by Jennifer Livingstone
I find myself staring absently at my reflection in the dark subway window.
Blurred by movement, lights, and a slight curvature, it looks like me but not like me.
My attention shifts to the jostling and sway and sounds of the carriage.
A hum, an electric whir, an application of brakes some too quickly.
The face in the window dissolves into features: eyes, nose, mouth, eyebrows. I study each feature one by one. They quiver, grow darker and lighter and darker again.
And then just like that, the features meet again in a face, first mine, but then yours.
My heartbeat quickens and then I feel a large heaviness, all the love within me radiating forwards towards the face that is not there.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, yes?
I wish I could tell you, maybe I will tell you,
I think the general tone we take towards you when we speak to you is all wrong. The words are laced with condescension. We have no patience, and we do not value your opinion. We can be cruel sometimes, in mocking that is playful, but at the same time, isn’t. We forget that you are intelligent and educated, the first in your family to go to university.
We forget that you have moved continents from the rest of your family, that there are years where you don’t see them. We forget that you gave up your career for us, for my dad, as part of these moves. We forget that we are your entire world. We are your occupation, your friends, your family.
“We forget that we are your entire world. We are your occupation, your friends, your family.”
And when we dare to treat you unkindly, with contempt – when we dare to discount your opinion because it seems to come from a place lacking relevance, from a place without friendships, work, and all the other parameters we measure each other by – we forget that it was for us that you gave all this up. For us! And instead of thanking you, we have dared to look down on you . . .
But I mean what I say when I tell you I do know you are of value – wise, kind, intelligent and loving. I know you are brave and giving and there is so much I have learned from you and still so much more that you have yet to teach me.
And I’m sorry that somehow along the way I forgot this, how wonderful you are and how much you have done.
Jennifer is living in Copenhagen (for the moment) and likes to write. Her other interests include history, philosophy, literature curation, books, and data.