It was like any other day that I’ve spent in the last few years of my life. The same old street filled with unfamiliar faces lost in their own world; moving from one direction to the other, some with intentions while some aimlessly. I was lost in my world too, ruminating about things I’d always do – how long till I get home? What will I do as soon as I get to step into my most favorite place in the world – my bed? Will I be productive or will I squander away yet another beautiful night? These are the thoughts that usually surround me when I’m traveling home from anywhere. I may seem calm and at peace from the outside, but like anybody else, my mind would go through thousands of meaningless thoughts in those few hours. Some captivating enough to click mental pictures and some futile enough to forget right then and there. And then I saw a man;
If I have to describe him, he was like any other man you’d see on a daily. Wearing clothes people identified as men would usually wear. Riding a scooter in the busy streets of Kathmandu, as many other men would. Smoking a cigarette as the traffic light turned red and the bustling road paused for a breath. But again, he wasn’t like any other man you’d see every day. The most unusual thing about him wasn’t the fact that he was wearing white woolen gloves on a sunny day. Or that he was holding his cigarette in between his middle and ring fingers and smoking with an open palm (I’m sorry if you can’t picture this but for your ease, imagine the Star Trek hand symbol). But it was the sadness I saw in his face that was the most unusual to me.
I’m not a smoker but I’ve been surrounded by plenty of them in my lifetime. I’ve seen and known men, women, and even children who have been smoking for a while. But I’ve never understood nor have I tried to understand the reason why they started doing so. I’d just sit there, pass my time inhaling the smoke they throw out of their lungs. However, this man was different. The moment I laid my eyes on him, I felt this deep sorrow inside of me. His calm yet stern face haunted me for days. If anyone asks me what sadness looks like, even though I won’t be able to describe it to them, I know now that I’ll see his face, as bright as those white gloves he had on, yet grim.
Suddenly his face made me realize how miserable we all really are. We’re walking on the surface of this planet we call home yet destroying it piece by piece, tells you a lot about what humans are really like. We hide behind our masks of goodness, covering our feelings just like we cover our bodies with clothes. Watching this man wait for the light to turn green felt like him waiting for the light of his life to turn green. I could feel immense pain in his eyes that he couldn’t hide even if he wanted to.
Seeing the face of this strange yet oddly familiar man made me ask myself, do everyone who smoke away their life has untold stories that flash in their eyes, yet the ones near them can never really see it? Do you cover your emotions just like the paper covers the tobacco and you let them vanish along with the smoke? Does it hurt when you see those judgmental gazes and you know you’re misunderstood because they don’t know your story? If I could meet this man one more time in this lifetime, I want to ask him, “What’s your story?”