Monday, August 10


IT WAS QUITE by chance that she & I should have bumped into each other on Friday afternoon, at just after one o’clock on a day when my spirits were beginning to lift from the pit they had dwelt in. She was entering the building and I was leaving it; coming together, we were at last separated by the revolving door, its glass quarters keeping us away from the other. The inside of the reception is dark and through the windows and door is the outside all bright and sunny. I thought—O, it’s her, how nice! when she looked at me and smiled o-so-widely that I shuddered all the way through. I laughed. It was no small greeting, surely she cannot smile at everyone like that! It would be exhausting to perform such a smile three dozen times a day. In my doubt, I tried to imagine her throwing such a smile at anyone else in the office, but I struggled, I could not imagine it. So, it had meant something? Maybe it did not. Down the street I could not help thinking that it did mean something and that – a smiling measurement – she was happy to have bumped into me. I am no character to bump into, just a simpleton who enjoys walks at lunchtime, but she had appeared to enjoy our brief, chance encounter when no-one else was about. All of my steps were lifted by the image of her smile; it made me happy beyond measure because I, and only I, had been witness to it.
The next evening I wrote it all down—

arise spanish smile,
quartered in glass,

revolving broadly
& heroine—

so unexpected
I carried

you with me down
the street & smiles.

arise spanish smile,
accompany me

to nights in bed
or down whenever

, yr smile peeps
my steady ‘gainst the frame

—for the walk
beauty smile


small oval shapes
blissful white & there

you could not
have come sooner.

From then on, the smile was my refuge. If I found my mood about to sink, I thought of the smile, of our chance meeting, and was immediately lifted to safety. If only she knew! So quietly I had watched her and so simply had I become interested in her. Often, in my chair & bored, I will swivel just to catch a glance of her from across the room, in the large room I occupy for nine hours a day, looking for signs of life. If I pass her and her desk is in its keen position, I will look down at her ankles peeking out from beneath her trousers; the sacred poke of the tibia angled delightfully at my eyes. It is a real treat.
She knew my name. She entered the kitchenette and said—‘Hello, R—.’ Would you believe that she knew my name and spoke it in her soft accent? I trembled. After dispensing the pleasantries, as was my wont, I paused and enquired as to her weekend, but with the light tone of someone interested. She told me how hot it had been, smiling always. She asked as to mine. I told her, though she had not heard of my hometown – which is not unusual, a seaside town on the northeast E—x coast. All the while she talked I found myself engaged in a battle with her eyes. Forcefully they had a hold on me, unable was I to look away; these pale blue eyes in her dark features, and very unusual. I had not seen eyes like hers before – I did not know the Mediterranean created such exports. It was the first time we had spoken properly. Carefully I would savour the moment, enjoying every bit of her presence. One cannot be flippant about such tiny moments. I was so glad when nobody came to disturb us.
When I returned to my desk I found an image of my hometown on the internet: some racists on C—n high street holding St. George’s cross with ‘No more mosques’ written across it. They looked silly, and in the background were the penny arcades & games. I sent it to her, adding—‘Just one of the images if you look up C—n on the internet. Lovely gentlemen…’
Impatiently I awaited her response. Had I misjudged the situation? I was almost certain that I had. She would not care to hear from me; I was only a stranger in the office, and such romances are childish; he is boorish and loud; I will not write him back but it was kind of him to write me. I was defeated and had been stupid one more time.
Then, she replied—‘Fortunately, there are also lovely people like you.’
And the blur came, and further was my mind thrown into a flurry of thoughts and imaginations. I straightened my back and grinned. We were no longer strangers. I grinned.

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