I didn’t mean to stare

I didn’t mean to stare.
I don’t normally intrude.
I’ve learned that in a sardine can
discretion ensures dignity.
In the city, aloof is survival.

I didn’t mean to stare.
I don’t normally intrude.
But your tears are like a magnet,
your whispered sobs a lure to the heart.
Look. Look away. Look back.
Pause. Lean in. Hesitate.
Such palpable, audible sadness
makes looking away feel harsh.
Yet looking in
on a crowded morning tram …
it violates instincts deeply ingrained.

I didn’t mean to stare.
I don’t normally intrude.
As the tram lurches forward
the passengers adjust
to more sardines.
No one looks.
No one notices.
Those seated with you and those standing with me:
smartphones, earplugs and newspapers all ’round.

I didn’t mean to stare.
I don’t normally intrude.
But I can’t help myself:
I lean in as close as discretion allows.
Are you ok?
Is there anything I can do?
Your response is predictable—
embarrassment,
like a fish cornered with nowhere to go.
Moist eyes, quivering chin,
mortified and vulnerable.
You nod and smile faintly through your tears.

I didn’t mean to stare.
I don’t normally intrude.
And now, quite frankly, I wish I never had.
‘I’m sorry,’ I mumble,
faintly touching your shoulder
before resuming my space,
looking up and away.
‘Pastoral fail,’ I think to myself.
Intruding, touching.
Will you never learn?
Best left alone.

I didn’t mean to stare.
I don’t normally intrude.
The tram stops yet again and you stand,
ready to file out and follow the morning crowd.
Stepping back, I’m careful not to lift my gaze.
But then I feel a hand on my forearm.
It’s you.
I look up to see you smiling:
‘Thank you,’ you mouth, your eyes still moist.
‘Thank you.’
It’s just a moment, yet it feels sincere;
just a moment and then you’re gone.

I didn’t mean to stare.
I don’t normally intrude.
Discretion ensures dignity.
I know it’s true.
Except, perhaps, when it isn’t.

6 Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s