hand reached up, pulling a pair of sunglasses down her nose by the top of the rims. She was posed so perfectly that she might have been a photograph herself, arranged with subtle artistry by a master at their craft.

I couldn’t see her face from across the street, but I can tell you right now exactly what expression was painted on it from the sketch of her posture, so perfectly did she capture an emotion. Every line of her body from the bottom of her feet to the top of her head held wonder, expectation, and above all that charge of recognition that we all know so well, that feeling of “holy shit, how long has it been??” I didn’t need to hear their conversation for her words to him to be as real to me as my own thoughts, to understand fundamentally that she was about to say something like “I haven’t seen you in forever!” Never in my life have I seen someone capture that moment of expectant recognition.

I have no way or knowing what happened next. I needed to get to work, after all, so that fleeting glance is all that remained with me as I walked on. I have no idea whether they reconnected and formed a fast friendship, whether they blossomed into something more, or whether that one glance was all they shared before drifting apart again. But that one glance stayed with me throughout the day and beyond, precisely for that reason, precisely because there was so much potential all wrapped up in it that I didn’t know about. It was a moment in which everything hung in the balance  yet to be realized, when every potential future was just as real to anyone watching as it was to her, that one, final moment before she spoke, in which every last possibility was equally plausible, a moment where she was undeniably alive to me. It was a moment in which I truly wish I’d had a camera.

With excitement and optimism,