In the direct sunlight his eyes looked like two tourmaline ovals, perfect, blue tourmaline. Tourmalines, not sapphires, nor diamonds, were the gems Chris had chosen as equivalents. Why? She was examining them, looking for the subtle signs, so close to the surface and yet hidden. Signs of his sense of humanity, the capacity he should have to be kind, gentle, understanding, whole. Was he all this?
His face was a record of the life he had lived. Written into each wrinkle, each small spot, there was a story about the relationships he had experienced, the frustration and the achievements of his professional life, the dreams he never had the courage to pursue. Chris wondered how many memories he had behind those bright, blue eyes.
Does he remember his first kiss? Remember the time when rebellion appeared in his life, and he was compelled by inner forces to follow instinct rather than reason or the expectations of others; going beyond the limits of duty, those little actions everyone expected from him – put the bin out, cleaning the cupboard – to embrace the mystery of his desires. Had he been so defiant? Chris crossed her legs, observing the man seated in the brown armchair in the café. Who was he?
His clothes weren’t fashionable, but were of good quality. He was probably a conservative person, someone attached to traditions, rules, concepts. Practical? Perhaps, some elements were allowing her to conclude perceptivity was an important attribute. The umbrella, the light cardigan, the computer. Chris smiled, why was everybody around them using computers?
She turned her head to look at all those people immersed in their bright screens. “We look bewitched…” She returned to the man with blue eyes. Something was taunting her in those eyes, as if they were capable of allowing her to reach the deeper layers inside, yet challenging her on how to do so. “What would he see if those eyes looked at me?” The man’s eyes were watching her, she could feel the warm waves of curiosity reaching her. “I didn’t think I had done anything to catch his attention!” Chris was right she hadn’t.
The man with the blue tourmaline eyes returned to his work. Chris decided to change seats, to move to an armchair where she could observe him, but he couldn’t see her. A couple of hours later, he put his computer in his bag, removed his glasses, checked his phone, and left the café. Chris wanted to follow him, to understand more about what she had seen inside those eyes, but it wasn’t logical, nor polite follow a person you’ve never met before. “Later on, who knows what the future will bring?”
Chris concentrated on her work, the plans for a new school for people with learning difficulties were taking shape. “You’re a dreamer.” Her mother’s voice echoed inside her head. “You’re a failure!” Now, it was her father talking assertively. “You are…” She wanted those voices to stop saying what she was. How would they know? Her relationship with them had always been superficial, full of rules and obligations, duties and penalties; love wasn’t part of the bargain between Chris and her family. “I don’t like this. Why remember cruel words when I have others, the right ones, to remember?” Her mind returned to the man with the blue eyes. I wonder if he would understand me? Would I understand him?
Weeks passed, Chris’ errands in the city became more frequent. Autumn was coming, and brown, yellow and orange leaves were covering the paths where she usually walked. That morning, a fog had welcomed Chris; now, half an hour later, through the bedroom window she could see the wind making the trees dance. The sun was shy that morning, keeping himself behind the dark grey clouds. “We will have the sun, later…” Her morning routine was quickly finished. She was ready to go out.
Leaving the gate, she turned right on the street, then right again to cross another street. Station Approach Road was covered in leaves. She smiled. “I’ve always thought that autumn leaves look like the foam waves of an imaginary sea. An autumnal sea.” Crossing the train line, her feet rustled the leaves on her way to the nearby park. Finally, the sun had appeared, its light reflecting off the surface of the lake. Two white swans were cruising silently between clouds reflected from the sky. It was a poetic scenario, Chris was taken by a feeling of peace, the peace that the beautiful scene had infused into her mind.
Walking in silence, with no earphones that day, the only sound was her of thoughts. She didn’t know if other people were like her, but her thought-voices had different tunes. Today, they were more serious, assertive, solemn. Crossing the park, she took the underpass. “I need to return to my yoga classes. I’m missing the stretches.” (The thought was triggered by a flyer near the grid in the underpass.) Then into Duke’s Avenue, where she loved to see how the trees were preparing themselves for winter, losing their leaves.
Finally, on Main Road, people were coming and going, and she could smell the welcoming aroma as she passed a coffee shop. She noticed the new arrays of winter clothing now adorning the shop windows. The sky was still partly blue, but she could see some dark clouds coming her direction. “Better go somewhere I can get in out of the rain.”
Starbucks wasn’t crowded. Two or three men were sitting at their computers, with earphones and microphones talking about business. Chris picked up a word or two here and there. “A caramel macchiato, please?…In a mug, OK?” No, she refused to drink from a cardboard cup. The paper changed the taste of the coffee. Someone approached her in the queue, a man, but she wasn’t turned enough to notice. She paid, and moved to take her coffee. While waiting for the braise to finish her order, she looked at the man who had been behind her a few seconds before. It was with a mixture of surprise and curiosity that she realised, “Hey, it’s the man with tourmaline-blue eyes!”
Chris chose a table in a corner near the toilet. It was a place where there were plugs for her computer and a wall keeping one side of her protected from other people, but where she still had a good view of the armchairs. “I bet I can tell where he’s going to sit, and then I’ll be able to observe him.” To her surprise, he sat down next to her. Both were using their computers, phones, and earphones. He was typing furiously on the computer, she was trying to see what the words were. Once or twice their eyes met – when Chris turn to get a new charger on her bag, but she quickly broke the contact.
An hour or so later, Chris was immersed in her new story. She was sailing in a place where everything was different from today, and yet, at the same time, equivalent. Her new character was brave, but was a woman. Brave women don’t usually have much luck. When she lifted her eyes from the screen, two blue eyes were now observing her. She smiled, a smile midway between shyness and politeness. “You’re waiting.” It wasn’t a question, so, what should she say. She smiled. “You work with words?” Now she had to answer.
“I am a writer.” He didn’t seem surprised.
“A writer. Well, I am an editor and proofreader. If you need my services…” The man passed her a card. Chris was too surprised to understand the gesture. It took her ten seconds to realise that he was offering her his business card.
He left the place, saying goodbye in a soft and not-too-deep voice. He reminded Chris of a maths teacher at her Primary School…Louis. She smiled. “Maybe, maybe I’ll finish my book, and then I’ll call you to help me… Maybe!”