The Machine

by Natalie Robin

My days lately have been comprised of cover songs, bipedal-postprandial navigation, and trying not to worry so much.  I also have found myself being intrigued by the idea of giving blood, becoming an organ-tissue donor, and traveling abroad to help the less fortunate–all of which I assume is being motivated by my new idea–that if you cannot help yourself, help someone else.

And in a slump of feeling helpless, yesterday eve I went on a self-pity peregrination which after an hour of breathing in enough oxygen to feel a little sleepy and a little better, I saw the simplest of things. I passed a girl whose eyes were fixed on something (someone) behind me, and she was doing one of those smiles that you do when you are really happy to see someone, but you refrain from smiling too big so as to not look like a dope, yet you can’t keep the beam that wants out, down. Really the best way to describe it is the kind of smile you give to someone who is quite lovely and who you know thinks you are quite lovely, but neither of you have said it to the other and so you say it in these smiles until you are confident enough to do otherwise.

I did not know who was behind me walking towards her and I did not know if they would hug, kiss, high-five or engage in some completely unorthodox means to say hello–but whatever it was, I felt like that tiny, recognizable smile that I had witnessed on her face was so honest and so sweet that it forced upon me my own smile and in that moment, whatever tiny, recognizable world was hers, was also mine, and also whoever she was approaching behind me and even though I never turned around to look, perhaps it also belonged to whoever saw them embrace and maybe that person felt all the more eager to get home and embrace whoever waits for them. I thought, maybe many of our actions and energies keep filtering themselves like this from one to the next; a machine where when one smile goes out, it crawls into someone else and it effects the whole day and cycle.

But then I thought how this machine is so easily broken, because many of us, both literally and figuratively look at the ground, which I am fiercely guilty of. I often (almost always) do when I am walking around the city streets, and I am very conscious of the fact that I am doing it, but after I saw her I promised myself that from now on I am going to look at people when I pass them–even if they don’t notice me. I promise to notice them.