When I sit on the train, I like to people watch. Their faces are like blank canvases to me. They stare with dead eyes at the advertisement that’s been plastered above a fellow transit passenger’s head, some pensive, some exhausted, others wearing a simply inscrutable expression.
To pass the time, I begin to familiarize myself with these strangers in my head.
I picture these strangers laughing. Crying. Sighing. Seeing a blue sky after a rainy week, the soft expression of surprise when they get an unexpected call from someone they haven’t spoken to in a while.
I imagine anger, how it colors some people red or blue or purple or white, how they might sob out of frustration, or assume a dead rocky silence in the face of giving up on someone after a fighting match.
I envision hope. How these strangers might perk up at the sound of a loved one’s footsteps as they finally get home, or become shy when they see someone after they had gone out on their first date. How they might bite their lip as they open a much anticipated email, or grind their teeth when their team almost scores.
And what of the triumphant smirk that graces these strangers’ lips when they make several people laugh, or the shared pointed glare at fellow colleagues when the boss is being ridiculous again? Consider, the way they close their eyes and take a deep breath as they hug someone they missed, or the swell of pride in their chests when they begin to understand a complicated lesson and answer a question right.
I think about how gorgeous these strangers must look when they’re happy. How heart-broken I would be to see them sad. I think about how these people care for others, how they have dreams, aspirations, how absolute strangers can become the closest companions after relating about something or other, how they develop relationships that last entire lifetimes, all by accident.
I watch, almost with a hint of regret, when my fellow transit passengers, strangers who I’ve got to know so intimately in my mind, get off at their stop. I never see them again.
I will never get to see these strangers again, happy, sad, angry, hopeful, triumphant. I will never know them beyond the picture I drew of them, framed neatly in my mind until they blur, like the landscapes whizzing past outside my train window.
I will never know these strangers so deeply. I have to remind myself that even though I have known some people this way, a lot of them have faded out nonetheless. A once golden tapestry now dusty in the basement of my memory. What’s the point? Even I am a stranger to myself. Though I should arguably know myself better than anyone, I haven’t witnessed these imagined moments on my own face either. That’s up to others to enjoy.
I usually sigh and return my gaze to an advertisement plastered above a fellow transit passenger’s head with a pensive, exhausted, or inscrutable expression.
Life looks so gorgeous on you, I think. I might have never seen it, but trust me.
I can imagine.