The shape of him was strangely unmistakable; this ordinary man, this everyman, of average height and average build. A familiar figure of fascination who stood out in no measurable way, to anyone but her. She didn’t need to turn to look, he would step into her sight, into her attention, like no one else could. Then in one quick action her body would react; a pouncing on to her chest, her breath catching, her heart jumping in jubilation.
She looked over at him, because she wanted to, looked because she hoped he would turn and see. See her seeing him. Suddenly. He smiled. She smiled too. Because seeing him smile always made her happy, because making him smile was a small, special start to her wounded heart. A great challenge, and a great gift, when it was occasionally, without warning, dropped in her lap.
His flicked his eyes in her direction, a quick flash across the office floor. Too far to notice her you would think, but still the red spread across his face; found out. She watched him for a moment more before he backed away, time to leave. But something burned in her and she felt as though the deepest part of her was pleading to something in him. Stay? But then, she remembered; what would he even stay for? For this?
She watched him do it again, as he had so many times before. A walk down the office, past her. Not seeing her, or seeing her and choosing not to acknowledge her. He disappeared behind her, gone from her sight, but still she seemed to feel him there. She allowed herself to turn, to acknowledge, she had not imagined him, he was real. And he was still there.
She turned back to face her desk, unhappy that he wasn’t here for her. She comforted herself by indulging her ideas, thinking of him up close. He could have been carved from a D.H. Lawrence novel. He had a farming body with historic features and cunning eyes which crinkled when he smiled. Though there was something else, something she couldn’t fathom; the undeniable familiarity of a man she didn’t know. But felt she had known, and had wanted long before they had met.
A colleague walked past her and as they caught her gaze she was caught off guard by a familiar voice bursting from behind her. It was him. As the two crossed paths, feet from her desk, she tried not to look, not to listen. And he did the same, or so she thought. Maybe his silence was as simple as that, something about her not worth speaking to. Or maybe he found it difficult too. How to talk? How to bear the tense, unbearable weight that hung between them.
Words unsaid, questions unasked and unanswered. Ideas and interests thrown haphazardly into throwaway conversations, never to emerge again. Did he even remember them? Or was it just small talk to him? She remembered, she remembered it all. And she held the words close to her. Because words were all she had. But as she waited on words, and none came, how the silence grew.
Her mind snapped back. The conversation between the two had stopped and he began his lingering retreat. But before he took his final step away, he turned towards her, looking vaguely over her head, searching for someone or for an idea he may have lost there. ‘Hello,’ she said softly. But he didn’t hear her. Pretended not to hear her. And the silence between them grew greater. For her it was like a crashing in her ears. Did he hear it too?
The moment passed and he made his way away from her. She watched him go. Gone again, so she’d wait for another day. She turned behind her to see what he had seen, but there was nothing but empty desks to acknowledge. She didn’t know what it meant. He’d done it before; looking past her for some imaginary something or other that would never be there.
But some days it would be different, she would see the excuses in his eyes as they searched hers for acknowledgement. Sometimes he would glean something of her and he would seem to smile in delight. Then there would be the spaces; long, languid silences that would last for weeks. In there the silence between them would drop into the bottom of a dark well; nothing except echoes.
He would come back though. He always came back. But she wouldn’t be waiting for him. She would hold the words hostage, she would make him suffer under the heavy silence they had forged between them. Though it wouldn’t last long, her notion of revenge was weak. She would always give in, eventually, because it was all too heavy, too much. And the weight of the want of knowing him was too much to bear.