I first saw her through the reflection on a window in section 7 while commuting to work. Her image caught my attention out of a sea of morning crowd rush. It was not that her skin tone was naturally whiter than the Asians I normally see. Nor was it because of her wakeful contemplation in a train full of sleepy travelers. It was the stillness which she brought to the space around her. Her way of seemingly making time slow its step and examining all the details life has to offer. She seems alive in a crowd of half dead office workers. That is what attracted my attention to her reflection on the glassy surface of MRT window.
My boss would be disappointed to learn that I did not brave the morning train rush, the long office hours, and the mind numbing triviality which they called work for the love of my company. Everyday, it was the thought of a simple glance on the train mirror that helped me get out of bed. It was the hope that maybe today I will learn what has kept her so alive, maybe I will unvail the secret of her quiet contentness - and if not, I will admire her simple joy from a far, preparing myself for the worse that is to come in this business day.
This stranger that I have never spoken to kept me going. I have never even looked at her straight on. It would be odd if not rude to fight through the crowd, approaching her just to say hello. Nor would it be appropriate to stare at a young lady like a normal 22 year old. Now-a-days, being 22 is almost a crime. The in-experience in life, the low earning income, and the awkward social approach. Yet, she seems 22 too, what made her so different? All I knew was that she must have work the same time as I do. For I always manage to find her reflection from a sea of crowds in the morning in section 7.
One day, out of pure reflex at her inviting smile, I smiled into the mirror at her. She noticed. Then as natural as the flower open to receive the sun, she smiled back. I am not sure what that smile meant to her, perhaps a polite hello. To me, it was a polite hello, and more. It was an acknowledgement of my existence. It made me feel human. In this society of concrete and steel, of money and profit, I can't remember the last time I felt like something bigger than a piece of gear in the giant machinery of society.
It was a smile and nothing more. Yet, it was also everything. It was the beginning of a new routine. I smile more now, commented by my co-worker. I seem to work harder, commented by my boss. I feel more myself, silently I said to myself. So it was that, every morning, Monday to Friday, I would look into section 7 of MRT mirror and smile - then be greeted in return.
One Saturday day, on a particular hard week, I had an urge to look into that familiar face and smile once more. So I boarded the MRT and walked into section 7. It was easy to scan the station then, for it was deserted. It was absurd to think she will be on the train on a Saturday, let alone at this exact time. It was nothing more than an urge after all.
With no one to fight for a spot on the train I walked calmly into my morning corner, simply wanting to recharge my soul through the long practiced ritual. Holding on to the hand lifts I closed my eyes and let my feet feel the bump and grind of the train tracks. I smiled at the simple joy of having Saturday off. I dreamed of a different life - the maybe's, the what could have been's. Then I opened my eyes and see the familiar reflection of content smile looking back at me. Only this time, as I can see from the reflection, she is sitting on a seat behind me.
Her simplicity never fails to astound me. Her outfit is never flashy nor the latest fashion. Yet there it is, her quiet content smile that I recognize anywhere. I couldn't resist the urge. I turned around hoping to say a proper hello. I found only emptiness staring back at me. Puzzled, I looked into the glassy window once more and found that familiar smile staring back at me. Only, her eyes looks more curious now and her smile closer to a giggle. Like a mischievous and innocent child caught with a prank.
Understood finally of her secrets, I can't help but smile back at her. Final stop, I mouthed a wordless "thank you" and "see you later" into the mirror as I walked off section 7. I walked with light foot steps and a lighter heart, knowing someday I will acquire that content smile as eternal as hers.