2008, a random yet typical evening.
The bus ride back to the hostel was packed; we were sardines in a can. I put my backpack down, arms folded in front of the chest to prevent potential, even-if-harmless invasions of personal space.
One thing about Japan that struck me as impressive was the fact that speaking loudly on public transportation was heavily discouraged. Some men and women were loud in the bus, while others came across as your usual exhausted, 9-to-5 office workers. Their suits and ties and pencil skirts were almost similar to the point of uniformity. I looked at my bruised thighs from judo training and thought I’d never want to be seen in a pencil skirt, ever.
The view on a public bus in Newton can be beautiful, but there was no room to view. At 153cm in a crowded bus, I could barely accord myself any sight past sweaty shoulders and perspiring foreheads.
Looking around my immediate surrounding, my eyes darting and searching for anything beautiful, I spotted a lady seated by the window.
Her complexion was pale, with exhaustion clearly written all over her face. She was frowning slightly; no earphones were plugged in. Her hair hung just right above her shoulders, tugged neatly behind her pair of small ears. Her grey cardigan seemed made of wool, her white shirt with thin, blue stripes slightly visible around her neck.
I still remember the melancholy in her eyes. She was looking out the window, into whatever night view I was deprived of that day. They weren’t curious or engaged in searching. They were simply taking in whatever was leftover after the day had ended for her. There was a mix of acceptance, of surrender, of sadness, of momentary peace. It felt as if she had been waiting tirelessly for the day to end, so that there would be a moment like this to herself.
I wondered how it would feel like, being exhausted and still beautiful, evoking thoughts in others even in your least aware self. I wanted to grow up more quickly, and see what she saw that night.
I don’t know why I recall this scene from time to time, even after all these years. Sometimes the most mundane images get imprinted in your head, even if seemingly unrelatable or insignificant.
I find myself understanding, more and more, what her mind was searching for, and why I no longer look around at others.
She was looking at the past, the could-have-beens, her lost youth. Her time, purpose, her insignificance made more obvious in a bus full of similar persons.
Adulting takes the curiosity away from you. Trying to stay aware and reflective so that I’ll stop looking out of windows as if it is habitual, as if melancholy is always a good trait.