The encounters without spoken words are often the most meaningful. After relocating to Prague, I use the metro frequently. I travel between university, museums, book stores, jazz clubs, and the same flower stand on Wednesdays. Never have I been in the same company twice, but this has not made any ride less memorable than the last.
My first time on the metro was in the beginning of August. The heat was persistent, seeping deep into the crevices of the underground and nagging at my consciousness. Even with a language barrier, the shared unpleasant experience somehow bonded us passengers. To my right sat a small boy and his older sister sharing a water bottle, the condensation on the outside implying the purchase was recent. The mundanity of them passing it between themselves and laughing about things I didn’t understand was something of an art form to me; it reminded me of my own brother. It instilled a sense of impermanence and fragility, a feeling of regret that I didn’t even think to appreciate things as seemingly meaningless as conversation over cold water.
The older woman seated directly across from me seemed to have fallen asleep, or she was exceptionally good at pretending. I can’t perfectly recall what she was wearing; something with stripes, as Europeans often do. I found my eyes glued to her collarbone, where a thin gold chain with a small heart pendant lay. It wasn’t the necklace I was struck by, but that the clasp had fallen to the front as mine do. I had always felt a twinge of embarrassment when adjusting the clasp back to behind my neck, but in this moment I loved her for being imperfect. I saw myself in her, even just in our shared jewelry mishaps. We were the same.
From then on it’s been impossible for me to step foot on public transit without finding another soulmate of sorts. Someone wearing my dad’s socks, reading my favourite book, donning a smile I saw every day in 10th grade English. Parts of me, my life, the people I’ve loved, exist everywhere. It’s impossible to be lonely.
I suppose it’s comparable to Plato’s allegory of the cave; once you notice something of that significance, you begin to see it everywhere. The world will always be a mirror to me, and my eyes of their own accord will pick out pieces of strangers and recognise them. My heart will pump itself faster and my lips will curve upwards as if I remember them from somewhere. An impending sense of deja vu will strike for the umpteenth time and I will stand lifeless, experiencing the entire existence of another, vicariously, through one aspect of themselves. That one moment in time, that one frame in the movie, will plunk itself comfortably into the mosaic of my body and eventually, when I meet enough people, I’ll resemble a picture. Perhaps it will be blank, or a landscape, or an abstraction. Perhaps it will be myself.
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