“1 year 7 months,” she blurted. I looked up. I’d never seen this woman before. She had course black hair, and sad, distant eyes. Her nostrils flared, venting a steam of hot tea brewing in her chest. There was some kind of story hidden in her eyebrows, another on the tip of her tongue. I could tell by the way she bit her bottom lip, trapping the urge to speak.
It was ineffective. She said, “I really thought this person was the one, you know?”
I didn’t know. But I nodded anyway.
She continued, in a careful, soft voice: “For the first time in my life, I knew. I was going to marry this person. This person was MY person.”
I watched the drop of her gaze to the floor, followed by ten pounds of sorrow. Her shoulders were so heavy it weighed the whole room. She apologized and, with one simple sigh, blew the dial on gravity to the far, far right, and I, under the anchor of a pause in my breath, replied, “It must have been hard for you.”
She looked directly at me. The black in her irides glistened. “I really thought we were going to last. For the first time in my life I saw a future. But she told me it was over. And worse, she told me she was seeing someone else. Three months. That… hit home.”
Watching this woman unravel before my eyes, I realized there was nothing I, or even she, could say or do to change the love of another person. So, I let her talk. She was like this character I’d seen many times before: the kind that spends his life believing he can be happy without marriage, until someone, out of the blue, rips him from his comfort zone to think, maybe, possibly, otherwise… and is met with incredible disappointment when the facade of happily ever after reveals to be untrue. Even the strongest have an Achilles heel. I just happen to meet this woman after she had hers struck.
“I’m sorry, you’re a complete stranger. But you’re the first person, all day, who hasn’t mentioned I look sad.”
Well. When I feel like shit, I don’t want to be asked why I look like shit. So why would I?
I shrugged. “Sometimes, it’s easier to share with a stranger. There’s no, well minimal, judgement. No preconceived opinions on what your relationship was or should be.”
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this, but I kept going anyway: “You’re going through these raw emotions that I couldn’t possibly replicate. It’s a lot to process. And for the time being, it’s going to suck. It’s going to hurt. But you know what? It’s OK to be sad. We don’t need to fill this absurd expectation of being happy all the time. Say what you need to. Cry if you need to. We’re the only ones here.”
So there we were, two complete strangers just few minutes prior, together in silence, my hand on her shoulder. I could actually feel the anxiety waft from her skin.
“You’re going to be OK.”
“I’m going to be OK.”
A weak smile on her face, but a smile nonetheless.
We’re all going to be OK.