I never saw your face. Only your hair, green like the ferns in a fog-filled forest. Such a bright and vibrant colour, so out of place in the utilitarian station platform in this strange city. A city where everything was larger than life, a thousand conflicting needs and wants rolling over one another and crushing themselves with their own crippling weight. This world left no room for empathy for those that were trampled in its desperate stampede. I could see this subtle cruelty in the spiked surface of the bench, comfortable enough to wait fifteen minutes for a train, yet too painful for one to sleep on.
Perhaps I empathised with your hair. I too was out of place. Out of place in the power and tumult of this city. Out of place in my family, who had grown accustomed to this life while I fell behind. The looming scale of this new world emphasised how little I knew and how uncertain I was of my own purpose. Yet I was not like your hair, which dared to do battle with the expectations and judgements of this world, proudly declaring its own identity and existence in a world which had no place for it. No, I was not brave. I let my role in the world be decided by the conflicting wishes of those around me, too scared to make my own decisions. I was scared I would be left alone. Left behind.
In that moment, I fell in love with you. I loved the way in which you leaned into what you were reading. I loved the way you let yourself sink into that world, oblivious to the judging eyes of those around you. I loved the quiet power of your presence. I loved your green hair. Yet, I lied when I said I loved you. I did not know you. I did not know what you were reading. I did not know where you were going. I did not even know the story behind your beautiful green hair. So, I could not have loved you. Rather, I loved the idea of you. The elaborate persona I had created to fill in the empty shell created by what little I had seen. I loved your green hair and all that it represented. But I did not love you.
Perhaps if I were a little braver, half as bold as your hair, I might have tried to talk to you. Perhaps, you would have looked up at me and smiled. Maybe your face would have been coated in tears, black mascara forming stalactites upon your cheeks. Most likely, your expression would have been one of confusion and annoyance, perhaps tinged with apathy. It would not have mattered. I would have seen your face. In that moment I could have begun to know you. Instead, I walked away. I let the train sweep you up and let it carry you away into the bowels of this strange and terrible city. If only I were a little braver. I would have seen your face. Perhaps I would have even loved you.
Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 2 ‘To Be Confirmed’
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