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A Certain Sadness
There he stood, right before my eyes. I watched him carefully. I saw the way his hair fell in front of his dark eyes as he walked, the way he pulled his coat tighter around himself, his scuffed shoes, his straight nose. I saw the woman in front of him carrying her baby over her shoulder, and I noticed how he smiled at the baby, his nose wrinkling and his eyes lighting up. I continued to watch him- saw the smile fade into an expression of malcontent. He looked as most people looked when they visited the city; drained, and empty. How I felt. How I always felt.
His eyes shifted to meet mine. I faltered for a moment, feeling the ghost of a smile upon my lips. I picked up my pace unwillingly, feeling the impatience of the crowd behind me. My eyes had dropped to the floor in embarasment, for I was not accustomed to people looking at me. When I willed my eyes to look up, he was closer. I felt him pass by me, his smell lingering in the air for a few seconds. Instinctivly, I turned. I watched him go. I savoured those last moments I had to watch him. Then he turned.
I felt our eyes meet once more, and my stomach lurched. He smiled; I could sense something out of place in his smile, a certain sadness. I watched him, before turning away, and allowing the crowd to carry me away from him. I felt more empty than I had done before, and I was more aware of the feeling that something was missing. It began to dawn on me how lonely my life had become.
It was in the city, in which I first realized I was alone. Amongst these hoards of people, I had nobody. I pulled my coat around me tighter, pushed my hair from my eyes in the hope that it would stay there. It didn't; it never did. The woman in front of me carried a baby over her shoulder; it laughed absently, gazing at me in wonder. I smiled- I couldn't help it. It was the first time I'd smiled for a while now, and as the woman wandered away, I felt the dull feeling creeping over me again. My face fell into the expression of disenchantment which always seemed present.
I don't know why, but I lifted my eyes from their hold on my tatty shoes. Thats when I saw her. It was like something out of a film i'd seen. She had dark hair, that fell just below her shoulders in loose curls. Her face seemed to light up the whole city, although I placed in it something which should not have been there, a certain sadness. It was as if she could not see her beauty, for she tipped her head away from peoples gazes. She lifted her head; the morning sunlight lighting up the face. Her eyes met mine, and I couldn't help but to smile. It was a different smile than that I had given to the baby- an uncertain smile, as I hoped for her to return the gesture. After a moment, she did. I watched the way her lips pulled back over her straight teeth, the way dimples appeared in her cheeks, the way her eyes lit up. Soon, she looked away, and I looked to the floor.
I passed her reluctantly, turning my head only slightly so that I could see her in the corner of my eye. As I walked away, I felt the urge to turn around, and follow her. I wanted to find a way to make her mine. I ignored the urge, and continued to walk. Every step felt tiresome. I allowed myself one last look, turning my head and locating her in the crowd behind me. My heart beat faster as I discovered she had also turned. I smiled once more; though this time, all I could feel was the sadness of allowing her to walk away. The smile appeared on her face once more, before she turned her head.
She is only a stranger, I told myself. Only a stranger, nothing more. Yet she had started a revolution in my head; something which told me that I had to change. For their was pieces of me missing, essential pieces. I was empty, and I was alone. It was no way to live.
I held my baby close to me, for she was the only thing precious and meaningful in my life now. The crowd closed in around us, and my grip tightened on her; I was terrified of loosing her. Public places freaked me out; I could almost feel the eye of society glaring at my left hand, and my baby. Screaming out to me that I have no ring on my finger, that I raise her alone. Her father is long gone, and so it should stay. People assume that I'm desperate for him to come back and help look after her, but we're fine. We'll always be fine.
I hear her laugh, the sound of her small chest rattling against my body. I turn slightly to watch her, and catch sight of the boy behind me. He smiles at her. I feel proud of my baby, for she always lights up people's day. With my spare hand, I push the cheap pushchair, but I dont want to put her in it- I like to have her here. If I could have my way, I would stay with her forever. I wouldn't leave the house. We'd just stay, and we'd be fine- we're always fine.
Despite this, the sight of a family brings upon me a certain sadness. I watch them smile, I watch them laugh, hold hands. That was all I wanted when I was little; to grow up and have a happy family, and now I have to accept that its just me and my baby. We have to be fine.
I avert my eyes. I catch sight of somebody else. He is tall, with hair cropped short. He runs a hand over his unshaven face, and looks to the sky- he looks as though he is wandering, both through the city, and through life. I sometimes wish I could wander, to be free.
His eyes move from the sky, and fix on me. He smiles. It is not the sympathetic smile I am used to, but a warm smile, almost as if he is pleased to see me. I smile back, bobbing my baby as she begins to gurgle. Immidiatly, all my attention is on her again, and I loose sight of the stranger in the crowd. Suddenly, I feel as though I am missing something.
I was wandering. In truth, I was lost. I had given up trying to find direction, so I wandered through the city as the bird roams the empty sky. For a while, I found myself watching a family infront of me; the perfect family. A mum, a dad, two kids- holding hands. Just as society wants us to be. I could not care much for society these days though, and I am easily distracted. My eyes turn to the sky, and I watch the clouds drift in the morning breeze.
I felt the weight of a body collide with me, drawing my attention back to the crowd. Thank god for that, because thats when I saw her. Young and beautiful, with blonde hair cut blunt at her shoulders. She pressed her baby to her, and as her eyes met mine, I felt something I had not felt since I was a kid. That feeling you get, when something is right, rushed through me. I watched her, and although she smiled, I could sense a certain sadness in her eyes. One which longed for comfort, and support. I could give her that.
I felt my mind being carried away. She looked away, and desperately, I continued to watch her. Even as she walked away, I turned my head to watch her. Don't let her go, something in me pleaded, but she is only a stranger, after all. Sometimes, we have to let things go. She was only a stranger, yet she'd made me feel something- made me want to stop wandering, to settle down. I felt as though something was missing.
I clung to my husband's hand as if it would save us; I knew it was stupid, but I felt that if I could physically keep a hold of him, I might not loose him all together. I watched him for a moment- the man i'd fallen in love with so long ago. It did not matter to me that he was loosing his hair, and gaining a few pounds- I still loved him. I just hoped that he could see through my faults, and still love me. With my other hand, I clung to my daughter, as we battled through the crowd. My eyes wandered to a young woman clutching her baby, and I began to feel thankful that at least I had my family, I was not alone.
I could not help but to turn my eyes back to my husband. His eyes kept flickering from straight ahead, to our elder daughter, who held his hand. He did not look at me once, and reluctantly, I identified a certain sadness in his face, as if he was tired of our marriage, tired of routine, tired of life. Then he turned, and looked at me. I smiled, but he did not. He scowled, and then turned away. The only hope I clung onto was the fact that from the outside, we looked like the perfect family, so I turned to my daughter, and began to talk- chatting, laughing. And that's how we would look to people- perfect. Talking, laughing, holding hands.
The uncomfortable tightness of my wife's grip upon my hand caused me to squirm, but I set me eyes ahead of me- I did not want another argument about our marriage. I knew what she was doing- trying to make us look like the happy family. Well, there wasn't much happy in life when you had to live with her. As I fixed my gaze on the crowd ahead of us, a figure came into focus. She walked with a confidence that told you that she lived in the city; the stride which parted the crowd to allow an easy pathway.
I watched her. She was not young, but she was younger than my wife. More attractive too. Her dark hair was cropped short, defining her sharp nose. She wore a red dress, with black boots; she looked how I wanted my wife to look. I turned to look at the woman I had married. I noticed her un-styled hair, the wrinkles on her forehead, and the slight discolouring of her teeth as she smiled at me. I scowled and turned to my daughter, talking to her briefly.
We passed the woman with little fuss. As she approached, she sighed, and I noticed a certain sadness. Soon however, she placed the strong expression of nonchalance back on her face, and strode past us, head held high. I needed a woman like that, I was tired, and I felt that something was missing from our 'perfect' lifestyle.