Panes of the Soul is a story that I wrote after discovering John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows; a collection of words created specifically to describe feelings that had no words of their own. This story is based on the word ‘opia’. This story is available as part of my collection ‘With So Many Sagas in the World…’ and I also shared it as a Single Measure on my podcast ‘Whisky & Words’ on the NOD Network. I hope you enjoy it and I welcome any feedback on it.
The girl with the gloriously golden eyes stood in the same spot that she always did on a Thursday morning. I had noticed her every week since the day my eyes first found her on that platform. It wasn’t her beauty that first drew my attention, although she was beautiful. She had an aura about her; something that you didn’t really see, but instead felt deep within yourself. Like a yearning for something that you can’t explain, but that you know has always been there. I was drawn by the power that seemed to resonate from within her. However, something happened last week that changed everything. I looked at her and she looked at me. Our eyes met across the crowded platform and, for the first time in a long time, I was afraid.
I stared into those deep, swirling eyes and felt that strength of hers far more deeply than ever before. The feeling within me, in that moment, thundered across boundaries and through time, so great was her power. I could see into the soul of a woman who was fierce and vulnerable and loving and dangerous, all at the same time. She stared straight back, without so much as a moment’s hesitation, and a chill ran inexplicably down my spine. Her look flickered between warm and inviting, stern and appraising, playful and forceful. I had no idea what was happening behind those eyes, nor had I any idea if the thoughts she carried about me were good or ill. Was she thinking the same about me? If I spoke to her, just once, would she welcome the conversation or would she cast me aside?
It was too much. For so long I had wished for a moment of connection like this but when it finally happened, it was too intense. I felt as if all the parts of my mind that handled love, happiness, trust, despair and fear were hyperactive. My brain was on fire. In that instant she knew all there was to know about me; she must have. There was no other explanation for the feeling that her look left me with, was there?
Of course there was. She didn’t have the power of clairvoyance and after a few moments I realised how silly my feelings about this truly were. But in that moment of eye contact, I felt the most intense connection. Perhaps she felt the same. Perhaps she didn’t. It’s entirely plausible that all she was thinking was why a random man was looking her right in the eyes without an invitation. Maybe she held my gaze for as long as she did because she didn’t adhere to the societal assumption that a woman should be deferent and be the first to look away, shyly. It could be that her piercing stare was one of polite defiance, daring me to continue my appraisal whilst also shaming me into looking away.
Whatever it was behind those sparkling and brilliant eyes of hers, and I was as sure as anything that I’d never truly know what it was, I did look away. I was embarrassed; somehow I felt like I knew too much whilst also knowing nothing at all. Now begins the rest of my life weighed down with the feeling that I had flown to close to the sun on wings of wax, never able to realise true happiness. So for now, and perhaps forever, I stand on this cold platform thinking of the girl with the golden eyes and how I’ll never truly know her. The rest of the platform, and even the girl herself, will forever be oblivious to the emotional struggle that I’d had one Thursday morning. Unless that girl knows everything that I do, but even then, I hope that she never mentions it. The world will keep turning and, like every other day, I will board the train silently. Glancing once more at the girl as the train pulls away, I will dream of the life that could have been were I not so afraid.